Beers, hugs, and high-fives
September 13, 2012 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Rock diva and Kickstarter heroine Amanda Palmer asks local musicians/fans to come on stage to perform a few songs with her. But professional musicians are outraged at this blatant act of exploitation.

Amanda Palmer on the Blue, previously.
posted by monospace (634 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Eeh. I think it's probably o.k. for her to do this, but I understand where the professional musicians are coming from--if this gets held up as an example of "a creative way to respond to the internet era" it's not good news for working musicians.
posted by yoink at 11:59 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well if it's gotten Steve Albini pissed off, it must be pretty egregious.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 12:00 PM on September 13, 2012 [29 favorites]


How to tell if you're in the Old Guard: You caution people against interacting with their fans.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:00 PM on September 13, 2012 [23 favorites]


CALLING ALL VOLUNTEERS WHO WANT TO BE PART OF THE AMANDA PALMER FUN CLUB STREET TEAM:

DESIGN OUR T-SHIRTS!
SCREEN OUR T-SHIRTS!
STAND AT THE MERCH TABLE AND SELL OUR T-SHIRTS!
THANK YOU! GO HOME!
posted by griphus at 12:01 PM on September 13, 2012 [81 favorites]


I'm confused: is she already paying a band that these fans will be somehow augmenting, or are they expected to be her accompanists? The first one, I think, is ok; asking a different group of musicians per city to be your backing band without pay, just because you're so rad? That's shitty.
posted by littlerobothead at 12:03 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well if it's gotten Steve Albini pissed off, it must be pretty egregious a day of the week with a 'Y' in it.
posted by unSane at 12:03 PM on September 13, 2012 [35 favorites]


I'm a musician. Not an all-out pro who makes their living at it, but someone who gets paid to play routinely in a smaller market. Musicians who get their underwear into a non-optimal configuration over this just aren't really getting it. If this is a threat to their livelihood, they need to go practice more. I mean, seriously. There is the threat of pre-recorded accompaniment on Broadway, there is the threat of non-union musicians in major cities doing real gigs, and I understand worrying about all that. This, clearly, is a stunt, and you might as well get upset because Bill Clinton played the sax*.


*not that that wasn't worth getting upset over
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:04 PM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Well, if Steve Albini is pissed off at you you must be doing something right... or wrong. Who knows?
posted by NathanBoy at 12:05 PM on September 13, 2012


On the one hand, I have played a bunch of shows where my cut of the door went directly into a 40 purchased from the pizza place next door.

On the other hand, I was playing my own music.

On the third hand, fuck this.
posted by jonbro at 12:05 PM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Or as a New York Times commentator puts it:

"Illegal? No. Tasteless? Absolutely."
posted by four panels at 12:06 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm confused: is she already paying a band that these fans will be somehow augmenting, or are they expected to be her accompanists?

I can't tell either, but I think the part that is getting people angry is that she raised over a million dollars for the tour, you'd think she could kick in a few hundred to anyone that played as a guest musician on stage.
posted by mathowie at 12:07 PM on September 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


The older you get the less fun it seems to volunteer your labor because it seems cool.

If Ms. Palmer can raise 1.2 mil, she can throw a couple of bucks to local string players/fans. The world would be a better place if more people could get paid to do cool things and Palmer is totally in a position to make that happen.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [45 favorites]


Amanda Palmer, also previously.
posted by kmz at 12:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


What happened to simply telling someone to go fuck themselves? So she's a cheapskate who suckers people, they could have simply told her "no." This isn't even close to internet shitstorm worthy.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Somewhere in all this mess, she said that it would probably have cost $35k to pay the musicians to do this tour and she couldn't afford it.... after the internet offered her a million+ dollars to put out an album and tour...

so uhhh... I mean I'm not outraged or anything, but she should at least be a little embarassed at her budgeting.
posted by SharkParty at 12:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [44 favorites]


I'm confused: is she already paying a band that these fans will be somehow augmenting, or are they expected to be her accompanists? The first one, I think, is ok; asking a different group of musicians per city to be your backing band without pay, just because you're so rad? That's shitty.

She has a band called the Grand Theft Orchestra. She is augmenting specialty instruments (horns, strings etc) with fans that she is "stealing" (her words, again, Grand Theft Orchestra) from the local community. There is nothing wrong with this. Sure, she could toss them a hundred bucks or whatever, but this seems like another cooked up Palmer hater controversy.

The new album is spectacular by the way. Want It Back (NSFW). The Killing Type.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:09 PM on September 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Beers, Steers, and Queers?
Oh, sorry. Wrong band.
posted by matt_od at 12:09 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: gather at a mud pit downstate and sell meth and blowjobs to each other
posted by shakespeherian at 12:09 PM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


I guess the problem is that Palmer has the most to benefit from this arrangement, and is presumably still being handsomely paid.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:09 PM on September 13, 2012


I'm confused: is she already paying a band that these fans will be somehow augmenting, or are they expected to be her accompanists? The first one, I think, is ok; asking a different group of musicians per city to be your backing band without pay, just because you're so rad? That's shitty.

From the blog post:

we need a COUPLE of horns (trumpet! bari! sax! trombone! all need apply!!!) to join in the blasting with Ronald Reagan, our sax duo who’ll be joining the Grand Theft Orchestra every night.
and we need enough strings to make up QUARTET (pre-made quartets WELCOME) to join us for a couple tunes….and to act at the string quartet for jherek bischoff’s beautiful music (basically, you get to BE the opening ACT!).

posted by burnmp3s at 12:11 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I think about it objectively, I think this is annoying and shitty of her.

But if I think about it some more, and sub in an artist I really like as a thought experiment, I see pretty fast that I'd be pretty stoked to go onstage and make noise if the Flaming Lips put out a call for local musicians to come up and augment their sound, and I wouldn't care about not getting paid because hey, I'm onstage with the Flaming Lips.

So I don't know.
posted by COBRA! at 12:11 PM on September 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Also, http://www.amandapalmer.net/blog/where-all-this-kickstarter-money-is-going-by-amanda/
posted by matt_od at 12:12 PM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


The fair market price of accompanying Amanda Palmer appears to be zero. Deal with it.

We could just as well get upset at MetaFilter because bloviating on the internet should be something you get paid for, but yet commenters here are unpaid.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:12 PM on September 13, 2012 [30 favorites]


She should do a quid pro quo. Local musicians join her on stage, she goes to their gig and sings, or writes them a song, or she tweets to promote their shows.

They help her career, she helps theirs.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:12 PM on September 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


Here's her actual call (the second link in the FPP):
we’re looking for professional-ish horns and strings for EVERY CITY to hop up on stage with us for a couple of tunes.
we need a COUPLE of horns (trumpet! bari! sax! trombone! all need apply!!!) to join in the blasting with Ronald Reagan, our sax duo who’ll be joining the Grand Theft Orchestra every night.
and we need enough strings to make up QUARTET (pre-made quartets WELCOME) to join us for a couple tunes….and to act at the string quartet for jherek bischoff’s beautiful music (basically, you get to BE the opening ACT!).

the deal:
you’d need to show up for a quickie rehearsal (the parts are pretty simple) in the afternoon, then come back around for the show!
we will feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make.
CHAD is going to be in charge of sorting the horns, JHEREK is going to be in charge of gathering the strings, and
they’ll also be CONDUCTING you on stage.
you need to know how to ACTUALLY, REALLY PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT! lessons in fifth grade do not count, so please include in your email some proof of that (a link to you playing on a real stage would be great, or a resume will
do. just don’t LIE…you’ll be embarrassed if you show up for rehearsal and everyone’s looking at you wondering why you can’t actually play the trombone.)
we’ve had a blast putting people together this past summer….COME JOIN THE FUCKING ORCHESTRA.
it’s almost as good as the circus.
Yeah, that's pretty shitty. She's asking for close-to-professional quality talent, she's asking them to essentially "be the opening act" and she's saying "oh, and by the way, you're doing it for free." This is less "hey, if you're a fan, come on up and have a blast with us" and more "are you an aspiring musician? Have I got a shitty deal for YOU!" This is just "oh, but think about the exposure!" exploitation gussied up as fan participation.
posted by yoink at 12:12 PM on September 13, 2012 [75 favorites]



But if I think about it some more, and sub in an artist I really like as a thought experiment, I see pretty fast that I'd be pretty stoked to go onstage and make noise if the Flaming Lips put out a call for local musicians to come up and augment their sound, and I wouldn't care about not getting paid because hey, I'm onstage with the Flaming Lips.

So I don't know.
posted by COBRA! at 12:11 PM on September 13 [+] [!]


You're allowed to find something personally appealing, and still politically disagreeable. :)
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


My friend and former bandmate Betty on Why I Volunteered to Play With Amanda Palmer.
posted by mykescipark at 12:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


commenters here are unpaid

Wait, WHAT?
posted by yoink at 12:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [38 favorites]


0xFCAF: "The fair market price of accompanying Amanda Palmer appears to be zero. Deal with it.

We could just as well get upset at MetaFilter because bloviating on the internet should be something you get paid for, but yet commenters here are unpaid.
"

What do you mean? I get a stiped of severa~... I've said too much.
posted by boo_radley at 12:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Does this mean lead singers will be forced to stop asking the crowd to sing/clap along with them during the choruses of anthem-type songs?

'Cause I could get behind that.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:14 PM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Does Jon Brion pay the celebrities who jump on stage with him to play a song or two at Largo? I doubt it. I'd be very surprised if he does.

Is she selling recordings of the live shows and not giving the band a cut?

Is she expecting these people to go on tour with her for free, without telling them that first?

If the answer to those questions is "no," then complaining about this is the stupidest thing in the world. I'm a somewhat professional musician and I'd be more than happy to play a one-off gig as a sideman for free. I mean come on. If I play on someone's album and it gets huge, then yeah, I'd like to get paid for that - though I've done that for free on occasion, and that's fine, too, as long as it's what I agreed to from the start.
posted by The World Famous at 12:14 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


She just played a show last night here in DC, so a lot of what I've been seeing on my FB feed today is either talking about how amazing and brilliant Palmer is, discussions of how shitty this arrangement is, and people defending Palmer, and so on.

My take on it is, this entire thing bothers me as it's getting in the way of me continuing to not pay any attention whatsoever to Amanda Palmer.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:15 PM on September 13, 2012 [28 favorites]


I've gotten numerous offers of payment to stop commenting here, actually.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:15 PM on September 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


I don't get it. The Walkmen did this a few years ago, encouraging locals at each venue to bring their brass instruments and play on stage with them. I don't remember anyone complaining about it then, it just seemed super rad at the time.
posted by Think_Long at 12:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm really really not a Palmer ''hater'' I don't know her music at all, but yeah I kinda hate aspects of both sides of the argument, Albani writes like an asshole and Palmer is seemingly acting like a penny pinching tone deaf exploiter

Lose-lose
posted by edgeways at 12:16 PM on September 13, 2012


@The World Famous

Having some friends or guests play for free probably isn't terribly uncommon in the business. It makes it seem like the problem is less what she's doing, and more how she's doing it. The call out has all the tone of a help wanted ad, not a personal invitation.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Does this mean lead singers will be forced to stop asking the crowd to sing/clap along with them during the choruses of anthem-type songs?

That guy from Cake owes me so much money!!!!!
posted by The World Famous at 12:17 PM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Ha, I went to college with the Ronald Regan boys - the sax duo accompanying her on the tour. They are awesome guys.

I have mixed feelings about it. She's not asking for a band to accompany her entire set in each city. Its a couple of songs - kind of an invite for a 'hey, jump up on stage and have fun.' Then again, it's not just a jam session - it's a performance, and musicians ought to be paid, especially since she wants 'professional-ish.'

If she hadn't made $1m+ on the kickstarter and she were just like a fledgling indie rocker still, I would be more sympathetic. But I don't know why she can't do something like "play a couple songs and get 200 bucks" or whatever. Seems like it would still be pretty cheap, she' get better quality performances, and she wouldn't get all this grief. Sure, it would be a bit of a pain, HR wise, but surely she has people to handle that.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:17 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


edgeways: "Albini writes like an asshole "

Like?
posted by boo_radley at 12:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does this mean lead singers will be forced to stop asking the crowd to sing/clap along with them during the choruses of anthem-type songs?

Except, again, she's insisting that the people who do this have quasi-professional-level skills, that they essentially audition for the parts, that they show up for a rehearsal before the show, that they provide the opening act music etc. etc.

That's about as different from an audience sing/clapalong as what the pro backup singers are doing.
posted by yoink at 12:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


she has a band who she is paying, they are also bringing their acts along to be the openers. she's augmenting that with a few volunteer musicians. some are fans, some are friends who are returning favors.

according to some people who have done it, she's made room on the merch table for their stuff and allowed them to pass the hat around. one brass group was able to buy studio time for their album from the pass the hat money. watching the live stream of the record release show, it appears she dedicates quite a bit of time talking up the musicians and telling everyone how to get whatever they're selling. she also constantly promotes lesser known artists on twitter. i spent $70 on an artist that i would have never heard of if not for AFP's twitter (heather christian - she's absolutely incredible and deserves all the monies and fame the universe has)

i feel like people are twisting some things - i think she could have budgeted the 35k, but chose not to, partially (or even mostly) because she wanted a rag tag group of musicians made of people who really wanted to be there and changing every night. paying a set group to play every night of your tour would get a different result.

yellowbinder is correct - the album is fantastic. beyond offering it as pay what you want, AFP's also put the whole thing up on youtube.
posted by nadawi at 12:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


The tradeoff for Palmer, of course, is that she'll have a backing band of variable and unreliable quality. Maybe one city's great, the next city the guest musicians can't remember their parts, and at the next one of the guests tries to take over the mic to harangue the crowd about his latest personal project. There's a bit of risk.
posted by echo target at 12:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Ms. Palmer can raise 1.2 mil, she can throw a couple of bucks to local string players/fans.

I'm increasingly regarding this as a case study of why you shouldn't try to fund something as big as a concert tour through something like Kickstarter, where $1.2 million pre-tax is considered functionally equivalent to infinite cash reserves.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [21 favorites]


The problem with exploiting fans is that they want to be exploited. They want to be used.

If you're a professional, you should be professional and pay people for services rendered. If this is a minor part of the stage show, then a few bucks should be enough. But AFP is not a charity and, as such, people shouldn't have to donate their time to be in her orbit for a show.

It's the same kind of bullshit that people running design and writing "contests" pull, getting people to work for free.
posted by inturnaround at 12:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Except, again, she's insisting that the people who do this have quasi-professional-level skills, that they essentially audition for the parts, that they show up for a rehearsal before the show, that they provide the opening act music etc. etc.
And?

If they don't want to, they don't have to.

Like for real, who gets mad at someone asking for volunteers?
posted by kavasa at 12:20 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's important to remember that at this point she's not just an entertainer, she's an employer.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:20 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Walkmen did this a few years ago, encouraging locals at each venue to bring their brass instruments and play on stage with them.

The Walkmen probably didn't do that at the conclusion of a campaign to raise one million dollars.
posted by griphus at 12:20 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is nothing to do with "interacting with fans", FFS - this is like an unpaid internship, except more egregious, because she's just collected a million dollars from the Internet from free, and is going to make a bunch more playing these shows.

From her ad:

> and we need enough strings to make up QUARTET (pre-made quartets WELCOME) to join us for a couple tunes….and to act at the string quartet for jherek bischoff’s beautiful music (basically, you get to BE the opening ACT!)

In other words, she wants an opening act, but she doesn't want to pay for it - I assume she's selling it based on "exposure". She has two paid saxes - but she wants to get a complete horn section for free, I assume for "exposure".

As a musician, as someone who's been paid for their work, and as someone who has paid others - fuck this shit. We're told that we can't expect to make money from selling recorded music any more, that playing live is the only way to make money.

(And as an audience, do I really want to see a pick-up band who's had only one rehearsal?)

This "$30K" number seems like a lot - until you realize it's almost 40 shows. It's likely she's netting at least $10K per show - probably much more in some of these places - so that's at most 10% of her net, probably a heck of a lot less.


> this seems like another cooked up Palmer hater controversy.

I have little idea who she is, and no preconception whatsoever. Can you explain these other "Palmer hater controversies" please?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:20 PM on September 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


echo target - she's talked specifically about how that's what she wants. it's not a risk. it's her intended outcome.
posted by nadawi at 12:21 PM on September 13, 2012


Like for real, who gets mad at someone asking for volunteers?

Is it really cool, though, to take advantage of fandom to get free work?
posted by inturnaround at 12:22 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yea, pay people. They gave you a million bucks FFS.
posted by New England Cultist at 12:22 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm in a band that frequently does not get paid. I'm pretty sensitive to the argument being raised. Everyone in my band has great day jobs and we feel like its a privilege to be given a venue to play in at all.. We can (usually) bring a crowd and a lot of drinks are sold, but if the owner's being a dick, we don't raise a fuss because it's not that much money and we'd usually like to play venue X again.

But lately, I've been feeling more and more that I am contributing to an economy that ensures that musicians don't get paid. Most of the people we play with are struggling more than us financially or would really like to make it as a performing musician and I would really like to live in a world where artists are valued and paid. It's a pretty tricky question -- we now have a guy that handles a lot of our booking, and this friend of ours is an active, working musician who really insists that the people he books get paid, to the point of yelling at owners, black listing clubs, and once, throwing his telecaster from the stage at an owner who was being squishy on the payment agreement and then was told to turn down the volume (hey, he's not super stable, just the kind of manager you want sometimes).

This certainly doesn't feel like exploitation on Palmer's part, but these are good points that are being made and I look forward to her response.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:22 PM on September 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


This is not going to sound like a professional band, and is no threat to professional musicians. I took part in a few Really Big Choruses in the Royal Albert Hall when I was a lad. Hundreds upon hundreds of volunteer singers, a professional orchestra and professional soloists. It was good, and a huge huge noise, but even with weeks or months of practice and rehearsal before, it had none of the poise and control of a professional choir. This is just people having some fun, and wanting to make it sound acceptably good too.

Shame Albini hates women really.
posted by howfar at 12:23 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like for real, who gets mad at someone asking for volunteers?

The "if you don't want to do it you don't have to" argument in employment situations doesn't usually fly very well on Metafilter. Unpaid internships, under-the-table sub-minimum wage jobs etc. We can all see that those are exploitative, even though in those cases it is also true that if you "don't want to do it, you don't have to."

No, I'm not saying the situations are identical--but they're close enough to be troubling.
posted by yoink at 12:24 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


I went to a Michelle Shocked show where it was just her and she invited everyone who was coming to bring an instrument. At the beginning she brought those people on stage, assessed their talent level, and would basically do ad-hoc arrangements for each song helping the people through the chords and such. It was a great show, everyone had fun, nobody got paid. Sometimes music and the act of music making is its own reward.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:25 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


The reason unpaid labor is the form of professional musicians is bad is the same reason unpaid labor in any form is bad. It sets a standard where unpaid work is necessary to "get into the field" as can be seen in unpaid internships at creative companies right now. Requiring unpaid labor limits the field to those who can afford to work unpaid. Yes - it costs money not to get paid due to the opportunity cost of your time (you could be making money otherwise). Further, fixed costs like rent and food can't be paid without paid work. As a result, only those with preexisting wealth can afford to work unpaid and the field is limited to those with preexisting wealth.

As a society, we have decided that unpaid labor is a bad thing. That's why we have minimum wage laws. They are a good thing, because it ensures the market doesn't set a price for labor that makes it impossible to fill demand from all areas of society. We don't limit unpaid labor so that people must paid for their work (that's a nice side benefit). We limit unpaid labor so that all people can end up with paid work.
posted by saeculorum at 12:25 PM on September 13, 2012 [55 favorites]


I'm skeptical of the idea that some as savvy as Amanda Palmer is caught off guard by the fact that there's some blowback from this. I think she had to anticipate it, and either decided she didn't care, or else it's exactly what she wants, with my money on the latter.
posted by tyllwin at 12:26 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, I just sent an email to see if I can play sax with them in Portland. I guess I can't be critical. Sounds like a blast. I'll play for beer and a t-shirt and the fun. Whatever.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:26 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Calling Palmer a bit tone deaf I think is fair. She's very passionate about everything she does and she might not consider the reactions of dispassionate observers (or people who already have it out a little bit for her).

I have little idea who she is, and no preconception whatsoever. Can you explain these other "Palmer hater controversies" please?

She's too fat (or complaining too much about being perceived as too fat), her art is exploiting conjoined twins, she's too famous to beg her fans for money on Kickstarter... just check out the posts on Mefi for a quick digest. She's a polarizing figure and a lot of people seem to want to always view what she does in the most uncharitable way. I'm not saying people who criticize her never have a point at all, but a lot of people seem very quick to judge her harshly.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:26 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can get heroin on Kickstarter now?
posted by b1tr0t at 12:29 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went to a Michelle Shocked show where it was just her and she invited everyone who was coming to bring an instrument. At the beginning she brought those people on stage, assessed their talent level, and would basically do ad-hoc arrangements for each song helping the people through the chords and such. It was a great show, everyone had fun, nobody got paid. Sometimes music and the act of music making is its own reward.

And that sounds like a hoot and half--but notice how radically different that is from what is being done here. Once again, read her actual call for musicians. It's not "hey everyone, bring an instrument and we'll have a ball!" It's "if you're a professional or near-professional level musician, come along in advance of the show to learn your parts and then provide entertainment to paying concertgoers--all for nothing."

There's a pretty huge difference there. It's the difference between a pro singer going along to a concert and joining in on a singalong (rightly not paid) and a pro singer being asked to show up before a concert, learn lines, learn the music, sing back up (and maybe a lead part or two), and all for hugs and pizza. Which, you know, is not really cool.
posted by yoink at 12:29 PM on September 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


If she'd crowdsource her singing, I might be convinced to give a shit about this.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:30 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


a line from a song from the new album comes to mind - i get torn to pieces for the stupidest reasons.
posted by nadawi at 12:31 PM on September 13, 2012


ech, Steve Albini. i've never listened to Amanda Palmer simply because i can tell i won't like what she does but Albini is a latter day Ian Mackaye; one for whom the term priggish is infinitely applicable, both for it's defined meaning and that implied by its pseudo-homonym.

in other words, lighten up messiah, i'm sure the cloud for your glorious ascension will arrive any day now.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 12:31 PM on September 13, 2012


Yeah, that's pretty shitty. She's asking for close-to-professional quality talent, she's asking them to essentially "be the opening act"

No, the sax duo Ronald Reagan is the opening act. I didn't make it to the show at the 930 last night in time to see them (or I think another act; unfortunately the info has fallen off the 930's front page and I am only willing to work so hard to find it) but they did come out and jam a silly "Careless Whisper" rendition.

There was at one point a man with a trumpet of some sort and a woman with a euphonium aside the Ronald Reagan folks backing one of Palmer's songs. They did one song and I never saw them again (though they might have been in the scrum at the end for the last song; it's possible my 3rd cousin twice removed was up there too).

I honestly don't get the outrage here. Palmer's show could have done without these folks just fine and the fans in attendance would have been hunky dory with it. Similarly they didn't need to use the submitted photos for the two songs with emotional hooks - they could have bought stock art. But I found, as an attendee, that this fan connection improved matters. The shots of people who fans had "lost" (either via death or some other mechanism) made it more poignant.

I guess they could have given every one of those people $5 that Getty would have gotten otherwise, but does that really matter?

I guess we all have our thesholds, but personally I thought it was WAY cooler when we believed that the Dancing in the Dark video had Bruce pulling some random fan up on stage rather than it being an early-career Courtney Cox doing a paid gig. This seems like a small way for Palmer to engage with the fanbase.

Yea, pay people. They gave you a million bucks FFS.

I was on that kickstarter and I didn't GIVE her anything, I exchanged money for a set benefit. I call it "buying something." I guess there may be a lot of people on Kickstarter who pledge above their benefit level but I really doubt it.
posted by phearlez at 12:33 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


did you really just call Steve Albini a puritanical moralist? Or do we have totally different takes on what 'priggish' means?
posted by boo_radley at 12:34 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, the sax duo Ronald Reagan is the opening act.

You may have missed this crucial line from her call for "volunteers":
(basically, you get to BE the opening ACT!)
posted by yoink at 12:34 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really would like everyone to actually read the Want Ad before commenting or looking for other examples. I am not a Palmer fan. I am not a Palmer hater. But as someone who supports labor of all kinds I have a problem with an employer looking to hire fans for free, rather than pay professionals the going wage.

Palmer's show could have done without these folks just fine

So she should have done without those folks.
posted by muddgirl at 12:35 PM on September 13, 2012 [24 favorites]


Bit surprised nobody has mentioned the seemingly related Pixish debacle of some years back. It seems like people are a lot more straightforwardly opposed with some kinds of work than with others. It seems like a big old bunch of nothing to me (she is inviting amateurs to jam for free, this is pretty traditional, she is neither displacing what "ought" to be a paid gig (the parts are clearly supplemental) nor offering some sort of dubious "chance at work to come" like spec work.

I don't care for her at all but it's because I don't like her music. Seems like generated controversy to me.
posted by nanojath at 12:36 PM on September 13, 2012


did you really just call Steve Albini a puritanical moralist?

He certainly IS a puritanical moralist, in terms of his own beliefs about making music.
posted by unSane at 12:37 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Note that I don't have a problem with people volunteering for non-profit activities. I assume that Palmer's concerts are for-profit.)
posted by muddgirl at 12:37 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


the parts are clearly supplemental

A quartet is supplemental? Really?
posted by muddgirl at 12:37 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Question: When did "know how to actually play your instrument" get elevated to "quasi-professional skills"? 'Cuz if that's true, I know a shitload of quasi-professionals.
posted by lodurr at 12:38 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would give all the money I have for a peek into the parallel universe where Neil Gaiman married LeAnn Rimes.
posted by Legomancer at 12:38 PM on September 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


Well, the quartet really pales when you have an entire chorus of street urchins you convinced to sing for gruel and allowing them to call you "mom" for an evening.
posted by griphus at 12:39 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I believe Harlan Ellison's famous rant belongs in this thread.

Ellison is notorious for knocking writers who work for free because doing so hurts all writers. Ditto here. And speaking as a former professional musician, any other pro musician who tells me that I "just don't get it" if I object to the social consequences of this kind of thing is racking up some major irony points.
posted by cribcage at 12:39 PM on September 13, 2012 [16 favorites]


you’ll be embarrassed if you show up for rehearsal and everyone’s looking at you wondering why you can’t actually play the trombone

Stuff like this is what makes this sound really shitty to me. She is looking for skilled musicians to not only play with her band for no pay but also to come to a rehearsal earlier in the day. Can't even throw these people $50-100 each? Beers and hugs? That's something poor unsigned bands do, not established artists who just raised over $1 million. And I actually like some of her music a lot.

This isn't "inviting amateurs to jam for free" - they have to go to a rehearsal, there is sheet music, and they are going to be conducted. This is "I want more instrumentalists but I don't want to have to pay for them."
posted by wondermouse at 12:40 PM on September 13, 2012 [28 favorites]


Question: When did "know how to actually play your instrument" get elevated to "quasi-professional skills"?
That's not the part of her blog post people are referring to when they talk about quasi-professional skills; they're referring to the earlier part where she asks for "professional-ish horns and strings for EVERY CITY".
posted by dfan at 12:40 PM on September 13, 2012


he "if you don't want to do it you don't have to" argument in employment situations doesn't usually fly very well on Metafilter.

Metafilter is kind of fucked up that way.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:41 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


> i get torn to pieces for the stupidest reasons.

You know, these aren't "stupid reasons". When I was young, you used to be able to make money as a musician - with difficulty, but if you stuck to it, you could do it. You could play weddings, you could teach, you could play in bars and clubs, you could be an opening act for another big band, you could put out a CD, you could be paid to play on someone else's CD, or paid even just to arrange parts for someone else's CD, heck, you could work in a CD store or a music store.

Not one of these sources of money have completely dried up, but all of them have become steadily more and more scarce. As a random example, the clubs on Bleeker Street, which used to be a fairly steady source of cash, are mostly pay-to-play now (you get to keep part of the door, but it's quite likely to get a reasonable crowd but still end up making less than zero dollars, even before your expenses); Metafilter reliably informs us that we're stupid and reactionary to think of selling our CDs (try vinyl, the hipster's friend!); there are thousands of instructional DVDs by some of the best players in the business; CD stores are vanishing.

There's still serious money in the music business, but like everything else these days, nearly all of it goes to the 1%.

Playing as the opening act for a 1% act is still one way for the rest of us to actually make some money. Now Ms. Palmer, a 1%, is proudly trendsetting this away, too.

So we're talking about people's livelihoods here - we're talking my friends' livelihoods. It isn't a stupid reason.

(And of course this is exacerbated by the fact that Ms. Palmer has just taken a lot of money for people mostly out of the goodness of their hearts. Clearly the idea of "share the wealth" is foreign to her...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:41 PM on September 13, 2012 [40 favorites]


Well, Palmer's show last night could have gone without the three or so minutes she allowed the representative from HIPS to take the mic and talk about their mission and need for volunteers and funds too.

I don't think HIPS paid Palmer for that time but they would have had to at other venues. If they get a booth at a lot of local festivals they have to pay; it's possible those festival runners are annoyed when someone like Palmer gives away what they charge for. Are they right?
posted by phearlez at 12:42 PM on September 13, 2012


When did "know how to actually play your instrument" get elevated to "quasi-professional skills"?

I think when you start off by saying that you're looking for "professional-ish" musicians. Can you think of a better gloss on "professional-ish" than "quasi-professional"? I cannot.

she is inviting amateurs to jam for free

No, she is inviting near-professional-level musicians to learn their parts ahead of time and perform in a professional, for-profit concert. For no compensation.

If it were 'everyone bring an instrument along to the concert if you happen to play one and we'll have a blast' then there wouldn't be a controversy here.
posted by yoink at 12:42 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ellison is notorious for knocking writers who work for free because doing so hurts all writers. Ditto here.

Think about that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:43 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Question: When did "know how to actually play your instrument" get elevated to "quasi-professional skills"?

She wants people to show up and play a pre-written string quartet, well, with just a single rehearsal. That is "professional skills", no quasi- there.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:43 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


or she tweets to promote their show

When I saw the mini-tour they did this summer, she definitely promoted some gigs some of the local string players were going to be in.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:43 PM on September 13, 2012


Seconding lodurr: there's a huge gulf between "competent" and "quasi-professional".
posted by pont at 12:44 PM on September 13, 2012


You guys...someone should just take this case to Judge John Hodgman.
posted by inturnaround at 12:45 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


> there's a huge gulf between "competent" and "quasi-professional".

Say, what? What is that gulf, exactly?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:45 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's possible those festival runners are annoyed when someone like Palmer gives away what they charge for.

This is a completely hypothetical controversy. Find a festival organizer who thinks that Palmer is stealing revenue from them, and we can discuss it. Otherwise it is a false equivalence (a few minutes != a booth; I generally don't have to pay anyone to hand out fliers at festivals or simply talk with people one-on-one; Palmer doesn't profit from allowing HIPS to speak, while she almost certainly does profit from putting on shoes, which any instruemtationalist is supporting; the HIPS representative didn't have to show up before-hand, audition their plea, and rehearse it; and so on)
posted by muddgirl at 12:46 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Putting on shows.
posted by muddgirl at 12:46 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, this idea that everyone needs to get compensated on a predefined schedule for all their labor is a pretty shitty idea, if you ask me. Same with this idea that you should religiously avoid giving away anything for free if you do it for a living. Kind of soulless, really.

I know professional musicians who would be on board with the whole "why the hell should I play if I don't get paid?" thing. Most of them don't work very much, or work in markets (e.g. classical or for-hire bands) where they can get steady work regardless of their attitude toward "free" play.

I know semi-pro musicians -- many of them very, very good -- and pro musicians who are quite happy to jump on stage without getting paid. Many of these people are right bears about making sure the venue owner pays the agreed fee. Many of them are also quite happy to join a friend's band or a passing hero's band for no compensation at all, except the fun & privilege of playing.

So, manufactured controversy is my vote.

Also, the whole analogy of "what would you do if someone asked you to do YOUR work for free?" is just bullshit, frankly. I build websites for a living. I get paid pretty well for that, all things considered. If someone asked me to do it for free, I'd consider the source, and I would say 'yes' or I would say 'no' depending on whether I thought it was a worthy cause, whether I had the bandwidth, and whether I could get out of it with my sanity intact. And if I don't like the answers to those questions, I would say 'no.' I am fully capable of doing that, and I would like to think most adults who play music professionally are also fully capable of doing that.

As for the argument that this represents a slipper-slope-backslide to the bad old days when the musicians union didn't exist and musicians didn't get paid: Go downtown on a friday night, and ask around, and tell me what the kids playing on the bar scene are getting paid.
posted by lodurr at 12:46 PM on September 13, 2012 [17 favorites]


Seconding lodurr: there's a huge gulf between "competent" and "quasi-professional".

Care to parse the "huge gulf" between "professional-ish" and "quasi-professional"?
posted by yoink at 12:47 PM on September 13, 2012


I take it none of you use Open Source Software written by exploited programmers who were writing code that they should have been paid for.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Seconding lodurr: there's a huge gulf between "competent" and "quasi-professional".
Yes, and she explicitly asked for "professional-ish" musicians.

One galling thing to me is that "professional" literally means "your services are worth money".
posted by dfan at 12:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know, this idea that everyone needs to get compensated on a predefined schedule for all their labor is a pretty shitty idea.

No one is saying this.
posted by muddgirl at 12:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


A person playing at a professional show playing with professionals is a de facto professional.

There's no open mic before Jerry Seinfeld takes the stage.
posted by inturnaround at 12:48 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I take it none of you use Open Source Software written by exploited programmers who were writing code that they should have been paid for.

Open Source Software is generally free. Amanda Palmer is getting paid to perform.
posted by muddgirl at 12:48 PM on September 13, 2012 [16 favorites]


This just in: people get their panties in a wad over something that really doesn't fucking matter.

I'm no Palmer apologist---she's okay, but her fanbase is a lot like those of Radiohead/Tori Amos/Ani DiFranco, in that they're rabid and absolutely will tear a new a-hole for anyone who dares malign their idol--but she did ask for volunteers and it is completely up to the people who respond to her call as to whether or not they want to do this. If she went around to actual musicians' unions or some such, then yes, by all means, be upset and call her the "1%". (Newsflash: just because she married a famous writer doesn't mean he foots her damn bills. If anything there is anything we should be pissed about, it was the Gaiman/Palmer Kickstarter, which was fucking ridiculous. Palmer makes what money she has from working incessantly, but Gaiman should know better than to come to his fans, hat in hand.)
posted by Kitteh at 12:48 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Steve Albini is pissed off at you, you exist.
posted by zippy at 12:48 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


0xFCAF: "I take it none of you use Open Source Software written by exploited programmers who were writing code that they should have been paid for."

More like: I hope you haven't pressured people into writing software for you for free. Totally different, 64687.
posted by boo_radley at 12:49 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm just not getting the outrage here. She's basically saying, "bring your horn, sit in on a couple of tunes, then enjoy the rest of the show and drink some free beer." Doesn't sound like a bad deal to me. And nobody is forcing anybody to participate, so if you don't think its a good deal, don't do it. Problem solved.
posted by spilon at 12:49 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Go downtown on a friday night, and ask around, and tell me what the kids playing on the bar scene are getting paid.

Probably very few of them. That's kind of our point.
posted by yoink at 12:49 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a long way from inviting the fans to jam and have fun or anything similar, this is getting pros, or as good as, to work for nothing.... It's just exploitation. Shame on you Amanda.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:49 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gasoline for the fire:

A couple of years back she blogged about how hard it is to make money as a musician and how you have to scrimp and hustle for every dollar and musicians shouldn't be ashamed to demand money for their work because it's WORK.

Her website isn't currently working for it, but someone else reblogged it.
posted by SharkParty at 12:49 PM on September 13, 2012 [33 favorites]


Lupus yonderboy: She wants people to show up and play a pre-written string quartet, well, with just a single rehearsal. That is "professional skills", no quasi- there.

From the actual call: "... you’d need to show up for a quickie rehearsal (the parts are pretty simple)...."

Please, let's not conflate playing with three other string players with 'playing string quartets.' It cheapens the discourse.
posted by lodurr at 12:50 PM on September 13, 2012


i read it when she posted it. i read it inside the context of who she is as an artist. if free labor is your threshold, fine. but this seems a funny place to draw that line. she slept on fans couches long after most acts move on to hotels, she has had volunteer chefs show up at the studio and cook for the band, she has taken volunteer graphic design. she has also done hundreds of unplanned free ninja gigs, and promoted a ridiculous number of people on her twitter, and given her music away, and joined in (for free) in other people's projects, and still lives the cloud club and gives people jobs she meets on the internet.

she's not madonna, miming to a prerecorded track and moving on to the next town. amanda palmer engages the creative communities in the places she visits. she doesn't ask for money for everything she does and she doesn't pay money for everything she gets. she also asks fans directly for things when she needs them. this really enrages some people, but it doesn't seem to enrage many of the people who involve themselves with her.
posted by nadawi at 12:50 PM on September 13, 2012 [21 favorites]


nanojath: “she is inviting amateurs to jam for free”

yoink: “No, she is inviting near-professional-level musicians to learn their parts ahead of time and perform in a professional, for-profit concert.”

See, here's where I think you're both wrong. I think she's inviting near-professional-level musicians to show up to rehearsal, make a fair try of it then, and then get incredibly roaring drunk and return for the actual show and play utterly ridiculous and insane stuff and totally blow everybody's mind with disruptive, crazy awesomeness.

But that's probably the musician in me talking. Still, it would be pretty funny.
posted by koeselitz at 12:50 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


So is the worry here not that Palmer is doing a one-off, hey local peeps come out and play a few songs thing, but that this will become some sort of exploitative standard, where bigger names exploit smaller ones and that's the only way smaller ones get to play? Because I don't really see that happening.

My husband's a working musician, and he doesn't work for free, but if someone he admired wanted him up on stage, he'd do a few songs for beer and the fun of it. If he didn't have a paying gig that night. He has done so, in fact.

If they wanted him to tour or record for beer and hugs, that would be a different story.

This is volunteering. It doesn't threaten paying gigs in any way I can see any more than picking up cans in the park with Girl Scouts puts the regular park workers out of business.

And the million dollars thing makes me laugh. How much tax did she pay on that? How many salaries and expenses (recording touring vehicles lodging food etc. etc.) is she paying out of that? I'm thinking it doesn't go all that far.
posted by emjaybee at 12:50 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


And enough with the 'pros or as good as' bullshit. This is local band people. They are empowered to say 'no.' This is not union-busting, but hey, if the musicians' local wants to tell its members not to play with her -- knock yourselves out.
posted by lodurr at 12:51 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Adobe Photoshop just wants you to write a little module that they'll sell to their customers, and they'll name it after you. If you don't want to do it, no big deal. But what about programmers who DO want to get paid in more than name recognition for doing work?
posted by muddgirl at 12:52 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look everybody, if you don't like Amanda Palmer for any reason you're clearly just a stuck-up prude that can't handle her EDGINESS and CREATIVITY.
posted by kmz at 12:52 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


U2 invites fan on stage to play guitar: priceless memory
Amanda Palmer invites fan on stage to play guitar: epic tragedy
posted by zippy at 12:53 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


And the million dollars thing makes me laugh. How much tax did she pay on that? How many salaries and expenses (recording touring vehicles lodging food etc. etc.) is she paying out of that? I'm thinking it doesn't go all that far.

Zillions of bands tour and record without a million dollar (minus taxes) bankroll every day... I mean... REAL bands too. Not just me and my damn hurdy gurdy.
posted by SharkParty at 12:53 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


muddgirl: But what about programmers who DO want to get paid in more than name recognition for doing work?

So your claim is that I have an obligation not to donate skills or make my own labor arrangements because it might have some hypothetical affect on someone else's compensation?

Again: Soulless.
posted by lodurr at 12:54 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought we were supposed to just love the idea of yet another profession being disrupted.

That's what the cool kids do, right? Disrupt? Disrupt with PlatAg Social-Stream-Swimming or something?

Well, here you go. New field being disrupted. Yay! It's a new conceptual framework for maximizing target response in a cued social environment!

Just call it MakerMusic, NodeMusic, Music.js or something and roll with it.
posted by aramaic at 12:55 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, this would be like a thousand Scot Halpins (previously) getting their wish granted.

(Link to Youtube with timestamps of the event; Halpin was an audience member at a Who show that was tapped to fill in for Keith Moon after Moon passed out onstage after taking horse tranquilizers.)

People just like to complain and argue about shit, is all.
posted by not_on_display at 12:55 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Find a festival organizer who thinks that Palmer is stealing revenue from them, and we can discuss it. Otherwise it is a false equivalence (a few minutes != a booth; I generally don't have to pay anyone to hand out fliers at festivals or simply talk with people one-on-one;;

There was a HIPS table in the back as well. So you're right, it's not a good parallel. A table at a festival only gets you the exposure of people who wander by and see it. Here their only competition was the bars and the merch table AND they got to get up on stage and talk to the crowd with no other entertainment competition.

So you don't think the dude who shoved some club flyers under my wiper blade was being paid?

And the fact that someone thinks someone is stealing revenue from them is the only metric here? Please. That by itself gets them the same respect as the tv executive who thinks skipping commercials means I'm stealing from him. You need more justification than that they FEEL that way.

In case you're legitimately missing my point rather than willfully ignoring it, I'm trying to say that if you take this in context it certainly seems like fan/community engagement rather than a blatant cash grab. Someone above thinks throwing these folks $50 would make this pass from the realm of horrible to okay. If that's the line than I don't see why we don't judge them competent to decide for themselves what they'll take in trade rather than $50. There were single items at the merch table selling for that much. Show admission was $25.

I've bartered for my work before. That's not okay now?
posted by phearlez at 12:56 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Please, let's not conflate playing with three other string players with 'playing string quartets.'

But that's absolutely and precisely what a string quartet is.

> It doesn't threaten paying gigs in any way I can see any more than picking up cans in the park with Girl Scouts puts the regular park workers out of business.

This has been explained time and again on this thread. There are only so many slots for paid artists - each one that becomes "free" is a loss to musicians. Moreover, the expectation that people will play for free diminishes musicians' earning ability - and as I pointed out above, not just theoretically, many NYC clubs at least require you to pay to play because of "the exposure".

> Again: Soulless.

Knock it off, will you? That's just rude.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:56 PM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


My band director back in high school always got to play with the circus orchestra when Barnum and Bailey came to town. They paid him.

But, whatever. I'm guessing she wants a decent amateur and not exactly a professional, someone who would get a kick out of going on stage, so I suppose folks would selfselect for this. I'm guessing the parts aren't all that hard.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:56 PM on September 13, 2012


Reminds me of working as a freelancer: "We can't pay you, but the project is awesome... think of how great it will look on your resume!"
posted by brand-gnu at 12:56 PM on September 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


Exposure is a funny beast. I'm a working artist -- a writer, basically. Writers are notoriously underpaid for their work, same as musicians. And we, too, get a lot of offers to do work for "exposure."

Sometimes that's a raw deal and the writer really doesn't get anything out of it at all. You can't pay the rent with exposure. But sometimes doing work for glory really does pay off, in connections, introductions, and goodwill earned. I'm doing a piece for free right now because I know for a fact the final work will be performed in front of some people I have a vested interest in impressing.

The biggest problem a working artist has in today's environment is obscurity. Promoting yourself and your work is exhausting and hard, expensive in time and energy, and yet it's absolutely necessary to having a career.

Where the Amanda Palmer situation would sit in a working musician's personal calculus is hard to say. Yeah, it would be much better karma if she were paying. But at the same time... being on stage and in front of a local audience, guaranteed to be packed with people who like the same kinds of music you do, and who will be primed to love anything you put out there... that's not a slam-dunk scam. I can definitely see the situation where an indie musician would be delighted to do it, simply for the opportunity to be connected with AFP in the minds of her fans. Some of them might rub off on you.
posted by Andrhia at 12:58 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


U2 invites fan on stage to play guitar: priceless memory
Amanda Palmer invites fan on stage to play guitar: epic tragedy


And, once again, the difference is that the blind guitarist guy just happened to be sitting in the audience holding a sign asking for a chance to play with U2. U2 did not send out a call for "professional-ish" musicians to be their opening act and to flesh out their group, ask them to come to a rehearsal before the show and then not offer them any compensation.

Asking fans up on stage spontaneously: cool. Asking people to rehearse, demanding that they meet a certain minimum standard of professional skill, having them perform as the opening act for your paid concert and then not paying them anything more than a few beers? Not cool.
posted by yoink at 12:58 PM on September 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


I think this is probably dumb of her, since it will likely fail. Paid musicians are often unreliable – how the hell does she expect to corral unpaid musicians, who have no motivation whatsoever beyond the goodness of their hearts and their adoration for Ms Palmer, in cities across the US? That is not going to happen. Sorry – it's not. The people who show up will not care, they will not be together, they might not actually show up even if they make the rehearsal, and just generally it'll be a mess.

If she wants to do this, she should it the time-honored way that labels and promoters have been doing it for years: find a few good musicians who like her and cajole them into coming on tour for a pittance. It sounds like she's already done that, so I'm not sure why she doesn't just go the whole hog.

My suspicion is that Ms Palmer is doing this mostly to satisfy her ridiculous ego. She'd like to believe that her fans adore her so much that they'll be her musicians gratis, and put in all the attendant work to make that happen. I predict it won't work, but people on the internet seem to have an odd amount of devotion to her, so who the hell knows.
posted by koeselitz at 12:58 PM on September 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


i can't imagine the parts are hard - at the streamed NYC show the cello player had to leave early so they had someone on the baritone sax take up the part.
posted by nadawi at 12:58 PM on September 13, 2012



But, whatever. I'm guessing she wants a decent amateur and not exactly a professional, someone who would get a kick out of going on stage, so I suppose folks would selfselect for this. I'm guessing the parts aren't all that hard.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:56 PM on September 13 [+] [!]


A lot hangs on her choice of words. In the want-ad, she called for "professional-ish" musicians. It's a clever dodge, but I suppose we can safely and conservatively assume she means semi-professional. That does, in most industries, mean you expect at least SOME token payment. And of course, as posted above, she's charmingly argued that herself:


Gasoline for the fire:

A couple of years back she blogged about how hard it is to make money as a musician and how you have to scrimp and hustle for every dollar and musicians shouldn't be ashamed to demand money for their work because it's WORK.

Her website isn't currently working for it, but someone else reblogged it.
posted by SharkParty at 12:49


I don't know her music at all. It may be a "manufactured controversy," but that doesn't mean that criticisms of this are at all invalid. We just won't be able to sort it out until we see her income-tax returns, but I'm sure she'll have those up for us soon. :)
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:59 PM on September 13, 2012


I agree with the comment quoted above that this doesn't break any rules per se, but it sure is tasteless.

I am a musician. Non-established musicians, like other types of artists, are constantly being confronted with "opportunities" to lend their talents for no pay in exchange for "exposure." And a lot of them will take these offers, which contributes to an environment where such things are considered the norm, thereby devaluing the musicians' work.

This woman raised 1.2 million dollars on Kickstarter to make her album. She only asked for $200,000, which would still be a lot of money to spend on an album, and which presumably she considered an adequate amount to cover her costs, since that's what she asked for.

The fact that she's now touring behind that album and asking for volunteer musicians in every city to accompany her, asking that they show up to rehearse, stipulating that they must have a high level of skill (even requiring that they prove it beforehand), and is just obscene. And according to the NYT, Palmer said that she's asking for volunteers because she can't afford to pay touring musicians.

Not to mention that it seems disrespectful of her ticket-purchasing audience to have the stage populated with barely-rehearsed volunteers.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:00 PM on September 13, 2012 [18 favorites]


The name sounded so familar, so I looked up "Amanda Palmer."

Ugh. From the Dresden Dolls? Ugh. Precious and Pretentious slugging it out inside a bloated ego.

I also now remember that the crack in my mental image of Neil Gaiman came when I found out he'd married her.

And, yeah, "I can't afford $35K so you play free?" sucks no matter how much perfume, powder and black lace you throw on it.
posted by the sobsister at 1:00 PM on September 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


So your claim is that I have an obligation not to donate skills or make my own labor arrangements because it might have some hypothetical affect on someone else's compensation?

I didn't say anything about "obligation," but I think that if I have the privilege of being able to work for just 'name recognition' or 'industry connections', I also have the responsibility to consider the consequences of exercising that privilege.

So you don't think the dude who shoved some club flyers under my wiper blade was being paid?

...now I'm just confused. Can you put this in the form of a SAT analogy. Palmer:her backup band::HIPS:Festivals? HIPS:Palmer::Palmer:Backup band? Backup Band:Palmer:: Dude handing out fliers:HIPS?
posted by muddgirl at 1:00 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Adobe Photoshop just wants you to write a little module that they'll sell to their customers, and they'll name it after you. If you don't want to do it, no big deal. But what about programmers who DO want to get paid in more than name recognition for doing work?

I'm seriously confused, because this is what actually happens. Adobe Lightroom didn't have Facebook or Flickr Export built-in, but provided a plug-in architecture so that someone else could do it (without Adobe paying them!). Predictably, someone did, and the value of Lightroom was subsequently (indirectly) increased, making it more likely people will buy Lightroom.

They also didn't provide other random features (scripting, etc.), but some of those have only been implemented in for-pay plugins. Individual people made their own decisions, and some functionality got provided for free, and some didn't.

I find it really hard to believe that simply asking is the difference between exploitive and non-exploitive behavior. You can ask someone to do whatever you want. In fact, I'm asking for $1,000 right now. Do you feel exploited? If you gave me $1,000 of your own free volition, would I have just exploited you?
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:01 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


koeselitz - have you ever seen any live recordings of her? "generally it'll be a mess" is what she actively goes for. i actually think that's the part that keeps getting skimmed over - she wants it to be rough. she wants it to not be together. she wants it to be out of control and drunken and maybe fall apart mid way through. that's the sort of show she goes for even before volunteer horns.
posted by nadawi at 1:01 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


> The biggest problem a working artist has in today's environment is obscurity.

I completely disagree with you. The biggest problem is money.

My wife is a painter. For years she made a living, sparse but a living selling her paintings to people (recently it's dropped off, we're not sure why, new material is coming). I guarantee none of you ever heard of her work - she's definitely "obscure" - but enough people were buying from her so she could live and continue to work. It was a good thing for her - it was good in general.

On the other hand, I know people in bands who became "famous" for fairly long periods but were unable to turn that into an income. Without exception, these people now have limited involvement in the music industry because they cannot afford to do so.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:02 PM on September 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


I get the same vibe that I get when some asshole asks me to do something vaguely design related "for my portfolio".
posted by Talez at 1:03 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


lupus yonderboy: But that's absolutely and precisely what a string quartet is.

Um. OK. So if I get two violinists, a cellist and a violist together and we play "twinkle-twinkle" for two hours, we're "precisely" "playing string quartets"?

OK. Well, now I know not to argue this point.
posted by lodurr at 1:04 PM on September 13, 2012


I find it really hard to believe that simply asking is the difference between exploitive and non-exploitive behavior.

Yes, I do think there's a big difference between "We're going to give the ability to script extensions" and "write this extension for us and we'll give you something sub-value in return." The difference isn't in asking - the difference is that in the first case there is no promise of any exchange and in the second there is a very explicit promise of an employer/employee relationship (or at worst, an employer/contractor relationship).
posted by muddgirl at 1:05 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


She should have just have had all the instruments on a DAT tape and gone out their solo.
posted by Theta States at 1:06 PM on September 13, 2012


If Amanda Palmer had said, "Hey, if you bring instruments to my show, I will not stop you from playing along. I will even have a couple square feet on the stage if you want to come up" that is completely, ethically different from "Show up before-hand, audition, rehearse, and I'll pay you in hugs and beer."
posted by muddgirl at 1:06 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


(and merch, and a ticket to the show, and even though i won't use this as a selling point, i'll still let you sell your own merch and pass the hat around)
posted by nadawi at 1:07 PM on September 13, 2012


Amanda Palmer is a provocateur! Duh!
posted by Mister_A at 1:07 PM on September 13, 2012


I honestly can't discern an ethical difference between those two scenarios. Can you elaborate?
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:08 PM on September 13, 2012


Um. OK. So if I get two violinists, a cellist and a violist together and we play "twinkle-twinkle" for two hours, we're "precisely" "playing string quartets"?

You do realize that Mozart's variations on "Ah vous dirai-je maman" is the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle," right? I'm sure someone has arranged it for string quartet at some time. And, yeah--any time two violinists, a cellist and a violist are playing together they are playing as a string quartet; I'm not quite sure why you find that a difficult concept to grasp. If two people are singing together, they're singing a duet: even if they're singing "Twinkle Twinkle."
posted by yoink at 1:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Couldn't she just go to the Kickstarter ATM and whip up another 40 grand in a couple of hours?
posted by ShutterBun at 1:09 PM on September 13, 2012


Zillions of bands tour and record without a million dollar (minus taxes) bankroll every day... I mean... REAL bands too. Not just me and my damn hurdy gurdy.

And most of them end up not touring very far/in debt when they get back. They do everything themselves, sleep on couches, play tiny venues, and get screwed by clubs repeatedly.

Then, usually, they break up because it's so effing depressing and they possibly all hate each other.

Anyway, no one forced Palmer's fans to give her money; I just don't get that outrage. If they gave her 80 million dollars, so what? It's their money.

So per lupus_zonderboy's zero-sum "Only so many slots" theory, let's say Palmer paid, what, 6 musicians to be her horns/strings/whatever for the tour. Which is great. But doesn't benefit the local musicians in other towns in any way whatsoever.

Or, she decides to scale things back musically and make her money go further, so there are no strings/horns players being paid nor local musicians benefitting. She could do that and still be perfectly successful.

Or she does what she did here; yes, the six potential (but not certain) musicians don't get paid, but many many more local musicians who volunteer can say to the next club owner "I played with Amanda Palmer when she came through last month," which might increase their chances of getting booked. In fact, when playing with her they might be inside a venue they couldn't get in before, and get to meet the booking agent, and get new fans/Twitter followers they would never get before.

It's not like booking works on merit, you know. Booking boils down, 9 times out of 10, to who you drink/smoke with, and who their friends are, at least for the first time you get in. You get to come back if you can bring people and if you continue to keep up your schmoozing with the booking guy/owner/their friends/other local types.
posted by emjaybee at 1:09 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Um. OK. So if I get two violinists, a cellist and a violist together and we play "twinkle-twinkle" for two hours, we're "precisely" "playing string quartets"?

But we're not talking about that.

We are talking four "quasi-professionals" playing pre-written parts in front of a live paying audience.

I am understanding now that Ms. Palmer is going for a low-rent sort of aesthetic and doesn't care if the musicians do a bad job, but that's irrelevant. She wants two violinists, a cellist and a violist to play specific material for a paying, live audience, presumably to entertain them, and that's a string quartet.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:10 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I honestly can't discern an ethical difference between those two scenarios.

In the first case, Palmer has no control over the quality or quantity of the volunteers. Her show is quite probably worsened if, say, I show up and play a very loud tuba over her entire set.

In the second case, Palmer has complete control over the quantity and quality of the volunteers. She can send them home, ask them to play only on certain songs, ask them to play harmony instead of melody. She is asking them to add value.
posted by muddgirl at 1:10 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The reason unpaid labor is the form of professional musicians is bad is the same reason unpaid labor in any form is bad.

I'd have more sympathy with your argument if we were talking about a six-month unpaid internship, rather than a few hours blowing horn for beer and kicks.
posted by steambadger at 1:11 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


But in either case, people are showing up and not getting compensated for their work. Isn't that what the root problem is?
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:12 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The director Kevin Smith used to have poker games in the back room of his comic book store. To get in to play, you had to buy $200 of the store's dead stock. Usually crappy action figures that no one wanted to buy. Then you had to ante up another $200 to play.

People did it gladly, sure...but it's still shitty and grossly exploiting the fan/celebrity relationship.
posted by inturnaround at 1:12 PM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


emjaybee: "Anyway, no one forced Palmer's fans to give her money; I just don't get that outrage. If they gave her 80 million dollars, so what? It's their money."

I don't feel any outrage about this.
posted by boo_radley at 1:12 PM on September 13, 2012


But in either case, people are showing up and not getting compensated for their work. Isn't that what the root problem is?

The first case isn't work.
posted by muddgirl at 1:12 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


So *that's* what Amanda Palmer is good at- I thought it was 'publicizing herself.' apparently it's actually 'monetizing her fanbase.'

always kind of liked her, am relieved to have a reason to find her basically annoying
posted by hap_hazard at 1:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just call it MakerMusic, NodeMusic, Music.js or something and roll with it

Agreed, maybe we need to face facts, that like newspaper writers, the publishing industry, and the rest of the music industry, the demand for live musicians is in decline. Palmer may just be a shrewd operator ahead of the curve. I sympathize, I really do, but metafilter is happy to see newspapers fall off a cliff while we tout blogs like TPM but we want to keep the bar band alive.

Maybe live musicians need to switch up their business model somehow. Obviously I have no idea how, if I did I would do it and get rich, but if working for free is the new normal you guys gotta come up with a plan.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And most of them end up not touring very far/in debt when they get back. They do everything themselves, sleep on couches, play tiny venues, and get screwed by clubs repeatedly.

But I mean.... she apparently blew through the mil and didn't have enough left to hire horn players so my point is she had a million dollars to work with and still can't do what other bands do on their grocery bagger salaries in their spare time!!
posted by SharkParty at 1:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


You do realize that Mozart's variations on "Ah vous dirai-je maman" is the tune of "Twinkle Twinkle," right? I'm sure someone has arranged it for string quartet at some time.

You do realize that you're conflating Mozart with Amanda Palmer, don't you? What, you're not? How 'bout that....

And, yeah--any time two violinists, a cellist and a violist are playing together they are playing as a string quartet...

So, you don't think it's just a trifle disingenuous to conflate "playing string quartets" with "playin as a string quartet"? Because it seems pretty clear to me that the whole point of omitting "as a" and adding "s" is to make it seem like a harder thing to do. Which is to say, to create a phony equavalence between asking for competence and asking for professionalism.
posted by lodurr at 1:14 PM on September 13, 2012


She is asking them to add value.

In my opinion only, the value as I see it is: Yay we're all having a good time, these are our musicians, this is our orchestra! It's a community/fan thing, rather than "Hey, strings!"
posted by yellowbinder at 1:14 PM on September 13, 2012


The first case isn't work.

Or rather, it isn't work for Amanda Palmer. It's work for yourself. The second case is explicitely work for Palmer.
posted by muddgirl at 1:14 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm struggling to find the place where Palmer used the term "quasi-professional." As far as I can see, that term was used first in this form, as a way to jack up the insult-level on what Palmer is requesting.
posted by lodurr at 1:15 PM on September 13, 2012


You can ask someone to do whatever you want. In fact, I'm asking for $1,000 right now. Do you feel exploited? If you gave me $1,000 of your own free volition, would I have just exploited you?

One significant difference is that there is no question about the value of $1,000. But the value of a musician's time and talent is not objectively fixed, and the very act of requesting it for free in a highly-visible way has the effect of decreasing it.

It would also be very different if you were asking for money as a millionaire vs. a struggling grad student.

many many more local musicians who volunteer can say to the next club owner "I played with Amanda Palmer when she came through last month," which might increase their chances of getting booked.

It certainly will not.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


The first case isn't work.

Apparently the fans who showed up to play at Palmer's show didn't think it was either. Or they thought the value of the merch and beer would cover what they'd want to do for that level of work.

Good thing they have you to tell them otherwise.
posted by phearlez at 1:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


she sold her used glass dildo some time back. if her "exploiting" her fans is your argument, that ship has sailed so long ago.
posted by nadawi at 1:17 PM on September 13, 2012


lodurr: “I'm struggling to find the place where Palmer used the term 'quasi-professional.' As far as I can see, that term was used first in this form, as a way to jack up the insult-level on what Palmer is requesting.”

You're right. Her word was "professional-ish."
posted by koeselitz at 1:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


and. also, again, this idea that all unpaid labor is somehow bad is really kind of prima facie ridiculous. It really is. By that logic, people shouldn't do any art unless someone is writing a check. The reality of art creation is that almost everyone who does it never gets paid. Setting a moral standard that requires everyone to pay for art cheapens art a hell of a lot more than it helps artists.
posted by lodurr at 1:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


we’re looking for professional-ish horns and strings for EVERY CITY to hop up on stage with us for a couple of tunes.
Do let's quibble about the difference between quasi-professional and professional-ish.

Or they thought the value of the merch and beer would cover what they'd want to do for that level of work.

You probably missed this because it posted at the same time:
But the value of a musician's time and talent is not objectively fixed, and the very act of requesting it for free in a highly-visible way has the effect of decreasing it.
I'm not the labor-police. I can't force people to value their own contributions to a for-profit endeavor for the sake of their fellow professional-ish musicians.
posted by muddgirl at 1:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a community/fan thing, rather than "Hey, strings!"

Which would be fine, except that that's not, at all, what the tone of her call for these volunteers conveys. It's not "you guys are my fans and I'll love you no matter what kind of noise you make" it's "you had damn well better be a serious musician and if you're not we're going to make your life hell at the rehearsal that we demand you come to before the show."

This is why it's so radically different from the other cases people keep mentioning here (Michelle Shocked, U2, The Who). She is demanding that these musicians be held to a certain standard. She's demanding a certain quality of work from them. In return she should be offering them pay commensurate with their labor, and she isn't.
posted by yoink at 1:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [17 favorites]


Chuck Berry wishes he was young once more.
posted by bukvich at 1:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


By that logic, people shouldn't do any art unless someone is writing a check.

No, people shouldn't do any art that explicitely profits another entitity without getting a fair cut of that profit.
posted by muddgirl at 1:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


Professional-ish performers should be paid-ish.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:20 PM on September 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


You're right. Her word was "professional-ish."

Yeah, y'all are still trumping this up for effect. One line, later clarified as someone who can play simple parts -- this is a slip that you folks are using to manufacture a controversy.
posted by lodurr at 1:20 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm struggling to find the place where Palmer used the term "quasi-professional." As far as I can see, that term was used first in this form, as a way to jack up the insult-level on what Palmer is requesting.
She didn't. She used the term "professional-ish". Someone used "quasi-professional" in their comment (I don't believe insultingly) and it ended up being the one everyone fought over, but hopefully everyone agrees that they are pretty close in meaning.
posted by dfan at 1:20 PM on September 13, 2012




and. also, again, this idea that all unpaid labor is somehow bad is really kind of prima facie ridiculous. It really is. By that logic, people shouldn't do any art unless someone is writing a check. The reality of art creation is that almost everyone who does it never gets paid. Setting a moral standard that requires everyone to pay for art cheapens art a hell of a lot more than it helps artists.
posted by lodurr at 1:18 PM on September 13 [+] [!]


I write (occasionally) for semi-professional wages. Largely though, I write for fun, and I'd gladly give a finished piece away for free if it doesn't have a paying market pegged out. If someone came to me with a commission with specific demands and requirements, but was unable to pay me and would be profiting from my work... well I'd be a little bit put out.

It's an anecdote, but maybe it helps.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:21 PM on September 13, 2012


they are paid-ish - beer, merch, a ticket to the rest of the show (and space to make additional money if they want to). ish.
posted by nadawi at 1:21 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, y'all are still trumping this up for effect.

I would just love to hear your internal monologue on why "professional-ish" is totally and completely different from "quasi-professional."
posted by yoink at 1:21 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


One line, later clarified as someone who can play simple parts

Later clarified
so please include in your email some proof of that (a link to you playing on a real stage would be great, or a resume will do.
Gosh, that doesn't sound quasi-professional at all!
posted by muddgirl at 1:22 PM on September 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


A person playing at a professional show playing with professionals is a de facto professional.

No, I agree with dfan, it's not the company you keep but that you get paid which defines you as a professional. Which makes this kind of ironic. ish.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:22 PM on September 13, 2012


No, people shouldn't do any art that explicitely profits another entitity without getting a fair cut of that profit.

But you just described a hefty proportion of art creation. And you're implicitly assuming that the compensation has to be monetary -- that no other form of compensation is valid, and that people don't have the moral authority to decide for themselves what constitutes their own just compensation.
posted by lodurr at 1:22 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which would be fine, except that that's not, at all, what the tone of her call for these volunteers conveys. It's not "you guys are my fans and I'll love you no matter what kind of noise you make" it's "you had damn well better be a serious musician and if you're not we're going to make your life hell at the rehearsal that we demand you come to before the show."

Sure it's a different tone, far up I said calling her occasionally tone deaf is a fair cop. Seeing how she relates to her fans on a semi-regular basis though, I'm almost positive "I love you no matter what kind of noise you make" is MUCH closer to her attitude than the opposite.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:23 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


lodurr: “Yeah, y'all are still trumping this up for effect. One line, later clarified as someone who can play simple parts -- this is a slip that you folks are using to manufacture a controversy.”

Hey, I was just saying that was the word she used. I don't think it's an outrage. I dislike Amanda Palmer, and will continue to, but in this free country people are allowed to ask people to be suckers for their own benefit. (Which reminds me – I'm short of cash this month, so if anybody wants to send me a few bucks, I'd be happy to take it. Email's in profile.)

This doesn't change the fact that Amanda Palmer is tasteless, but as nadawi pointed out above, if anybody was under the impression that she wasn't, they haven't been paying attention. I don't think this will work, and in fact I hope it doesn't, but yeah, she has every right.
posted by koeselitz at 1:24 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


david byrne didn't get paid when he got on stage with her. he's absolutely a professional.

as far as i can tell zero people who have volunteered are upset. many of them that i've seen on twitter seem to make money in some way from making music. they're probably able to make their own choices about what they volunteer for.
posted by nadawi at 1:25 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


But you just described a hefty proportion of art creation.

Like how? My aunt, my grandfather, and my father to some extent are artists. Like straight up "We create art" artists. They donate art to non-profits. They sell it to everyone else.

Unless you want to argue that just gazing at my father's sculptures, like, benefits my soul and I should totally pay him for that. In which case we are discussing this on two very different planes.
posted by muddgirl at 1:25 PM on September 13, 2012


Ugh, my grandmother is an artist.
posted by muddgirl at 1:26 PM on September 13, 2012


ech, Steve Albini. i've never listened to Amanda Palmer simply because i can tell i won't like what she does but Albini is a latter day Ian Mackaye; one for whom the term priggish is infinitely applicable, both for it's defined meaning and that implied by its pseudo-homonym.

in other words, lighten up messiah, i'm sure the cloud for your glorious ascension will arrive any day now.


This statement leads me to believe that you don't know much about either Mackaye or Albini.
posted by josher71 at 1:26 PM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


I also think this thread needs a Ukulele Anthem break.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:27 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


People who are defending her really don't seem to be reading her actual call. She really puts a LOT of stress on the caliber of artist that she's looking for. In addition to the "professional-ish" she has:

1--you need to know how to ACTUALLY, REALLY PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT! lessons in fifth grade do not count, so

2--please include in your email some proof of that (a link to you playing on a real stage would be great, or a resume will do.

3-- just don’t LIE…you’ll be embarrassed if you show up for rehearsal and everyone’s looking at you wondering why you can’t actually play the trombone.)

This is not "hey, anyone out there like to come up on stage and jam with us for a bit?" This is "you'd better fucking well be a pretty damn serious musician or we're going to be pissed."

How many genuinely non-professional musicians would even have a resume--which is her minimum requirement for the application email?

Again: if you are holding people to a performance standard and demanding that they meet that standard in order to provide a certain quality of entertainment to a paying audience you should damn well pay them to do that.
posted by yoink at 1:28 PM on September 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


Metafilter: getting your underwear into a non-optimal configuration
posted by Billiken at 1:29 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


My feelings about Amanda Palmer are so dichotomous. She is everything good and bad about High School Drama Club enshrined in a single person.

She is outspoken and and passionate. When that passion is focused on things that matter (being critical of body image in the media/society, women's rights etc.) it is fantastic. When she focuses that passion on things that aren't (the previously linked articles on her use of conjoined twins AND "edgy" statements) it just comes off as contrarian or useless stirring of the pot for attention.

I've had friends like her where they constantly have creative ideas bubbling forth and they think that any attempt to point out their ideas as insulting or insensitive is simply an attempt to stifle their independence and creativity.

People like Amanda Palmer can make wonderful pieces of art but I wouldn't want to hang out with them regularly. I imagine it's tiring.
posted by sendai sleep master at 1:29 PM on September 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


my uncle is a professional artist. he barters with his art all the time. he also takes $35,000 commissions.

if $25-50 is a fair rate for playing 2 or 3 songs that you can learn in a pick up rehearsal, then why is that amount of beer and merch (and access to an artist you like) not a fair barter for people who want to do it?
posted by nadawi at 1:30 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Just FYI, I'm a professional-ish guitarist in Los Angeles with a ton of performance experience and experience doing pro-level recording sessions, production, and other music and guitar work, and I'd be happy to do a one-off, non-paying gig as a sideman for an artist of whom I am a fan. Now, if they used a recording or footage of my performance to sell, I'd want to know about that before hand and would probably want payment for that. But rehearsing for an hour and then playing on stage with a band I dig? I'd be happy to do that for free. More than happy. So call me, bands I like!
posted by The World Famous at 1:30 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't really have an opinion about amanda palmer, but I wouldn't have expected someone who was with the dresden dolls to be a paragon of taste or polite phraseology. 'art scene' origins are often accompanied by a sense of being entitled on account of 'i'm doing art'; a lot of those scenes produce some really fun community feeling, though, which may or may not correlate to any objective value in the art. when things move to the next level, dustups like this often happen.
posted by lodurr at 1:30 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


more local musicians who volunteer can say to the next club owner "I played with Amanda Palmer when she came through last month," which might increase their chances of getting booked. In fact, when playing with her they might be inside a venue they couldn't get in before, and get to meet the booking agent, and get new fans/Twitter followers they would never get before.
This is the classic carrot dangled in front of creative types to get them to work for free, and it's bullshit. "It'll be great exposure! Who knows what it could lead to!"

If you play gigs for no money (or do a photography session for no money, or write a story or article for no money, or build somebody a web site for no money), what it leads to is being offered more gigs for no money.

I'm sure the people volunteering to play for Amanda Palmer for basically free will have a ball, but it doesn't make it any less tacky or exploitative of a move on her part.
posted by usonian at 1:30 PM on September 13, 2012 [17 favorites]


No, people shouldn't do any art that explicitely profits another entitity without getting a fair cut of that profit.

And now we're back to the question of how much that contribution profited Palmer and her show. I assert that the nature of the contribution here was more one that it increased a sense of community and connection than the fact that there were a few musicians up there that there wouldn't have been otherwise.

I understand your absolute "people shouldn't do any art that explicitely profits another entitity without getting a fair cut of that profit" assertion though. I disagree and think you're taking on a lot of authority for what determines "fair cut," but I get it.

As far as "the very act of requesting it for free in a highly-visible way has the effect of decreasing it" I think the context of a communication targeted at fans and the nature of her relationship with fans and community engagement changes that, but you're free to disagree there as well.

If we're running circles around quasi v ish I think we've mined all our territory here.
posted by phearlez at 1:30 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


lodurr: "when things move to the next level, dustups like this often happen."

read as "when things move to the next level, dubsteps like this often happen." which made me a bit woggly for a moment.
posted by boo_radley at 1:32 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meh. There are a handful of bands who I'd gladly go up on stage with for free just for the chance to play with them. Exploitation is a long way from offering some people the chance they'd love.
posted by opsin at 1:32 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


> The biggest problem a working artist has in today's environment is obscurity.

I completely disagree with you. The biggest problem is money.


In my experience, these problems amount to the same thing, though. It's a chicken/egg problem; you can't get paying work if nobody knows about you to hire you, and nobody knows about you to hire you if you're not working. The argument that nobody should ever work for free is fantastic in principle, but not very helpful to someone who is trying to establish an audience for their work.

Note that I'm talking more about the landscape of independent artists and musicians than people who have been chewed up by the music industry, which is a nasty piece of work by anyone's account. The promise of disintermediation is allowing people like AFP, Jonathan Coulton, Andrew Hussie, et al develop a fan following willing to do cash transactions with fans without a third party taking a cut. It can feel a little filthy to people who are used to the idea that an artist shouldn't sully themselves with concerns over money.

But even aside from the fact that these musicians are reportedly being paid in barter, a spot on the merch table, and so on... you can't eat exposure but it isn't totally without value, either. When Fast Company asks me to write something for them and all I get out of it is a bio promoting my book, you can be damn sure I take it.
posted by Andrhia at 1:32 PM on September 13, 2012


Like straight up "We create art" artists. They donate art to non-profits. They sell it to everyone else.

(I forgot gifts, but again Palmer wasn't asking for a gift, she was asking for an explicit employer/employee relationship.)
posted by muddgirl at 1:32 PM on September 13, 2012


I'm not familiar with her music, is it possible the parts aren't hard, she just said 'professional-ish' to filter out all her bad-at-their-instruments middle school fans or something? I mean I'm a little below decent at trombone, and feel like beer and a shirt would be fair payment for my level of musical talent, maybe she understands that she won't get real musicians in most cases but doesn't really need them and only needs a level that deserves to get paid with beer?
posted by DynamiteToast at 1:33 PM on September 13, 2012


If you play gigs for no money (or do a photography session for no money, or write a story or article for no money, or build somebody a web site for no money), what it leads to is being offered more gigs for no money.

Is there some evidence of this assertion? For example, can you point to an artist who currently does gigs for money who did not initially do any gigs for free? I'd posit that doing gigs for free sometimes leads to more free gigs and sometimes leads to paid gigs. And I have a hard time believe that anyone has ever built a successful music career by demanding payment for every gig ever.
posted by The World Famous at 1:33 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean I'm a little below decent at trombone

Do you have a resume at the least or a video of your playing on stage?
posted by muddgirl at 1:34 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not for me, for Palmer.
posted by muddgirl at 1:35 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


at no point did amanda palmer use the carrot of exposure. and, yet, she still has gone out of her way to make sure those who play with her are receiving the spotlight she can provide. she said do it for beer and hugs. i find this to be really honest and i'm glad she didn't go into saying "this'll be great for your local band!" (even though it seems that the result is some local bands are getting studio time they wouldn't have been able to afford without the non-paying gig that they still managed to make money at).
posted by nadawi at 1:35 PM on September 13, 2012


So let me just make sure I have this straight.

I provide: An instrument, the training to play it passably well, and the time required for the concert and prep.

I receive: Beer, a ticket to a great-looking show, a shout-out to a fanbase known for mobbing recommended acts with money, a chance to sell merchandise to said fanbase, and a great experience and story to tell.

Let's try loosely quantifying the value of this.
Beer: $20 (same as in town)
Ticket to show: $25
Shout-out: $hugs ((Let's take the view that this is valueless here for a moment))
Merchandise: $50 ((A couple sweatshirts or a few albums))
Experience: priceless ((So variably, not very much or basically the best thing ever. Considering she's reaching out to fans, let's assume that I value this at least somewhat))

Now, let's look at what people have said would be fair here: $100-200
This seems like solid barter to me.

Could she afford to pay everyone? Perhaps. I'm pretty sure financing an album and tour without a record company takes some money, and the backer incentives were pretty elaborate.

On the other hand, taking this out of the vein of "We love|hate Amanda Palmer", if I got a chance to play/work with {Insert favorite media icon here}, whether it be The Protomen, Notch or John Carmack on a 24 hour game, or similar things; I'd totally jump on that.

If people are joining into something for fun, it's hardly work, and hardly exploitation. "Play for free so you can get a job" is another story. However, I fail to see anything wrong with "Hey, if you enjoy my stuff and can play something, come get a chance to play with me on stage, it'll be fun!". Different motivation.
posted by CrystalDave at 1:36 PM on September 13, 2012 [18 favorites]


yoink, you could have picked your examples better. "knowing how to actually play" and pointing out that it will be embarrassing if you get on stage with pros and then don't actually know how to play is not really a good choice if you want to make a claim that someone is "a LOT of stress on the caliber of artist that she's looking for" (unless the caliber you intend to emphasize is 'competent').

You should have just gone with "professional-ish" and the résumé thing.
posted by lodurr at 1:36 PM on September 13, 2012


This is not "hey, anyone out there like to come up on stage and jam with us for a bit?" This is "you'd better fucking well be a pretty damn serious musician or we're going to be pissed."

Man, I am reading that totally differently. I see that as "I expect some of my fans will whip out their grade-school plastic recorder and offer to jam because they want to hang out with us, and that's not what we're going for here." I used to work in the music business, and if we had run something like this, that's exactly what would have happened. Probably 60%+ of the applicants would have been comically unable to carry a tune in a bucket.

'art scene' origins are often accompanied by a sense of being entitled on account of 'i'm doing art'

Yeah, I have to agree, there. (I ultimately got out of the business because I realized the core assumption of folk music - "we're saving the world so everyone should help for free" - was not going to take my career anywhere at all.)

I don't have a firm opinion on this one way or another, but I am confident that the people who volunteer have a good idea of the value of their time. I've done free-or-close-to-it writing and consulting on occasion, and sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't, but I never went into it blind and (once I got out of the aforementioned music business) I never felt ripped off.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:36 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I have a hard time believe that anyone has ever built a successful music career by demanding payment for every gig ever.

Yea, if anything refusing to play for free means you're potentially harming your chances to get known outside the sort of circle you are already known in. Not that I think this sort of deal is going ot be the chance people need to make it or anything, I think it's just about offering fans the chance to play along which as I say, I'd rather enjoy with a number of my favourite bands.
posted by opsin at 1:37 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a fan, and a little baffled by the vitriol sometimes thrown at her, which I variously attribute to sexism, the "we hate it when our friends become successful" syndrome, and some weird Gaiman-fan backlash stuff.

That's the vitriol, not the criticism: in this case, I think the criticism is fair, and she should have rearranged the budget to pay the musicians a nominal amount. I suspect the shift from small-indie musician (where basically everything happens by unpaid labor) to label musician (where the musician is not the employer) to big-indie musician (where the musician is the employer) tripped her up here. Folks who think she's swimming in cash should reread her budget, but things change when you get to a bigger level of business, and this should have been one of those changes.
posted by feckless at 1:37 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Do you have a resume at the least or a video of your playing on stage?

Does high school band count? I mean she even says that's not a firm requirement, and a resume would do...
posted by DynamiteToast at 1:38 PM on September 13, 2012


The pros that I know who seem to do well, career-wise, seem to have an instant internal calculus for what gigs to do for free and which ones to demand payment for. (Some) Benefit shows (if they're into it), stand-ins for casual bands, and jams: Good exposure, good practice, good networking, good time. Play for my restaurant opening for free: Bad exposure, bad precedent. I know people who'd go either way with this, but they'd understand the calculus.
posted by lodurr at 1:41 PM on September 13, 2012


Exploitation is a long way from offering some people the chance they'd love.

Actually, no: a great deal of exploitation comes, precisely, from offering people a chance they'd love. Unpaid internships are not, usually, filled by people who have been dragged kicking and screaming to do that work. People jump at the chance for the "exposure" and the "contacts" and so forth--but that's precisely what makes it exploitative.

I'm sure every movie star in the world could get all kinds of jobs done for them for free by fans who would just be thrilled to be asked to do them--but that would be highly exploitative, obviously.

Just because someone wants to do something does not mean that they are not being exploited in doing it. Did anyone see that snippet of a documentary on the NYT yesterday about underage models in Russia? I don't think anyone could see that and not agree that those girls are being horribly exploited. There's also no question that the girls desperately want to get whatever modelling work they can find.

And, finally, the real problem here is not with the individual musicians whose enthusiasm is being exploited. The problem is with the continuing degradation of the idea that playing music is genuine work that should be compensated. It doesn't matter that all the musicians are doing it willingly; what matters is that they are participating in a practice that devalues the entire profession. If getting up on stage to perform comes to seem like something people do just for the fun of it it gets harder and harder to persuade people that it is something they should pay for. Every union in the world knows that there are plenty of workers our there who will take the job for less pay and be happy to have it. That doesn't mean that they're not fighting exploitation of workers when they call those people scabs and fight for a contract that prevents the boss from making that deal.
posted by yoink at 1:41 PM on September 13, 2012 [29 favorites]


Beer: $20 (same as in town)

Where is Palmer playing, Shea Stadium?

Merchandise: $50 ((A couple sweatshirts or a few albums))

Merchandise does not cost Palmer $50, and I think this number was inflated to reach the total.
posted by muddgirl at 1:41 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait. She managed to bilk 24,833 people out of $1,192,793, and people are now upset that she's taking advantage of people?
posted by crunchland at 1:42 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


We could just as well get upset at MetaFilter because bloviating on the internet should be something you get paid for, but yet commenters here are unpaid.

Pretty good point.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:42 PM on September 13, 2012


From mykescipark's link to the friend who has volunteered to play, who points out that musicians do things like this for each other all the time:

From my perspective Amanda Palmer is a member of the Boston music community, the same as me and my other musician friends who support each others’ projects. She’s a friend of my friends. After working her ass off for many years she has climbed a few rungs further up the ladder, and done so while doing her damnedest to remain a human being in touch with other human beings outside of her band.

She works hard NOT to be put on a pedestal – so in that respect her Kickstarter success works against her. People for whom she has just come into view see her though the lens of that million dollars. I see her as one of the many people in my community who I support, who has managed some larger success while holding onto more of her soul than is frequently the case. I’m willing to volunteer half a day of my time to support that.


I understand the argument as to why people are upset about it, but if you're going to get upset at Palmer, I think you need to be equally upset with all those musicians who are willing to do it. And if you're not, I don't know why.

(not meant snarkily -- I really don't know why and I'd be interested to know how you work out the difference in your head)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:42 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, we are certainly confused here, aren't we? I guess I'd have more of an opinion if I knew who Amanda Palmer was. But this does make me nostalgic for the days in the 70's when musicians' unions were strong and you could make real money playing music. Playing clubs could support a guy. Not in luxury, but still.

And then some club owners would try to get you to play for free...for the "exposure." Hah.

But it's hard to get that pissed off about this stunt, considering all of us musicians are pretty much screwed these days as far as making money from our art. That's why most of us have day jobs now, I guess.
posted by kozad at 1:42 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where is Palmer playing, Shea Stadium?

I don't know, how many beers are you drinking? Most music venues it's probably $5/pint. 4 pints, $20.
posted by lodurr at 1:43 PM on September 13, 2012


Let's try loosely quantifying the value of this.
Beer: $20 (same as in town)
Ticket to show: $25
Shout-out: $hugs ((Let's take the view that this is valueless here for a moment))
Merchandise: $50 ((A couple sweatshirts or a few albums))
Experience: priceless ((So variably, not very much or basically the best thing ever. Considering she's reaching out to fans, let's assume that I value this at least somewhat))

Now, let's look at what people have said would be fair here: $100-200
This seems like solid barter to me.


Or, you know, she pays the people money, and they choose if they want to spend that money on beer and merch or on the rent.
posted by yoink at 1:43 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Let's try loosely quantifying the value of this.
Beer: $20 (same as in town)
Ticket to show: $25
Shout-out: $hugs ((Let's take the view that this is valueless here for a moment))
Merchandise: $50 ((A couple sweatshirts or a few albums))
Experience: priceless ((So variably, not very much or basically the best thing ever. Considering she's reaching out to fans, let's assume that I value this at least somewhat))


Probably worth keeping in mind that a paid musician would get all that, too.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:44 PM on September 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


(I would definitely have put away at least 4 pints, when i was still drinking.)
posted by lodurr at 1:44 PM on September 13, 2012


One day people will look back on an offer of "beers, hugs, and high-fives" as incredibly generous.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:44 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


i wasn't bilked. i paid $50 for digital and vinyl copy of the record that is beautifully done and better than the retail copy. i'm very happy with the money i spent.
posted by nadawi at 1:44 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


but if you're going to get upset at Palmer, I think you need to be equally upset with all those musicians who are willing to do it

Personally, I'm not "upset" at Palmer, and framing this in emotional terms rather than dispassionate ones is interesting to me. This is a criticism of Palmer not as a person, but as a professional for-profit touring musician.
posted by muddgirl at 1:45 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


(And the notion of being compensated with a ticket to a show you're performing in is a joke.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:45 PM on September 13, 2012 [26 favorites]


She managed to bilk 24,833 people out of $1,192,793

Can you set an upper limit on kickstarter? If so, fair enough but otherwise all she did was setup a kickstarter. I haven't seen people mad at Tim Schafer for raising $3+ million.
posted by opsin at 1:45 PM on September 13, 2012


Or, you know, she pays the people money, and they choose if they want to spend that money on beer and merch or on the rent.

Or, you know, they choose not to do a gig where they're not getting paid money.

I mean, seriously, if one night of pickup with the indie act from out of town is between you and your rent, you have some much more productive things you could do about that.
posted by lodurr at 1:45 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kickstarter proposal: I want to play as a backup musician for Amanda Palmer, and I want to eat.

For a $5 pledge, I will think fondly of your name, one time. For $10, I will think of it while rehearsing. For $100, I will mouth your name in time to the music while playing on stage.

For $1000, I will stop playing on stage, grab the mic, say your choice of

1) YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP. DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL or

2) SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE! IT'S PEEEEOPLE!!!!!.

You will also get the aforementioned $5, $10, and $100 benefits.
posted by zippy at 1:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


And, finally, the real problem here is not with the individual musicians whose enthusiasm is being exploited. The problem is with the continuing degradation of the idea that playing music is genuine work that should be compensated. It doesn't matter that all the musicians are doing it willingly; what matters is that they are participating in a practice that devalues the entire profession. If getting up on stage to perform comes to seem like something people do just for the fun of it it gets harder and harder to persuade people that it is something they should pay for. Every union in the world knows that there are plenty of workers our there who will take the job for less pay and be happy to have it. That doesn't mean that they're not fighting exploitation of workers when they call those people scabs and fight for a contract that prevents the boss from making that deal.
Another good example of this is the recent dustup at the London Olympics where musicians were asked to play for free.
posted by dfan at 1:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


How do we feel about people who volunteer at conferences like PAX (which I'm pretty sure is a for-profit enterprise) in exchange for admission to the con and maybe some food?
posted by Andrhia at 1:48 PM on September 13, 2012


yoink, you could have picked your examples better. "knowing how to actually play" and pointing out that it will be embarrassing if you get on stage with pros and then don't actually know how to play is not really a good choice if you want to make a claim that someone is "a LOT of stress on the caliber of artist that she's looking for" (unless the caliber you intend to emphasize is 'competent').

You should have just gone with "professional-ish" and the résumé thing.


I went with all of them, Lodurr. I'm not sure how you think the "professional-ish" and the "resume thing" somehow disappeared from the list because you cherry-picked the one you find least imposing.
posted by yoink at 1:48 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


what matters is that they are participating in a practice that devalues the entire profession.

So what? They're doing it just for fun.

There are local programs that get volunteers to go out and clean up various public spaces. Why aren't professional sanitation workers up in arms about that? What's the difference?

Playing music is no different than any other job. It doesn't give you a host of new privileges because it's cool and hard to do well.

I dunno. I don't even like Amanda Palmer and might actively dislike her music, but I think letting your fans play on stage with you is pretty cool.

How do we feel about people who volunteer at conferences like PAX (which I'm pretty sure is a for-profit enterprise) in exchange for admission to the con and maybe some food?

Same exact thing.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:49 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


my uncle is a professional artist. he barters with his art all the time.

This is true, my dad will barter art-for-art or some roughly equivalent amount of labor. Palmer could donate two hours of her time to their day-jobs, whatever they might be.

How do we feel about people who volunteer at conferences like PAX (which I'm pretty sure is a for-profit enterprise) in exchange for admission to the con and maybe some food?

If paid employees doing an equivalent job would also get free admission and free food, then I'd wonder why some got paid and some didn't. I think Sys Req makes a good point that many of the items Palmer is offering in barter might traditionally be given to a paid musician as well.
posted by muddgirl at 1:50 PM on September 13, 2012


I don't particularly care about Amanda Palmer, I am certainly not a hater. What little I know I like OK. I think she is smart and cool, but not my cup of tea.

I think this is pretty lousy. It isn't "Amanda Palmer brings up a fan to play guitar on a song" it's "Amanda 'Millionaire' Palmer seeks local semi-professional musicians across the country to be her opening and some-time backing band and she is paying them in hugs and beer and if she was anyone else trying to book a tour in this fashion she would either be contracting players in each town or bringing a paid band with her, and that's kind of crappy". She's getting paid, well, for the tour. She's surely paying the other people on stage, and she is surely paying the doorman and the bus driver. Pay the trombone player, too.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:50 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I understand the argument as to why people are upset about it, but if you're going to get upset at Palmer, I think you need to be equally upset with all those musicians who are willing to do it. And if you're not, I don't know why.

I wouldn't call myself upset, but yeah, they're contributing to the devaluation of labor as well.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:51 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is a simple scarcity problem. If there are musicians of a sufficient quality to satisfy her that will pay for free, that's the price. Either the parts are so simple that a bunch of hacks can play them, or professional musicians over-estimate their own market value.

You don't get paid just because you're a professional. You're a professional because you're good enough that people will pay you. All the rest is huffing and puffing.

Full disclosure: I would guess that of all the times I've played music in public, I've been paid about 50-60% of the time.
posted by unSane at 1:51 PM on September 13, 2012


There are local programs that get volunteers to go out and clean up various public spaces. Why aren't professional sanitation workers up in arms about that?

Some people are up-in-arms about the move to replace paid civil servants with volunteers. For example. There was also an example of a township with a budget crisis asking citizens to volunteer to landscape the public lawns.
posted by muddgirl at 1:53 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are local programs that get volunteers to go out and clean up various public spaces. Why aren't professional sanitation workers up in arms about that?

Probably because they're on salary.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:53 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amanda 'Millionaire' Palmer

Everybody realizes that funding something on Kickstarter is essentially pre-ordering a good and/or service, right? It's not giving money away, she's not rolling around on a bed of benjamins, and who bought what and for how much, and where that money's going, is all laid out really clearly.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:54 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


But what if it's like literally a bed full of dudes name Benjamin
posted by shakespeherian at 1:55 PM on September 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


I see that as "I expect some of my fans will whip out their grade-school plastic recorder and offer to jam because they want to hang out with us, and that's not what we're going for here." I used to work in the music business, and if we had run something like this, that's exactly what would have happened. Probably 60%+ of the applicants would have been comically unable to carry a tune in a bucket.

But what people are objecting to is the combination of the stipulations about competency and the lack of payment (and the Kickstarter success is the icing on top). It's exactly the meaning of the cliche "beggars can't be choosers." If she needs to make these musicians demonstrate their level of experience and skill before allowing them participate, then they must be a real part of the show and should be paid as such. If it's just a way for some of her fans to have fun taking part in her music, she shouldn't have to state those requirements.

John Vanderslice is one of my favorite musicians, and on some of his recent tours he's offered fans a chance to join him onstage and perform in a particular song, either on lead vocals, backup vocals, or an instrument of their choosing.

I not only sang lead vocals on the song Trance Manual at his Philadelphia show, but I also arranged two cello parts for the song and recruited two cellists to perform with me (one of them bailed at the last minute). I had fun doing it and would do it again.

And I still think what Amanda Palmer is doing is bullshit. John Vanderslice wasn't asking for volunteers to provide something essential to the show, and so he had no reason to stipulate a necessary level of ability for the volunteers or require them to prove anything. And he was playing to a semi-full Johnny Brenda's, which is ~250 capacity and is the same venue he's been playing in town for years, not a sold-out Theater of the Living Arts, where Amanda Palmer just played, which is 1000 capacity. And he hadn't received $1.2 million in kickstarter donations.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:55 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


But what if it's like literally a bed full of dudes name Benjamin

If they're volunteers, we'll have to complain about it.
posted by muddgirl at 1:55 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: it's like literally a bed full of dudes name Benjamin
posted by Sys Rq at 1:56 PM on September 13, 2012


brand-gnu has got this one on the money. this is just like for-profit firms exploiting firms, or, for that matter, huffington post exploiting writing talent. it's one thing to spontaneously put together a volunteer band on the spur of the moment, it's another to subtract the cost of a string quartet from your touring budget. if the service these musicians are performing is no big deal, and if the value of the beer and merch you're giving away is so high, then why not pay them market wages? facetious question - the only reason is to make money from their labor. this is not punk rock, this is not counter-culture, this is good ol' fashioned capitalist exploitation. i'll take 5 bucks from 7,000 people, who's going to complain about 5 bucks? which is funny, actually, i've just described metafilter perfectly, except we're paying 5 bucks *and* contributing free labor. lulz.
posted by facetious at 1:56 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Amanda 'Millionaire' Palmer

It's really sounding like there's (at least) two issues being conflated here:

"Should people who play instruments for the entertainment of others always be paid for doing so?"
&
"How dare this woman with her money and fans and ego do this?!"

I'm really wondering how much of the vitriol is due to who she is, and how much is due to the issue at hand.
posted by CrystalDave at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


she also still plays the middle east in boston - 500ish people if she plays downstairs? same venue she's played for years. she also does shows in bathrooms and libraries.
posted by nadawi at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is less "hey, if you're a fan, come on up and have a blast with us" and more "are you an aspiring musician? Have I got a shitty deal for YOU!"

So what? If someone offers you a deal that's not worth taking, you could always, you know, not take it! If people are taking the deal, that means they feel they benefit more from taking the deal than not taking it.
posted by John Cohen at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2012


which is funny, actually, i've just described metafilter perfectly, except we're paying 5 bucks *and* contributing free labor. lulz.

The joke is on Mathowie - I use AdBlock and intentionally boobytrap my comments with anti-SEO.
posted by muddgirl at 1:59 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Everybody realizes that funding something on Kickstarter is essentially pre-ordering a good and/or service, right? It's not giving money away, she's not rolling around on a bed of benjamins, and who bought what and for how much, and where that money's going, is all laid out really clearly.

Seriously. Kickstarter takes a large cut for itself, and recording, manufacturing, touring, making music videos, the heavy duty Kickstarter bonuses like record players and heavy duty art books... A million doesn't go that far, and it doesn't mean you're swimming in it. I'm not saying she couldn't have tossed these musicians some cash, but come on people.

I can't keep this up much longer, as defending Palmer on Metafilter is exhausting (a lesson I claimed to have learned long ago), but put me down as someone who definitely understands the criticisms but not the vitriol.
posted by yellowbinder at 2:00 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Kickstarter Heroine" sounds a lot less fun to play than "Guitar Hero," is all I'm saying.
posted by bicyclefish at 2:00 PM on September 13, 2012


So what? If someone offers you a deal that's not worth taking, you could always, you know, not take it! If people are taking the deal, that means they feel they benefit more from taking the deal than not taking it.
Lots of people have already addressed this position in this thread. If you're just jumping in now, I recommend at least searching for "minimum wage" and "intern" on this page to get the gist of their arguments.
posted by dfan at 2:00 PM on September 13, 2012


But what people are objecting to ...

What people are really objecting to is that she raised 1.2 million on Kickstarter. But I guess that's obvious.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:00 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


But what people are objecting to is the combination of the stipulations about competency and the lack of payment (and the Kickstarter success is the icing on top). It's exactly the meaning of the cliche "beggars can't be choosers."

I don't necessarily disagree, I was just pointing out that I don't think she's setting the bar all that high.

(I am debating going to her show next week in Austin. I have heard exactly one of her songs and love it to death, but otherwise mostly am curious to figure out what the BFD is.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:01 PM on September 13, 2012


For more accurate context here's the full quote from Albini (which was not made as any kind of declaration but just a comment in a thread like everything here):

I have no fundamental problem with either asking your fans to pay you to make your record or go on tour or play for free in your band or gather at a mud pit downstate and sell meth and blowjobs to each other. I wouldn't stoop to doing any of them myself, but horses for courses. The reason I don't appeal to other people in this manner is that all those things can easily pay for themselves, and I value self-sufficiency and independence, even (or especially) from an audience.

If your position is that you aren't able to figure out how to do that, that you are forced by your ignorance into pleading for donations and charity work, you are then publicly admitting you are an idiot, and demonstrably not as good at your profession as Jandek, Moondog, GG Allin, every band ever to go on tour without a slush fund or the kids who play on buckets downtown.

Pretty much everybody on earth has a threshold for how much to indulge an idiot who doesn't know how to conduct herself, and I think Ms Palmer has found her audience's threshold.

posted by ericthegardener at 2:02 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think this is maybe a little dumb, but largely because of the number of times that someone has asked me to write or draw or edit something for free. Maybe if you're a huge fan, it's a different thing, and being on stage with her is rewarding enough, or whatever. Can't really argue with that. It's not like I think she's committing some unpardonable sin or anything, it's more that I don't see a wide gulf between this and every other person who asks any artist to produce anything for free. And yeah, if she wanted a fuller band she could probably have just kickstarted something, but on the other hand, now she has a fuller band and didn't have to pay for it, so okay, cool.

I don't really have an opinion about her as a person or an artist but this pretty much seems like everything else Amanda Palmer ever does: It's not going to change anyone's mind about her, regardless of which side they fall on.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:03 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


restless_nomad - this album is her poppiest/danciest record yet. there's a lot that's like map of tasmania on it (want it back, do it with a rockstar, lost, melody dean), but know there are also some 8 minute long sweeping piano ballads. i like most of it, but it's not everyone's cup of tea.
posted by nadawi at 2:04 PM on September 13, 2012


"Kickstarter Heroine" sounds a lot less fun to play than "Guitar Hero," is all I'm saying.

Kickstarter Heroin is my favorite Lou Reed song.
posted by The World Famous at 2:04 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Everybody realizes that funding something on Kickstarter is essentially pre-ordering a good and/or service, right? It's not giving money away

This is not true, though. Kickstarter contributions are explicitly donations, not purchases. Kickstarter donations made to non-profits are tax-exempt. In theory you could offer Kickstarter rewards that exactly matched the value of the donation levels, but that's not a requirement, that's not what most people do, and that wouldn't be a very savvy way to use Kickstarter.

Someone who raised $1,192,793 to make an album after setting a $200,000 goal and then couldn't afford to pay for an essential part of the tour to promote that album did a shitty job of planning their Kickstarter campaign and/or recording/touring budget. I say this as someone who ran a successful campaign to produce an album who also did a shitty job planning it, but my campaign was $5000, I only received exactly as much as I asked for, and it only paid for about half of my production.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:09 PM on September 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


For those of you assuming Palmer is sitting around with a million dollars in the bank, that money was primarily for making an album, which came out this week. A little of it went to pre-production for the tour. Some of it went or will be going to the items going to the fans for participating in the Kickstarter. I got my free album download two days ago for the $5 I gave. Other people are getting a gig in their houses for the $5000 they gave.

Tours don't make money, either. Merch makes a little money, and exposure sells albums and merch, but this is not some rich lady laughing from the top of her money pile at the local musicians she's hoodwinking with her diabolical scheme. Maybe if she didn't have the budget she should have opted not to have them, but as someone who's really ground-level fan-engaged she probably thought it would be fun for her and for the people who wanted to do it. I am kind of neutral-plus on her in general, but no matter how hard I strain I cannot find actual malice in what may be a misguided idea.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:10 PM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't see a wide gulf between this and every other person who asks any artist to produce anything for free.

There's a wide gulf in my mind between "do this thing for me for free, because we're friends/colleagues and because maybe I'll be able to return the favor for you someday" (which describes the typical circumstances of my performing for free) and "do this thing for me for free because you're my FAN! and it'll be FUN! and some vague idea of exposure for you, but not really any assistance that would require my future time and energy!" Which seems pretty clearly to be the case here.

$20 worth of beer and a $25 ticket to a show won't buy groceries the next day.
posted by daisystomper at 2:10 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I build websites for a living. I get paid pretty well for that, all things considered. If someone asked me to do it for free, I'd consider the source, and I would say 'yes' or I would say 'no' depending on whether I thought it was a worthy cause, whether I had the bandwidth, and whether I could get out of it with my sanity intact.

I know this is from quite a ways upthread, but I am genuinely curious here: I don't know anything about web design, but I imagine that if it were my profession, I would probably do it for free in either of two scenarios: a) if the person who wanted help was a close friend or family member or b) if it was a nonprofit organization whose work I believe in, particularly if they were small/struggling/just getting started. Does that match your experience, lodurr, or would you do work for a for a successful for-profit company, the staff of which you don't know personally, just because you thought their work was cool and it would be neat to be involved in some way?
posted by naoko at 2:10 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Folks who think she's swimming in cash should reread her budget

That budget is ridiculous. She starts off by saying she's using part of it to pay off what sounds like personal debts and that the debt plus getting into the studio cost $250k. Is she recording at the bottom of the Mariana Trench?
posted by SharkParty at 2:12 PM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


she did record in australia with an american producer (who fucking rules) and an american band.
posted by nadawi at 2:16 PM on September 13, 2012


Some people I think are missing the "outrage" because they are seeing this strictly from the "professional-ish fans" who might choose to play with Amanda's band. If they're willing to donate their time and talent for free, why not? Who gets hurt?

Professional musicians who make a living doing session work, that's who. There is a monetary value to a musician performing, one that is particularly easy to pinpoint simply by looking at the price of admission for the show. If Amanda wants 4 or 5 more musicians for each performance, she should either pay for them, or do without them.

It's easy to miss the "monetary value" and exploitation because playing music with someone you admire is "fun." Plenty of people would volunteer to, say, fetch Steven Spielberg's coffee in exchange for the thrill of being with him on a movie set. The problem is that there are actual people (production assistants) who make a living doing that, and if big-wig directors all started just letting fans do favors for free, then it means more people losing work.

Replace "playing a few songs during the show" with literally any other tour-related job (drivers, roadies, security, etc.), and see if you still feel the same way.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


Must be nice to have those options!!
posted by SharkParty at 2:19 PM on September 13, 2012


We have apparently killed her website. (lodurr, get on this.)
posted by boo_radley at 2:19 PM on September 13, 2012


it is nice to have those options and i'm totally glad i helped her afford them in some small way. because, damn, this record rocks the goddamn socks off.
posted by nadawi at 2:21 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I forget who it was that mentioned Heather Christian and the Arbornauts, but thank you, bought her album.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:24 PM on September 13, 2012


Should I work for free?
posted by the_blizz at 2:25 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


For those of you assuming Palmer is sitting around with a million dollars in the bank, that money was primarily for making an album, which came out this week.

A million dollars for making an album that was budgeted at $200,000? (which is a MUCH more realistic amount, although still quite lavish by independent standards) And now she can't afford a few extra hundred bucks per show?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:25 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


This reminds me a lot of the requests I used to get to do free logos/websites/posters the would be "good for my portfolio" and "good exposure". You can do a lot of those and still not have enough money to get a cup of coffee, exposure be damned.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:25 PM on September 13, 2012


Replace "playing a few songs during the show" with literally any other tour-related job (drivers, roadies, security, etc.), and see if you still feel the same way.

As an ex-unpaid-roadie (and website admin, copywriter, forum moderator, etc) I definitely see and appreciate this perspective.

With that experience, though, I can't help but roll my eyes that of course people are upset about it now, because it's Amanda Fucking Palmer and everyone loves to hate her. This is a dynamic that pervades the entire industry, and I'd rather see a discussion on how to change the economics of touring such that acts with lots of musicians could afford to tour, or that session musicians could get live gigs, when even reasonably successful musicians can't make it work.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:26 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


you can also argue that this is indirectly a condemnation of the record-label system the way it's currently set up. if the only way you can afford to make your own professional recordings outside of the current system is to get people to work for free for you, then you can't afford to make your own professional recordings. she's just reproducing the monopoly power structure she appears to be short-circuiting.
posted by facetious at 2:28 PM on September 13, 2012


whatever. have never heard of this lady, and it seems pretty obvious i shouldn't bother populating my brain with information about her.

i bet people would pay good money to have steve albini roast them. fantastic internet buzz PR etc.
posted by RTQP at 2:29 PM on September 13, 2012


restless_nomad: "Everybody realizes that funding something on Kickstarter is essentially pre-ordering a good and/or service, right?"

Except for the part where the powers-that-be in charge of a Kickstarter project are under no legal obligation to deliver on any of their promises. It's not a pre-order, or an investment, your Kickstarter pledge is explicitly a donation, and any compensation you may have been promised for that donation hinges specifically on the trustworthiness and competence of whose project it is.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:30 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't help but roll my eyes that of course people are upset about it now, because it's Amanda Fucking Palmer and everyone loves to hate her

I'd like to think that I would respond the same way if I found out that, say, Radiohead was asking volunteer horn players to sit in on The National Anthem rather than paying to tour with a horn section like they (rarely) spring for.

I'd rather see a discussion on how to change the economics of touring such that acts with lots of musicians could afford to tour, or that session musicians could get live gigs, when even reasonably successful musicians can't make it work.

Don't we have to generally agree that it's fucked up to expect to profit off musicians who are working for free in the first place? We can't even agree on that. If it's not wrong for Palmer to do this, then it's not wrong for studios to do it, either.
posted by muddgirl at 2:31 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Some people I think are missing the "outrage" because they are seeing this strictly from the "professional-ish fans" who might choose to play with Amanda's band. If they're willing to donate their time and talent for free, why not? Who gets hurt?

Professional musicians who make a living doing session work, that's who.


Sorry, but professional musicians who make a living doing session work do not get hurt when someone who is not them gets paid in beer and hugs for a job that the session musician would not have been hired for in the first place.

It's easy to miss the "monetary value" and exploitation because playing music with someone you admire is "fun." Plenty of people would volunteer to, say, fetch Steven Spielberg's coffee in exchange for the thrill of being with him on a movie set. The problem is that there are actual people (production assistants) who make a living doing that, and if big-wig directors all started just letting fans do favors for free, then it means more people losing work.

There are unpaid interns doing that, too.

What if David Beckham did a soccer clinic somewhere in Los Angeles and put out a call to see if any local teenagers wanted to play against him in a short scrimmage game as part of the clinic - asking only that they show ahead of time that they've played for their high school team or a local league so he knows they won't be terrible? Would you say it's unfair for Beckham to then not pay those non-professionals a percentage of Beckham's yearly wages? Should they be paid whatever a professional soccer player makes in a day? Are professional soccer players hurt?
posted by The World Famous at 2:31 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


don't you guys wish she was in this thread, so she could flame out?
posted by roger ackroyd at 2:32 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm reminded, very strongly, of the trademan's guilds in medieval Europe, dictating who can and who can't make buttons.

How dare these upstarts make music for free!
posted by Malor at 2:33 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


There are unpaid interns doing that, too.

Yes, which is why I and many other people are very much against unpaid interns who replace paid employees. I thought that was an understood part of this conversation.
posted by muddgirl at 2:33 PM on September 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


By the way, I'm outraged that none of you have paid me for the music I've posted on MeFiMusic. You're all worse than Amanda Palmer.
posted by The World Famous at 2:34 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I sell tickets to my one-man show where I play MefiMusic on my tape deck, I'll send you a cut of the door.
posted by muddgirl at 2:35 PM on September 13, 2012




don't you guys wish she was in this thread, so she could flame out?
posted by roger ackroyd at 2:32 PM on September 13 [+] [!]


I'd actually be curious to see a response to some of the more grounded criticisms, there are legitimate issues here and judging from her blog post and metafilter comment, she seems like she is capable of thinking about this kind of conundrum.


I don't have any opinion of Palmer as an artist, but people in this thread have made the shows sound fun, regardless of my opinions of her the economics of it all.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:35 PM on September 13, 2012


Didn't Chuck Berry make a career out of this? I'm sure someone here who is better informed than I am will correct me, but I seem to recall that there was a time when Berry still toured and his band consisted largely of pick-up musicians delighted to be on the stage with him.

Thought it was shitty then, and my opinion hasn't changed.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:36 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


restless_nomad: "because it's Amanda Fucking Palmer and everyone loves to hate her."

Ehhh. I've made a post about her in the past and I'm not too sure of my feels here.
posted by boo_radley at 2:36 PM on September 13, 2012


lefsetz weighs in
posted by nadawi at 2:37 PM on September 13, 2012


When I sell tickets to my one-man show where I play MefiMusic on my tape deck, I'll send you a cut of the door.

Put me on the guest list and buy me a beer and we'll call it even.
posted by The World Famous at 2:38 PM on September 13, 2012


Glenn Branca, "Hallucination city symphony for 100 guitars"
posted by mrgrimm at 2:38 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ugh, I know it is my favorite hobby horse, I'm not going to get wound up again, but kickststarter is a fucking mess. It is a class action lawsuit waiting to happen.

She was what, 900k over her goal?

Of the 1.1m, If 250k goes back to kickstarter, rewards, and shipping (shipping rewards isn't cheap). 200k goes to her record, as planned. She still has 650k for just whatever, maybe some of that also went into the record, to make it extra awesome, maybe even 150k more. So she has 500k.

She is not dumb enough to put this into her checking account. This all goes to her loan out company, which then pays her a small salary, and covers her expenses as an entertainer. Her personal tax liability will be limited. if it were Me, I would not keep that 500k in cool looking fat stacks of benjis, I would invest it. She can make money on that 500k. Her company can buy stocks, bonds, comics, what the fuck ever.

I'm sure her and Neil are on the lower end of celeb money wasting, but Gaiman does get 30k per speaking gig. I would say that base 500k, if she just blew it, should tide her over for a year or so.

So fans just paid her for a year of just being her. Not a bad gig.

I'm not hating, I would love to be able to do the same thing.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:38 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Put me on the guest list and buy me a beer and we'll call it even.

Ah, but I can only provide bourbon and diet coke. Too bad we don't have some form of fungible currency we could use to represent this barter, instead.
posted by muddgirl at 2:40 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Sorry, but professional musicians who make a living doing session work do not get hurt when someone who is not them gets paid in beer and hugs for a job that the session musician would not have been hired for in the first place.

If Ms. Palmer hadn't found all these free musicians to act as her warmup band, she'd have to pay for an opening act. Most venues require an opening act - by getting a free act, she is taking that money and putting it in her pocket.

....

You know, all this music threads involving compensation are just the same. There's a single message - "You won't get paid! We can get it for free - forever!" If you complain, you're called out of touch, "soulless", or told "I don't have to support your business model".

But we understand. You're going to take our music, and we're not going to make money - unless we're one of the 1%.

But we don't have to like it. And we don't have to like the people gloating over it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:40 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's pretty ironic how Palmer cites Albino's germinal speech/essay "The Problem With Music" in her post about where the Kickstarter money goes.

Anyway, I think she was asking for a cool million. More power to her.

Of the 1.1m, If 250k goes back to kickstarter, rewards, and shipping (shipping rewards isn't cheap). 200k goes to her record, as planned. She still has 650k for just whatever, maybe some of that also went into the record, to make it extra awesome, maybe even 150k more. So she has 500k.

Yeah, read the link matt_od posted.

kickststarter is a fucking mess. It is a class action lawsuit waiting to happen

The only people who seem to be mad at kickstarter are the people who are mad that other people are getting a lot of money from it.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:44 PM on September 13, 2012


more local musicians who volunteer can say to the next club owner "I played with Amanda Palmer when she came through last month," which might increase their chances of getting booked.

You know what's worth more on your resume that "I volunteered to play with famous musician"? It's "I was hired to play with famous musician".
posted by Jimbob at 2:44 PM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


But rehearsing for an hour and then playing on stage with a band I dig? I'd be happy to do that for free. More than happy. So call me, bands I like!

This is basically how I feel. I doubt anyone is going to ask to play who isn't a fan of AFP and wouldn't be attending her show anyway. I really like her, and I might shell out the $40 it costs to get a ticket + $20 for beer or whatever. So if I can play instead, I get an awesome experience and the equivalent of like $60. I think that's an alright deal. I don't think its analogous to all situations of musicians being expected to work for free or pay to work, which are usually shitty situations.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:45 PM on September 13, 2012


Jimbob: "

You know what's worth more on your resume that "I volunteered to play with famous musician"? It's "I was hired to play with famous musician".
"

well wheres the whimsey in that :( :( :(
posted by boo_radley at 2:45 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Would you say it's unfair for Beckham to then not pay those non-professionals a percentage of Beckham's yearly wages? Should they be paid whatever a professional soccer player makes in a day? Are professional soccer players hurt?

If Beckham was running a for-profit soccer clinic and asked volunteers to do professional-level work that he could easily hire professionals to do instead, then he should probably just pay professionals to do it. The details about it being teenagers (who probably would be the sorts to pay to participate in the clinic rather than run it) and about paying them professional soccer player wages (which is not actually the job they are being hired for) are not really relevant. Basically if you want to hire somebody to do a job so you can make money, you should probably pay them. I'm not outraged and I don't even think getting fans to do stuff for free is really all that bad in general, but the overall concept is that if someone gets hired to do a job and it's not a non-profit situation they should get some of the profit you are making.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:46 PM on September 13, 2012


BitterOldPunk the way I heard the Chuck Berry schtick was he never employed a touring band. When he went on tour he called the local agencies and hired the cheapest bass player, drummer, rhythm guitarist he could get and they rehearsed for 40 minutes in the afternoon before they went onstage. He paid them, but he paid them shit.

This was second hand from a couple different people so I have no idea what the true facts are. I was never directly in the loop of the Chuck Berry business.
posted by bukvich at 2:46 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seems to me that if Amanda Palmer can find plenty of people to do job X from free, the the market rate for job X, whatever job X is, is, in fact, zero. So, it seems to me that we've established that the fair market rate for "playing halfway competently with Amanda Palmer for a couple of songs" is "some free beer". Because that's what the workers are accepting for their labor, in a situation where they're under no constraint at all to take bad deal

Just because lots of people wouldn't do job X for that rate doesn't mean much. There's plenty of jobs I wouldn't do for the fair market rate.

Likewise, just because people may be qualified enough for Palmer's gig, doesn't mean they're good enough for the work that paid musicians are doing elsewhere, like recording session work.

And just because job Y pays money and is very similar to X doesn't mean much either.

I'd be sympathetic to an argument that Palmer was actively helping to depress the rate for X by paying zero, but I'm not at all convinced that Palmer has the economic muscle to effect that rate at all.
posted by tyllwin at 2:47 PM on September 13, 2012


I remember Neil Finn doing a UK tour about ten years ago where every city would have a new band compiled of Finn fans. It was the in the vein of "whatever you can play or do, get in touch" and so you'd get a real random selection of people every night. It kept the playlist fresh, people who were known as hardcore Finn fans got to play a song with the man himself and everything was doing in the spirit of "hey, we are doing this for free but I got to do harmonies on 'Weather With You' with Neil Finn" (which I did get to do!).

I think what really rattles me with the Amanda Palmer case is the fact that she wants string quartets (not just spoon players, a geeky guy with a guitar or - in my case - someone who can just about harmonise).

It's Palmer's entitlement coupled with that tired manic pixie dream persona and a really bullshitty attitude towards other people. It is not a good mix and it is very uncool.

"Hey, string quartet, let me HUG you!"
posted by kariebookish at 2:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Anyway, I think she was asking for a cool million.
She asked for $100k.
posted by dfan at 2:47 PM on September 13, 2012


If Ms. Palmer hadn't found all these free musicians to act as her warmup band, she'd have to pay for an opening act.

this is incorrect - the players aren't making up the entirety of the opening act, they're playing back up there as well. it's my understanding that 2 members of her band are each doing a opening slot with their own groups and she's also bringing along the ronald reagans. the musicians will be playing in and around all that.
posted by nadawi at 2:47 PM on September 13, 2012


if the only way you can afford to make your own professional recordings outside of the current system is to get people to work for free for you, then you can't afford to make your own professional recordings.

You don't actually believe "doesn't have enough money" is the problem here, do you?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


kickststarter is a fucking mess. It is a class action lawsuit waiting to happen.

I was recently interviewed by some NYTimes person about the "Kickstarter is a fucking mess" issue and I tried really hard to lay it out there and say simultaneously

1. It's pretty clear what the whole give and take situation is if you've used it before or if you read the stuff, people just like to trust people and they do so because generally it works out but not always
2. That said, we know people don't read the stuff and Kickstarter is all "hey man, not our problem, we are just a middleman about it, see #1"

Which I think leaves you and crowdsourcing as a thing that will solve the "How do we get money to the people with 2000 fans but no major label contract" problem for a group of internet people and it falls apart rapidly when it achieves a wider audience as it's just starting to do. I don't hate it at all (or AFP for that matter, she would probably annoy me in person, I like some of her videos, I have very little opinion on this particular topic even after reading about it) but I think it's going to go through some biggish changes before it can scale to that next level. And many fewer people would care about this particular AFP situation if they didn't know she had a million dollars. People in American (and elsewhere) are squirelly about talking about money sort of for this reason; this is a good example of many sides of this problem.
posted by jessamyn at 2:47 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


she set the goal at 100k. she's said in many interviews, basically every time that she's been asked, that she needed 400k and was pretty sure she'd reach it. she set a low goal to make the news bigger. seems to have worked.
posted by nadawi at 2:48 PM on September 13, 2012


If Ms. Palmer hadn't found all these free musicians to act as her warmup band, she'd have to pay for an opening act.

Speaking as someone who has been part of opening acts more times than I can count: No, she would not have to pay for an opening act. Do you know how many bands and performers there are willing to play for free in any town with more than one stoplight?

Most venues require an opening act - by getting a free act, she is taking that money and putting it in her pocket.

What money? The venue's not paying for the opening act. If she says "I don't have an opening act. Can you get one for me?" the club will make a couple of phone calls and have a handful of acts more than happy to fill the slot for free.

You're going to take our music, and we're not going to make money

I'm not going to take your music. I'm going to give you my music for free until it becomes valuable enough for me to charge for it. If you want to charge me for your music, that's fine. How much do you think it's worth, and from what source does it derive that value? If it's worth paying for because of how good it is, that's great. How are you going to convince me that it is good enough to pay for if I don't get to hear it free first?
posted by The World Famous at 2:48 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Except for the part where the powers-that-be in charge of a Kickstarter project are under no legal obligation to deliver on any of their promises.

Well, sure, but that's not the discussion we're having. The album came out, the tour is happening, no doubt if she flakes on the private sessions we'll hear all about it.

Don't we have to generally agree that it's fucked up to expect to profit off musicians who are working for free in the first place?

I totally agree with that. I am rabidly against unpaid volunteers in non-charity contexts. What I think is (marginally) debatable is whether or not in this situation the musicians volunteering are getting sufficiently compensated in non-monetary ways.

Getting a spot at AFP's merch table might be sufficient compensation. Three or four CDs sold in exchange for a rehearsal and a couple of songs (plus beer!) may not be worth it for a lot of pro musicians, but it may fit in fine with a semi-pro or just-starting-out musician. $50 in CD sales and beer is definitely in the fair market range for a weeknight gig in Austin (she plays here on Wednesday.) I'm not saying that's what's going to happen, and I'm not going to argue that cash money wouldn't be better, but I am skeptical of the broader claim that this is an example of exploitation.

So fans just paid her for a year of just being her.

Ad hominem, you don't have to eyeball the numbers, she breaks them all down here. There are more expenses than you're accounting for.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:49 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


What people are really objecting to is that she raised 1.2 million on Kickstarter. But I guess that's obvious.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:00 PM on September 13


Which people?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:51 PM on September 13, 2012


She has the money. If it were really about having a cool laid back experience with her fellow musician fans, or whatever the cover story behind the email is, then she should be doing this for free.

And if the musicians are doing it for free, the show should be free.

This really is an unpaid internship and I'm curious who would be impressed by it.

I would think most people would hear, "this person works for free... so why should I pay them either?"
posted by kettleoffish at 2:51 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


people who were known as hardcore Finn fans got to play a song with the man himself

He did the same thing at a show here in L.A. last year, but again it was a case of "pulling a fan out of the audience to play a song."

In that case, the value was in the novelty of the act of bringing a starstruck fan onstage, something a professional musician would not have been able to accurately duplicate. (the same thing applies to the difference between a magician's assistant vs. a "member of the audience.")

The fan I saw played piano for him and actually kicked ass, managing to do a quick flourish at one point. (a lot of people thought it was a set-up, but he made it clear later in person that it was just good luck)
posted by ShutterBun at 2:52 PM on September 13, 2012


My point, in case I wasn't clear, is that yes, I'm a musician. Yes, I want to get paid. But I'm willing to do certain music work for free, and I'm willing to give away my music for free under certain circumstances, including, but not limited to, when I want to play a live show bad enough that I don't care about getting paid, when I want to just get my music out there for an audience that doesn't exist yet, and other circumstances. I don't want a standardized payment system with standard rates. I just want to know the terms of the deal I'm doing and have sufficient bargaining power to take or leave the deal. It looks to me like that's the case here with Amanda Palmer, and I think it's ridiculous for people to get bent out of shape about it. This is not 1950s and 60s recording sessions where guys play on the record and lose all their rights. It's not amateurs taking work away from professionals. It's just not.
posted by The World Famous at 2:52 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


and have sufficient bargaining power to take or leave the deal.

In what situation would you not have sufficient bargaining power to take or leave the deal?
posted by muddgirl at 2:54 PM on September 13, 2012


I would think most people would hear, "this person works for free... so why should I pay them either?"

I'm not sure they need to point out that it was free if they're using the experience to get future work. Someone hiring for a gig asks if they have any experience playing in a string quartet on stage with a non-classical act and they respond "yeah, I played in Amanda Palmer's band once."
posted by The World Famous at 2:55 PM on September 13, 2012


After reading the article I thought this was OK and was confused as to why anyone would be annoyed at fans playing on stage for fun as part of a scratch band.

I read the call and it became clear she is looking for people who of are a caliber where they could be paid for work otherwise, who will be doing not-much-fun work (auditioning and rehearsing) for free, and who meet her
exact requirements rather than just being random fans with a guitar.

Musician unions should file a wage and hour complaint. The musicians should be paid at least minimum wage.
posted by grouse at 2:56 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


In what situation would you not have sufficient bargaining power to take or leave the deal?

If, say, appearing on stage with Amanda Palmer was a requirement for a union card, or a musician had to have a certain number of appearances in a given time period or lose their license, or there were no venues under a certain size so piggybacking was the only possible way to get an audience or any attention, and somewhere in here I think I have the science fiction novel I've always wanted to write about the business.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:57 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Or, you can just make really cool music, and people will want to support you so that you make more.

Copying digital data is so close to free that you can't realistically charge much for it -- it's like offering to wash dishes for people. Everyone does it anyway, so you can't charge much for the service, and you have to do huge volume to make any money at it. The only reason the current digital distributors are doing as well as they are is because of the transition of the 'things economy' to the digital one -- people still think in terms of the plastic disks and paper books, but that model is not long-term viable in the digital domain. And if someone makes a copy of whatever you've made, you still have it. You haven't lost anything. There's no such thing as 'unauthorized enjoyment'.

So, charge for other stuff. If you don't want to play for Amanda Palmer for free, then don't. It's playing HER music anyway, not yours, so it's not like you're hurt if someone else does it. Palmer is one of the first artists that understands and is navigating the digital music world, where copies have no meaning, but fans mean everything -- and she's engaging her fans in an unusual way.

It's not surprising that musicians that believe they are selling copies are threatened by this. These musicians are, full-stop, wrong. They are applying buggy-whip economics to the automobile era. Buggy-whip makers thought they were in the business of buggy whips. They weren't; they were in the business of transportation acceleration. Likewise, modern musicians are no longer (and never really were) in the business of selling copies of things. You have always been in the business of entertaining people, and you guys were basically slaves to the people making copies of things. They took ruthless advantage of you folks, made incredible fortunes in the process, and made a few of you rich, while exploiting most of you and leaving you in poverty.

So don't hook your wagon to the old music network, the one that's built around selling copies. Instead, entertain people, and figure out how to let your fans support that.

Amanda's obviously doing a pretty good job.
posted by Malor at 2:57 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


restless_nomad: "Well, sure, but that's not the discussion we're having."

Regardless of the discussion being had, "Kickstarter is basicly pre-ordering" is a dangerous misconception that should get corrected wherever it crops up.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:58 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are more expenses than you're accounting for.

She added stuff like videos for 80k a pop. Was that outside the original kickstarter?

If so, Shooting 80k Videos is accounted for in my numbers under "just being her".

I'm of judging, but think of it this way, she aimed for 200k, got 1 million. Where would she have been if she got the 200k she asked for? Considering she seems to have had 900k of expenses, if she had only gotten the original 200k she may have lost money on the kickstarter somehow.

What I am saying, is the new expenses only became expenses because she made so much more money.

It is a truism that, Any project will take up all available time and money.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:59 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


In other words: this isn't Amanda 'taking advantage of people', this is fans of Amanda wanting to repay her for giving them something they really enjoy. They're volunteers because they love the music and they want to be part of it.

This is part of how the new music economy is going to work. These musicians probably didn't buy a damn thing from Amanda, but here they're showing up and offering to share their art for free, in exchange for the enjoyment they've gotten from her work.
posted by Malor at 2:59 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Musician unions should file a wage and hour complaint.

A bunch of people have said things like this - are musicians' unions a thing in other cities? I've never heard of a union around here (although Texas is notoriously unfriendly to unions.)
posted by restless_nomad at 3:00 PM on September 13, 2012


In other news, professional prostitutes are OUTRAGED about the growing "girlfriend" demographic of women who have sex simply because they enjoy it. Angry internet comments expected.

Seriously, who gives a shit? This is just more whining from people who think they have a god given monopoly and that music should not be created or enjoyed without financial compensation. same with newspaper reporters outraged about blogs and/or google, etc.
posted by delmoi at 3:00 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm of judging

I meant I'm not judging, I don't hate Palmer. And I only sorta hate kickstarter because I can't figure out how to get my own million dollars.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:01 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a question: If you were offered the chance to do the same thing (Concert with Amanda Palmer and associated people) without the audience (So basically just a night jamming with the band, no recordings), how much would you value that?

That seems like the sort of thing that usually fits into contests or the general category of 'thing which people are willing to pay for'. I can trade labor for money, I can trade labor for playing with a musician I enjoy, it's not too often I can trade money for playing with a musician I enjoy. Much better scarcity to it.


Sadly in this case, I'm a professional programmer, rather than a professional musician. Donating some coding time to a musician I enjoy sounds more fun than donating coding time to open source projects as portfolio work.

((p.s. the new album is amazing. It's been bouncing around in my head all day))
posted by CrystalDave at 3:01 PM on September 13, 2012


In other news, professional prostitutes are OUTRAGED about the growing "girlfriend" demographic of women who have sex simply because they enjoy it.

Wow that was a really weird metaphor to attempt.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:01 PM on September 13, 2012 [22 favorites]


I just think it's a super stingy and corporate way to act and just a little bit better than hiring an unpaid private butler from her fan base. I would not be surprised if this were Madonna or something. But I think if word gets out that Amanda Palmer did this, the so called "value" of having played with her will rightfully drop. I actually like her music a lot and would completely have done this if it weren't for that fact.

But basically I think it would be somewhat degrading, playing with someone who you know is profiting from you and CHOOSING not to share the wealth.
posted by kettleoffish at 3:02 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with everything you've said, The World Famous, but I still see this as kind of a dick move. if Amanada Palmer had needed a string section because she's doing a one-off benefit show for the Children With Tails Foundation or whatever, then yeah, sure. But she looks to me like someone who is not only using her celebrity to get a sweet discount on a touring band (and the concomitant savings of not having to lug an orchestra around with you) but also doing a disservice to her audiences by not honing the band and the set on the road. All under the banner of "Yay we're all in this together paradigm smashy-smashy!"

It seems to boil down to "people will work for free, so why pay 'em?"

That's old wine in new bottles.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:03 PM on September 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


are musicians' unions a thing in other cities? I've never heard of a union around here (although Texas is notoriously unfriendly to unions.)

There's an Austin local. I think they used to have much more influence and used to fine members for working non-union projects. The Seattle local says they haven't done that in 15 years.
posted by grouse at 3:03 PM on September 13, 2012


And, finally, the real problem here is not with the individual musicians whose enthusiasm is being exploited. The problem is with the continuing degradation of the idea that playing music is genuine work that should be compensated. It doesn't matter that all the musicians are doing it willingly; what matters is that they are participating in a practice that devalues the entire profession. If getting up on stage to perform comes to seem like something people do just for the fun of it it gets harder and harder to persuade people that it is something they should pay for. Every union in the world knows that there are plenty of workers our there who will take the job for less pay and be happy to have it. That doesn't mean that they're not fighting exploitation of workers when they call those people scabs and fight for a contract that prevents the boss from making that deal.

Nobody ever said that playing music needed to be a profession. If you want to get paid, get good enough that people will pay to see you, or pay into your own kickstarter.

This was always a huge controversy with local djs in my town playing for free, driving down the price that clubs would be willing to pay. I opened for a guy that got paid $40k and got paid about $100 just as a nominal fee, which didn't even cover a quarter of what I paid for the records I played that night, and the truth is I would have paid that much or more for the opportunity -- nobody except my relatives were at that show to see me. I booked three djs a week for a small party in the suburbs and paid them nothing but drink tickets, and we had a waiting list 6 months long of people who wanted to play. And you know what, we still paid guys who made us money by bringing big crowds in, and the djs that worked their asses off figured out a way to make a living at it that didnt involve whining about a bunch of nobodies playing gigs for free. Playing music for a big enthusiastic crowd is why you learned to do whatever you learned. It wasn't for the money. And if you're doing it for the money and you aren't making money, you are doing something wrong, or you need to find a new career.
posted by empath at 3:04 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Speaking as someone who has been part of opening acts more times than I can count: No, she would not have to pay for an opening act. Do you know how many bands and performers there are willing to play for free in any town with more than one stoplight?

I absolutely agree that many bands would agree to do this but taking people's work for free is unethical even if you have the leverage to do it.

Just because you can do it, doesn't mean it's right. If you're on a paid bill, you deserve to get paid.

(And to play for free in a show where other people are getting paid is a stupid career move - it devalues not just your work, but everyone else's.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:04 PM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Malor: "This is part of how the new music economy is going to work."

Hopefully the bar will accept this thermos full of soup and bouzouki solo for a drink -- this is just how the new night club economy is going to work (i hope).
posted by boo_radley at 3:04 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


can you find me anyone who has done it who has found it degrading? i've only found accounts of people who had a great time and some who made money they wouldn't have made otherwise.
posted by nadawi at 3:05 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sadly in this case, I'm a professional programmer, rather than a professional musician

I thought about this, and I figure that if Carmack or Torvalds needed me to drop by for a code review gratis I would help an brother out.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:05 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are more expenses than you're accounting for.

That seems more like a list of "things we decided to spend the money on," as opposed to actual "expenses."

And lest we forget, there's the whole "we get to keep the money from sales once the album comes out."

To be sitting on a profit of $100k before tape started rolling is pretty amazing.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:06 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is an offshoot of the same stupid line of thinking that makes it so you can't sing Happy Birthday at TGIFridays, or campfire songs if you're a Girl Scout.

Some things involve money and some don't. If you don't like the free things don't involve yourself in them. If you don't like the money things don't buy them. Don't decide for everyone else what's good or bad for them.
posted by condiments at 3:07 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hopefully the bar will accept this thermos full of soup and bouzouki solo for a drink -- this is just how the new night club economy is going to work (i hope).

The night club economy is made of real things. Digital bits are imaginary things. The imaginary economy works differently than the real one.
posted by Malor at 3:07 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And to play for free in a show where other people are getting paid is a stupid career move - it devalues not just your work, but everyone else's.)

Anybody who is doing this doesn't have a music career. If they had one, they'd be too busy doing paid gigs.
posted by empath at 3:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And to play for free in a show where other people are getting paid is a stupid career move - it devalues not just your work, but everyone else's.

This may be where I observe that there a lot of musicians out there with blisteringly bad business sense. Which is why my crankiness tends to be aimed more at the system than at the people who have figured out how to work within - or around - it.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Contrarily, if Burt Rutan wants me to do a quick and dirty review of a for-profit flight system, you bet I'll either send him a bill or expect him to recompense me in-kind. Beer and SpaceX merch not being 'in kind.'

This is an offshoot of the same stupid line of thinking that makes it so you can't sing Happy Birthday at TGIFridays, or campfire songs if you're a Girl Scout.

I have no problem with asking TGIFridays to pay a license for use of their music. The Girl Scouts are non-profit or should be.
posted by muddgirl at 3:08 PM on September 13, 2012


I rank this as 0.63 Dickwolves (Imperial) on my Bullshit Internet Controversy meter.

I'm a musician (and I chucked her a few bucks for her Kickstarter), and being paid in beer, merch, goodwill and a ticket to a show sounds like being paid to me - if she was coming to NZ I'd be putting my hand up.

If it wasn't enough payment for me, then I wouldn't be putting my hand up.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:11 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: this isn't even close to internet shitstorm worthy.
posted by Foosnark at 3:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


A second reply, from a slightly different angle:

boo_radley: Hopefully the bar will accept this thermos full of soup and bouzouki solo for a drink -- this is just how the new night club economy is going to work (i hope).

If the bar could pour you a drink, and still have as much alcohol as they started with, and you could give them a bowl of soup, but your thermos was still full afterward, then yes, the "night club economy" would probably work exactly as you describe.

And then everyone could check into Hilbert's Hotel.
posted by Malor at 3:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regardless of the discussion being had, "Kickstarter is basicly pre-ordering" is a dangerous misconception that should get corrected wherever it crops up.

Why is that, exactly? My company did a Kickstarter and raised $12,000 towards a book series we were doing that featuring emerging designers (i.e. designers who didn't really have name recognition yet, but were actively working towards being professional knitwear designers).

This was a situation not unlike an indie band going on tour with a group of other indies: hey, if you like This Person, chances are pretty good you'll like That Person, and the 8 other people in each book, so they're all leveraging each others' building popularity, as well as taking advantage of the professional services provided by my company to put out a quality product most (if not all) of them could not have arranged on their own, including professional photography, layout, distribution, etc.

There were expenses involved: paying those photographers, tech editors, etc. The Kickstarter helped cover those. Most people opted for rewards that included copies of the books, so by contributing, they were in essence preordering the book. The momentum provided by the Kickstarter itself had value, too. We were able to show off these designers in places they might not have been seen, introducing them to people who might not have heard of them otherwise...getting the word out all over the place as people shared the campaign, etc.

In that same way, Palmer's Kickstarter provided her with the money for her project -- a project she was able to add more+new+better stuff to as money came in. I am very pleased with the limited edition package I got, and happy that the money over and above what it actually cost to produce it is going to fund the other cool things happening along the way, as well as Palmer herself in general.

I think, knowing my customer base and general audience as I do, that people were happy to support our Kickstarter in the same way: they're happy we're trying something new with independent publishing and giving people who might not have gotten a chance elsewhere a chance to do something cool. They've told me as much in emails and more. Even if they weren't getting the book, they were excited about giving those other designers a chance to do something they admired.

My parents are both artists, as is my best friend (who is constantly hit up for free art for benefits and stuff, and only gives when it's something she wants to support). I've seen the dynamic at play for years.

My father is a semi-pro musician.

Over the years, he's played plenty of gigs for things he thinks are cool or because his friends or musicians he likes are involved. No one forced him to do them. Why are we assuming that the people who are volunteering to get on stage with Palmer (and I think her set of parameters was designed to make sure she didn't get swamped with 1000 requests to play in each city more so than anything else, knowing HER fan base) aren't doing so because they want to, and they think it's cool and fun and something they'd like to do? Why are we taking away their agency to make decisions about their free time? Or, what condiments just said: "Don't decide for everyone else what's good or bad for them."
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Malor: "If the bar could pour you a drink, and still have as much alcohol as they started with, and you could give them a bowl of soup, but your thermos was still full afterward, then yes, the "night club economy" would probably work exactly as you describe."

I feel you are underestimating the value proposition of my bouzouki solo.
posted by boo_radley at 3:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Malor: "If the bar could pour you a drink, and still have as much alcohol as they started with"

Also I'm pretty sure I've had this gin+tonic.
posted by boo_radley at 3:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


My point, in case I wasn't clear, is that yes, I'm a musician. Yes, I want to get paid. But I'm willing to do certain music work for free, and I'm willing to give away my music for free under certain circumstances, including, but not limited to, when I want to play a live show bad enough that I don't care about getting paid, when I want to just get my music out there for an audience that doesn't exist yet, and other circumstances.

From the perspective of the musician, playing music for reasons other than getting paid totally makes sense. It's something they love and pretty much any professional musician would still play music if they never got paid another dime. There are plenty of valid reasons why a musician would play for free. But from the perspective of someone who is putting together a for-profit show, it makes significantly less sense for everyone to be cool about them not paying the talent. There are not many reasons that someone would not pay someone they hire other than to keep more of the profit for themselves, which is not exactly a laudable motivation. If a musician friend of mine gets an unpaid gig that I pay to see, I can be both happy for my friend getting a chance to play for everyone and be unhappy that the people putting on the show didn't value my friend's contribution enough to give them any cut of the profit that they contributed towards making.
posted by burnmp3s at 3:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Regardless of the discussion being had, "Kickstarter is basicly pre-ordering" is a dangerous misconception that should get corrected wherever it crops up.


Why is that, exactly?

I think (but please correct me) that's it the other side of the equation that is a misconception -- with a donation participants have an expectation -- but not a guarantee -- of receiving the item in that donation-range. So it's not a pre-order.
posted by inigo2 at 3:22 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Very good points, burnmp3s. I agree.
posted by The World Famous at 3:22 PM on September 13, 2012


But from the perspective of someone who is putting together a for-profit show, it makes significantly less sense for everyone to be cool about them not paying the talent.

Totally. I actually think this is where Palmer falls into the "bad business sense" category, because while she's brilliant at getting attention and building a fanbase etc etc, I get the distinct feeling that, as lodurr points out above, her "art-scene" background blinds her to some of the business realities because, at a much smaller scale, they just weren't an issue. When no one is making any money, no one worries about money, and when you are really genuinely doing it for the love, it's easy to avoid noticing that love isn't enough for everyone.

But again, she's working in a fucked-up business, and I'm still not totally of the opinion that an under/uncompensated brass section is better than no brass section. (This has echoes in a lot of artistic fields - the one that I've been thinking about recently is race in science fiction. White writers are criticized for writing non-white characters, and one of the responses is "would you rather there were no non-white characters?" Because the industry is skewed really badly towards publishing straight, white, and/or male perspectives but there is a valid perfect-is-the-enemy-of-the-good angle where maybe doing something badly is a necessary step towards fixing the platform so it can be done well.)
posted by restless_nomad at 3:33 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regardless of the discussion being had, "Kickstarter is basicly pre-ordering" is a dangerous misconception that should get corrected wherever it crops up.

Why is that, exactly?


Essentially, if I pre-order a book on Amazon or whatever, they can't just charge me now and tell me later that actually, the book never came out but they're keeping my money. With Kickstarter, they could do that.
posted by jeather at 3:34 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


i bet people would pay good money to have steve albini roast them. fantastic internet buzz PR etc.

Literally?

. . . edgy!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:34 PM on September 13, 2012


I have gone back and forth on this, but I have decided I am OK with it, and here's why: The musicians who are going to take her up on this offer are fans who would have shelled out $25 and beer money to go to the show. No one who is a pro or semi-pro musician who is not an Amanda Palmer fan is going to do this. The ones who will are are not working for free. They are getting paid, in that they get to see the show for free, and getting beer and a t-shirt or whatever. They would have paid to see the show, but instead they get to sing for their supper. And if the beer is free, imma drink a whole lot of it. And if my playing sucks and I am a drunken lout, hey, you get what you pay for, Amanda Fucking Palmer. I fully expect that this is going to blow up in her face about half the time.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:38 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


What burnmp3s said. And in addition to that point about profits, having a new band at every show seems to me (a non-musician music fan) disrespectful of the music itself. Like it's about let's go see Amanda Palmer rather than lets go hear Amanda Palmer perform music. I've never seen Amanda Palmer live, I've watched DVDs of Dresden Dolls performances and thought they were amazing. So I dunno. Maybe it's an Amanda Palmer "performance" and the band is an afterthought. How much are tickets? Do I get the half-assed band discount price?

I get why musicians will leap at the chance to do it, but it seems almost a disservice to the paying audience.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:38 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If it was a pre-order she would be obligated to now ship something like 40000 CDs. Just the fact that you can give less, and get a random tchotchke tends to weight against it. When I pre order a video game, they want the actual retail value, then they mail the the product. I can't give them 5 bucks just cuz I am a nice guy and call it a pre-order. I could give GameStop 5 bucks to reserve a copy. But if I gave Palmer 5 bucks she wouldnt have held a copy for me.

I think I have settled on calling it a "grant". Fans chipped in and gave her a grant of 1.1 million to further her art.

Which is cool with me.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:39 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree with most of what's been said, even a lot of points that oppose one another, which is going to take me a while to sort out in my head. Amanda Palmer's success has let her remain an idealist and I don't doubt that her intention at least was to have a rag-tag collectivist group playing along to make things more interesting. I saw her play in Melbourne once and she brought along a bunch of ukulele players that she'd met on a tram. The same show, she auctioned a bunch of bullshit like memorabilia and show tickets and dates with her or band members and single-handedly funded the support band's US tour. Was she supporting the band or exploiting the fans who funded it? Can it be both? Can it be neither?

One thing worth mentioning though is that not only will this work - people are going to gladly volunteer and thoroughly enjoy the experience, whether in doing so they cheapen the value of every musician or not, because they'll be AFP fans who were going anyway and her fans are flipping rabid - but if there were no restrictions on volunteering, she'd likely have a couple of hundred fans onstage trying to play an instrument.

Assuming that some kind of restriction had to be placed on volunteers in order for this idea not to become chaos, is there a more egalitarian one than musical ability? If she'd said that the volunteers could be bad musicians but had to have names that started with A, would people still be upset? Not a rhetorical question.
posted by notionoriety at 3:42 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


They are getting paid, in that they get to see the show for free

They don't get to 'see' any of the songs that they're performing in, plus they have to give extra time before the show. Paid musicians who don't perform in every song also get paid for free, and also tend to get free drinks.

But if there were no restrictions on volunteering, she'd likely have a couple of hundred fans onstage trying to play an instrument.

If she's looking for a ragtag collectivist band, then that is what this is.
posted by muddgirl at 3:45 PM on September 13, 2012


If she's looking for a ragtag collectivist band, then that is what this is.

That's a little silly. Just because she's not paying money doesn't mean that she can't have any sort of guidelines or standards or, indeed, artistic vision about the situation.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:48 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would be ragtag and collectivist, but it wouldn't be a cohesive band. It would be a noisy throng.

On preview, I saw that I had written that "her fans are flipping rabbits", rather than rabid. I kind of wish I'd left it that way, it's a pleasing image.
posted by notionoriety at 3:49 PM on September 13, 2012


The new album is spectacular by the way. Want It Back (NSFW). The Killing Type.

According to some reviews, it would have been better had it been made on 1/10 of its budget.

Which suggests a new risk of the post-major-label recording industry: artists asking their fans for crowdfunding, getting more money than they bargained on and feeling obliged to spend every cent on production, resulting in a bloated mess on a par with the most legendary excesses of past decades. Perhaps the next step is learning when to say "no" and figuring out strategies forgiving the money back in kind to the fans without ploughing it into superfluous studio bling.
posted by acb at 3:49 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why I'm Fine With Playing For Amanda Palmer For Free, By S.F. Cellist Unwoman
posted by nadawi at 3:49 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


she wanted a sound that big - john congleton as a producer, the band she put together - she wasn't looking for a sparse record when she went into it, and she never expected as little as 100k. i love the production, love the noise, love the instruments and the intermission. there are a couple songs i don't love, but i don't think she, or a majority of the reviewers/fans, feel like the production was superfluous.
posted by nadawi at 3:52 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would be ragtag and collectivist, but it wouldn't be a cohesive band. It would be a noisy throng.

Quoting nadawi from upthread:
koeselitz - have you ever seen any live recordings of her? "generally it'll be a mess" is what she actively goes for. i actually think that's the part that keeps getting skimmed over - she wants it to be rough. she wants it to not be together. she wants it to be out of control and drunken and maybe fall apart mid way through. that's the sort of show she goes for even before volunteer horns.
Not that I expect Palmer and I to have the same artistic vision, but 1000 fans with a little rehearsal sounds like a pretty glorious mess to me. This is my fundamental problem - Palmer wants professional-sounding volunteers to contribute to her vision, apparantly without acknowledging that her vision is what she's getting paid for.
posted by muddgirl at 3:58 PM on September 13, 2012


It sounds like she wanted a "resume" to see if someone could carry a tune, not play Beethoven's Last Symphony. I think that is a totally fair request for people to at least sound somewhat decent.

No one is FORCING these people to play with her.
posted by littlesq at 4:00 PM on September 13, 2012


Why I'm Fine With Playing For Amanda Palmer For Free, By S.F. Cellist Unwoman

In a slow and steady climb, my most recent Kickstarter -- partly because it got Amanda's attention and she tweeted about it -- raised $23,000, or 306 percent of my goal.

See, quid pro quo. That is alternative funding at its best.

The local musicians playing with Palmer should set up kickstarters, Palmer tweets them before and after the show. Matter of fact, shy can't she do that with the whole setup. All the musicians, even her band, Venue, lighting and sound guys, everyone.

A local venue makes what? Take a gamble and fund the whole night via kickstarter, make the door free.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:01 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Annnnd I've just gone and bought the Unwoman album. Thanks, Amanda Palmer!

Signed, ex-shitty-middle-school-cellist who would never make the cut for this show but totally wants hugs and beer anyway
posted by bitter-girl.com at 4:10 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


In a slow and steady climb, my most recent Kickstarter -- partly because it got Amanda's attention and she tweeted about it -- raised $23,000, or 306 percent of my goal.

It was because of AFP's tweet that my household discovered Unwoman's kickstarter, and thanks to one of my housemates coughing up a bundle of cash, she will now be playing our living room in early January.
posted by Myca at 4:13 PM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


quid pro quo

30 seconds of Palmer's time + an unquantifiable amount of her cache == at least two hours of Unwoman's time that she was previously paid for but now isn't. Therefore, Palmer's fanbase = 1 hour, 59 minutes, 30 seconds of Unwoman's time.

(This is so contrary to my reactionary socialist ideal that we should give what we can and take what we must. I recognize that I perceive that balance differently than other people do - maybe I am undervaluing how much I take from an artist when I get enjoyment from their work.)
posted by muddgirl at 4:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


i bet people would pay good money to have steve albini roast them. fantastic internet buzz PR etc.

Literally?


I'd pay good money to see Steve Albini roasted. Literally.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 4:16 PM on September 13, 2012


They don't get to 'see' any of the songs that they're performing in, plus they have to give extra time before the show.

I read this and I think about what would be more appealing to me - seeing my favorite band live or being a member of my favorite band for one night and one show. Maybe it's because I'm a musician, but being on stage and performing with the band is worth far more to me than being in the audience. And that extra rehearsal time before the show would only sweeten the deal.
posted by The World Famous at 4:17 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


middgirl: You should also put into that time calculation the years of effort Amanda Palmer has put into accruing that audience.
posted by Andrhia at 4:20 PM on September 13, 2012


On one hand, this is the driving philosophy behind reality television and looked how that turned out. On the other hand, I have watched and been in improv bands back in my younger days in the art scene, playing in basements of seedy alternative bars, and so I don't think regular musicians for whom playing is a paying gig need worry too much about this. No one is going to pay a lot to see unrehearsed amateurs make crap noise. Not twice, at least.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:25 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read this and I think about what would be more appealing to me - seeing my favorite band live or being a member of my favorite band for one night and one show. Maybe it's because I'm a musician, but being on stage and performing with the band is worth far more to me than being in the audience. And that extra rehearsal time before the show would only sweeten the deal.
posted by The World Famous at 1:17 PM on September 13 [+] [!]


This, god, this. I'm not a huge Amanda Palmer fan but it sounds fun as hell being a part of the travelling circus for the night. Playing music in a tight unit is a barrel of fucking monkeys.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:27 PM on September 13, 2012


Regardless of the discussion being had, "Kickstarter is basicly pre-ordering" is a dangerous misconception that should get corrected wherever it crops up.

Indeed, though the opposite approach - Kickstarter is nothing but an overt donation of money - is just as flawed. I'd wager that better than 90% of Kickstarter transactions are performed with the person making the donation doing so solely because of the incentive offered. If they weren't banking on that coming through they wouldn't donate the money.

I'm sure plenty of people don't exercise proper judgment before making these transactions; they don't consider the possibility of never getting the item, look into the pedigree, etc. But the fact that there's a possibility they never get what they are hoping for doesn't translate into saying they're just giving the person running the Kickstarter money. It means the penalties for the person running the Kickstarter failing to live up to their promises are far smaller than they would be in most other circumstances.
posted by phearlez at 4:32 PM on September 13, 2012


But do they get to draw (nsfw) on her?
posted by homunculus at 4:37 PM on September 13, 2012


I see pretty fast that I'd be pretty stoked to go onstage and make noise if the Flaming Lips put out a call for local musicians to come up and augment their sound, and I wouldn't care about not getting paid because hey, I'm onstage with the Flaming Lips.

Speaking of whom: The Flaming Lips and Amanda Palmer - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (nsfw)

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 4:42 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would just like to know why it is that she can't pay these people. It's well and good to say that they'd be happy to do it for free. Some of them would probably pay to do it. Let's say some of them would sacrifice a limb to do it and smile as they watched her eat it! So what? The question isn't about them, it's about her -- why doesn't she feel like paying a person for their labor, when one requires that person's services and is in a position to pay for them, is something she ought to do? It would be one thing if she couldn't afford to do it: "Hey, everybody, let's pull together and do something really, really cool!" Sure, okay. But if she can't afford to pay these people, I definitely don't understand why not.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:51 PM on September 13, 2012 [23 favorites]


I don't understand the issue. If you think this is shitty, don't do it. I can think of about a bazillion acts for whom I would be stoked to sit in back of and pretend I know what I am doing.

I understand that a lot of musicians get screwed on a regular basis - but she is completely up front with what she wants and how it will go down. This seems like a no brainer to me (so I therefore must be missing something).
posted by jason says at 4:56 PM on September 13, 2012


I understand that a lot of musicians get screwed on a regular basis - but she is completely up front with what she wants and how it will go down. This seems like a no brainer to me (so I therefore must be missing something).

She wants professional musicians to play with her and her opening band for free; normally, professional musicians are paid.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:00 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the musicians perspective, I think it's pretty cool - if you like AP (I don't), you'd probably pay for the chance to play with her, but I don't think it's entirely clean to *ask* people who love you to play with you for free. It is maybe a little exploitative, cashing in on your fans affection for you, assuming that she herself is being paid for the shows. At the same time, if as I read above, she kind of exists in this world of artistic give and take, maybe it's all right. Maybe she shouldn't've asked. Maybe she should've told her fans, "I'd like the shows to be spontaneous and maybe some of you would like to play. Would you want to do that?" and left it in their hands (but then it all seems to contrived and planned to provide her with cheap musicians, and here I am back at I think it's exploitative).
posted by thylacinthine at 5:02 PM on September 13, 2012


She wants professional musicians to play with her and her opening band for free; normally, professional musicians are paid.

She wants professional-ish musicians who are huge fans of hers to play with her and her opening band for free in exchange for getting to see a band they love live from the stage and be part of a show they're super excited about, but only if they really want to and are totally cool with doing it that way; normally, professional-ish musicians are super excited to get a chance to perform for free with an artist they love.
posted by The World Famous at 5:03 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and if someone like...Radiohead needs...um...someone who can knit (and also wiggle her ears!) to hang out and make conversation, I would be MORE THAN HAPPY to audition. Call me!
posted by thylacinthine at 5:04 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


the work you get from excited fans (and friends returning favors) is different than the work you get from paid session musicians.
posted by nadawi at 5:05 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


normally, professional-ish musicians are super excited to get a chance to perform for free with an artist they love

They are normally also super-duper excited to pay their rent!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:06 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kittens - fair enough. My viewpoint is admittedly skewed. I work in a very tiny marketplace and charge several hundred dollars for an hour of time (number shown simply for purposes of demonstrating demand for my nerdy skill set). Yet I routinely waive my fees for people I like or people for whom I feel I am doing a service. Doesn't mean I am not getting something out of it - it just means I am not getting money out of it. It doesn't make my services any less professional or less in demand - it just means that I am electing to do something for a reason other than financial gain. So if some musician says "hell yes I want to do this" - then it seems to me that is between the musician and the artist.

I must confess that I still don't see the big deal.
posted by jason says at 5:06 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, if Led Zeppelin reunited, they could have a contest where people pay a hundred bucks to audition for a possible chance to maybe get to play on stage with Led Zeppelin and nobody would complain.
posted by The World Famous at 5:07 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


the work you get from excited fans (and friends returning favors) is different than the work you get from paid session musicians.

Is the work you get from paid excited fans different from the work you get from unpaid excited fans?
posted by 23skidoo at 5:11 PM on September 13, 2012


You know, there is a huge range of musicians between "took lessons in 5th grade" and professional-ish. Especially for horns and strings. These folks play at church, or in community bands, or with ad hoc chamber groups, and are basically hobbyists. These are not musicians who are ever going to be paid, but who would be perfectly capable of playing with AP, and would have a musical resume of sorts. Are these the people she has playing with her?
posted by Malla at 5:11 PM on September 13, 2012


They are normally also super-duper excited to pay their rent!

But because they're professional-ish rather than professional, they don't depend or even plan on performance revenues for rent money. If they need a paying gig, they will hold out for a paying gig. I'm a professional-ish musician. I make money from some of my gigs and do other gigs for free. To play on stage with my favorite band as a sideman in a one-off gig? I'd do that for free.

If I got a phone call right now from Prince's management saying he's playing tonight at the Staples Center and he heard my band's album on iTunes and was wondering whether I'd like to come up on stage with him at the show to play on Purple Rain and Darling Nikki with him, there's no way in hell my response would include "how much does the gig pay?"
posted by The World Famous at 5:12 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


23skidoo - i think so, yes - because, how do you select for fans? and if you're not being paid, you'll be more likely to get a little drunk, play a little loose, be less professional. if that's what she wants, how is that goal helped by introducing pay? maybe you think that's a bad goal, but it's a goal that is different than "how do i hold this giant pile of money away from the peons".
posted by nadawi at 5:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if some musician says "hell yes I want to do this" - then it seems to me that is between the musician and the artist.

I get that, and if Amanda Palmer were a broke, brilliant visionary, I would totally get this. But whether she's a brilliant visionary or not, she's definitely not broke. Even if she were broke, it's clear she could raise the money very easily to pay these people for gigs. She's just, for whatever reason, choosing to not pay these musicians.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Exactly that, The World Famous. My dad played out quite a bit more when I was younger; he did not rely on it for rent money. He's played on his friends' CDs for free, he's played at festivals for money. If Robert Johnson came back from the dead as a zombie and asked Dad to play AND give him tasty tasty brains (I am presuming Undead Robert Johnson is a zombie), duuuude, my dad would be all "well, it's been nice, y'all, but I GOT to do this."

The point is it's his choice. His braaaaaains. His wicked collection of guitars he's spent money on for years that are now covered in zombie juice and no longer a suitable inheritance for me. Oh well. He dies happy. And it was HIS choice.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cool ranch Doritos loco tacos
posted by boo_radley at 5:21 PM on September 13, 2012


There are people willing to work for less than minimum wage, does that mean it's ok for companies to pay them less than minimum wage?
posted by drezdn at 5:25 PM on September 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


23skidoo - i think so, yes - because, how do you select for fans? and if you're not being paid, you'll be more likely to get a little drunk, play a little loose, be less professional. if that's what she wants, how is that goal helped by introducing pay? maybe you think that's a bad goal, but it's a goal that is different than "how do i hold this giant pile of money away from the peons".

I don't think it's a bad goal, I just disagree that fans of Amanda Palmer would be less drunk, play tighter, and be more professional during a performance just because they're getting paid.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:27 PM on September 13, 2012


if you're paying, how are you making sure they're fans and not someone looking to do a job?
posted by nadawi at 5:29 PM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


There are people willing to work for less than minimum wage, does that mean it's ok for companies to pay them less than minimum wage?

No. But this is not an employment situation.
posted by The World Famous at 5:35 PM on September 13, 2012


if you're paying, how are you making sure they're fans and not someone looking to do a job?

Should she stop all the perks? The beer, the merch, the tweeting up your band? How are you making sure that people aren't doing it to take advantage of those things? Better take all those away, too.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:35 PM on September 13, 2012


The shenanigans here are (is?) ridiculous.

If she were recruiting her whole band for each gig on this basis, the people going on about how musicians must always be paid for money-making work would have a point.

But that isn't the gig here.

The gig here is sitting in on a couple of tunes (for the horn players), and/or sitting in on a couple of tunes and helping out with the support act (for the strings).

Plus it's an Amanda Palmer gig, not a LSO gig. The art-related goals are different, and maybe something that bit more raggedy, that bit more jam-like, is what she is after. That she's getting randomers off the internet to sit in on a couple tunes after one rehearsal the afternoon before the gig should be a clue.

I get paid for some of the music I do and I don't get paid for other music I do, and most people I work with are the same. I'm not earning much from music to say the least. But I'm always particularly grateful when people play with me for free even though they often get paid elsewhere; it's partly because they know I can't afford to pay them, and it's also - I like to think - partly because they actually like my music and perhaps it's important to them to do stuff like this to remind themselves that they play because they love it and not just because of the money.

In the past I've felt bad about this and attempted to pay people (who really ought to be paid, in terms of the calibre of their work) whatever I can afford, even though it's way less than it should be, and had them refuse it - the attitude is something like 'either you pay me at the full rate or not at all, and if not at all it's because I'm into the music, so don't insult me'. That seems fair enough.

At the same time the fact is that by this stunt AP has also instigated a number of conversations across the interwebs about musicians and pay and how it often doesn't happen how it should; this is absolutely not a bad thing in any way shape or form and may well be part of the point.

And yes, I have volunteered my sax services, such as they are (I'm a guitarist / bassist / keys player really), for the gig in my town. Doubt I'll get it but if I do? I'd be more than happy to do it. What a hoot.
posted by motty at 5:42 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think unpaid internships are a fair parallel. No one wants an unpaid internship. People want something that leads up to getting paid, it is unfortunate and arguably immoral that in some fields this is coming to require unpaid internships.

In contrast people want to play music with Amanda Palmer. Most of them are getting something they'd value well above the $200 number someone threw out as an acceptable amount to pay. I also see nothing wrong with design contests, sometimes described as specwork. Let people do what they want to do.

You don't tell doctors volunteering at the free clinic to stop it because they are devaluing medical services. If maintaining your professional livelihood depends on dissuading people from doing things they want to do and enjoy doing, I don't feel bad if that livelihood dries up.
posted by pseudonick at 5:50 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Amanda Palmer is prett consistently problematic and awful. When called out on ableism by the blog Feminists with Disabilities/FWD/Forward, Amanda Palmer responded with total lack of accountability. The second link includes a link to a television talk show interview that is especially illustrative of Palmer’s dismissive attitude toward the bloggers who dared critique her new musical project.

When her partner, who was a recovering drug addict had a relapse, she faked a suicide attempt to let him know how he made her feel. A few years later he committed suicide.
She recorded his reaction when he found her, pretending to be dead, and years later she used it on an album. Here's her telling the story at a concert.

Amanda Palmer also staged a mock-rape onstage, along with Margaret Cho, of a Katy Perry look-a-like as “revenge” for I Kissed a Girl.

So, yeah, having professional musicians play for free after she raised about a million bucks for her tour is super scummy, and the latest scummy behavior from her is but one of a long line of scummy behaviors.
posted by ShawnStruck at 5:52 PM on September 13, 2012 [16 favorites]


[Folks, please help keep MetaFilter slightly nicer than the rest of the Internet and don't turn this into a generalized "Why Amanda Palmer Sucks" thread. We are not saying you might not have good reasons, just that this isn't the conversation happening here and it's sort of a GRAR bomb. Thank you. MetaTalk is an option.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:02 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


No. But this is not an employment situation.

Why? Because people are willing to do it for free? Because it's an artistic situation?

Are the musicians she is paying to play the shows not employed?
posted by drezdn at 6:08 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why? Because people are willing to do it for free? Because it's an artistic situation?

Because, for a variety of legal reasons determined by each jurisdiction's employment laws, musicians performing on stage with a band are generally not legally considered employees of the main performer. There are situations where a performer's band members are, indeed, hired as employees by the performer or by a related legal entity. I don't know whether that's Amanda Palmer's business relationship with her own band, though I would be very surprised if it is, as that's usually something that you'd find with someone like, say, Elton John or The Rolling Stones (and even with those specific examples, it's pure speculation on my part).

A string quartet hired at an agreed upon price to play a one-off gig are also not employees of the person or entity that hires them - they're entering into a contract to provide a service. When you hire a band or DJ to play a wedding, for example, the band members don't become your employees for the night and you - the person who hired the band that night - are not required to afford them the meal and rest periods guaranteed by the FLSA, workers' compensation insurance, or to withhold payroll and other taxes or provide them with a W2 at the end of the year. See also the plumber you pay to fix your toilet and the company you pay to pick up your garbage every week.

Are the musicians she is paying to play the shows not employed?

I don't know her actual arrangement, but I would speculate that they're independent contractors.
posted by The World Famous at 6:22 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


then it seems to me that is between the musician and the artist.

Just as it is "between the employer and the employee" if someone agrees to work for minimum wage, right? Just as I'm sure you'd be delighted if it became the norm in your "nerdy profession" for people to solicit work for no pay but the opportunity to put it in your portfolio, right?

The argument that this is NOT about the individual musicians who are choosing to perform but about the general devaluation of artistic labor has been made pretty thoroughly this thread. If you have a good rebuttal to that argument it would be worth making it, but just pretending that it hasn't been made, and made repeatedly, is kinda silly.

Oh, and you know who else has made a forceful argument about how important it is for artists to insist that they get paid for their work? Amanda Palmer.
posted by yoink at 6:24 PM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Just as it is "between the employer and the employee" if someone agrees to work for minimum wage, right?

Just as it is between the parties to a contract what the terms of the contract will be. This is not an employment relationship. It's a contract akin to you asking your brother-in-law or a close friend to come over and help you fix your car in exchange for a few beers after you're done.
posted by The World Famous at 6:28 PM on September 13, 2012


Oh, and you know who else has made a forceful argument about how important it is for artists to insist that they get paid for their work? Amanda Palmer.

If you read that right, it's a pretty blatant statement that if we, as fans and consumers of music, want these one-off performers to get paid, we should damned well pay them.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:29 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


and amanda palmer still performs for free sometimes, for herself and to help out friends (and sometimes because she walks by a busking group).

she's getting a substandard group of musicians who don't have a lot of incentive to play the best they've ever played. when paul mccartney comes through town he is not going to want a group of volunteer strings. he's going to want the professionalism that comes from paying a group who probably already know the parts he'll want them to play.
posted by nadawi at 6:29 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd pay good money to see Steve Albini roasted. Literally.

Well, if there's kerosene around, you'll find something to do...
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:30 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you read that right, it's a pretty blatant statement that if we, as fans and consumers of music, want these one-off performers to get paid, we should damned well pay them.

Is $1.2 million enough?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:33 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is $1.2 million enough?

That's such a huge red herring. 1.2 million or not, this is a tour with a cover charge and expenses. I don't give a damn what it cost to make the album she's touring in support of, or how she's feeding her cats in the meantime. That's not how tours work, it's not how hiring session musicians works, and if she's funded this album quietly and not at full volume on the internet, this conversation would be just as important and interesting.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:40 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


The argument that this is NOT about the individual musicians who are choosing to perform but about the general devaluation of artistic labor has been made pretty thoroughly this thread. If you have a good rebuttal to that argument it would be worth making it, but just pretending that it hasn't been made, and made repeatedly, is kinda silly.

OK. I don't see artistic labor, in general, being devalued in our day and age. I see distribution of wealth and perceived value among artists being highly inequitable and unfair, owing primarily to the impact and importance of marketing. The market doesn't decide how much to pay an artist based on the quality of the artist's work or how much time and effort they put into it, but based on popularity, notoriety, and marketing.

But now I'll disagree with myself, since actually I do see artistic labor devalued, because what is valued is not the artistic labor but the marketing and the hype. We don't celebrate and openly reward the genius of the songwriters, producers, and musicians who actually create the music that's making millions of dollars and burning up the pop charts - we reward the pretty person hired to pretend they're the one creating that art. We pretend that the public face of a performer is the artist. We value Lady Gaga, but devalue the artists who labor to create the music and visuals that bear her name. We don't even know the names of the studio singers who sing the tracks we hear.

So in that respect, yoink, you're right. We need to value the actual artists more. We need to value Amanda Palmer more, whether we like her art or not, because she's out there standing up as the face of her own art, standing up as the actual artist that we should value. And we should value her ad hoc professional-ish accompaniment more - enough to buy their CD or merch or whatever at the end of the show - to find out who they are and become patrons of their art. Are we doing that?
posted by The World Famous at 6:41 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a contract akin to you asking your brother-in-law or a close friend to come over and help you fix your car in exchange for a few beers after you're done.

But it's really not. With your brother-in-law or your close friend, you have relationships. There's a history, an expectation that they're going to return the favor or help you out when you need it or just generally be awesome to you for no good reason.

Sure, maybe AFP has helped out some of the musicians who have played for her. But not all. I'm not expecting her to, to be sure, but to equate the "relationship" she has/is going to have with these 'professional-ish' musicians to actual, give-and-take, based-on-real-life-and-real-things relationships is a bit much.

I have no dog in this fight. I don't loathe AFP and I don't love her. I'm not even meh or yay about her. What I don't like her using her fans this way. Of course they're going to jump all over this! What fan wouldn't? So to me it feels like exploitation and that, to me, doesn't feel like art.
posted by cooker girl at 6:43 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Urgh. "What I don't like is her using..."
posted by cooker girl at 6:45 PM on September 13, 2012


But it's really not. With your brother-in-law or your close friend, you have relationships. There's a history, an expectation that they're going to return the favor or help you out when you need it or just generally be awesome to you for no good reason.

These are Amanda Palmer's fans. There is a history. And she is returning the favor - she's performing with them, too.

If the plumber comes to your house to fix something and it turns out that it's an easy fix, no parts required, and he says it's no charge this time, do you get all worried that you're not paying him minimum wage? Of course not. It's not a minimum wage issue, period.

Sure, maybe AFP has helped out some of the musicians who have played for her. But not all.

She has helped every single one of them to get to play on stage with a musician of whom they are a fan, and every single one of them has consciously and knowingly decided ahead of time that that was sufficient consideration for them taking the gig.

I'm not expecting her to, to be sure, but to equate the "relationship" she has/is going to have with these 'professional-ish' musicians to actual, give-and-take, based-on-real-life-and-real-things relationships is a bit much.

I was discussing the wage-and-hour legal implications of the arrangement, not the emotional bond that exists between car fixing buddies. You don't have to pay your buddy minimum wage when he helps you fix your car - he's not your employee. That's the purpose of the example.
posted by The World Famous at 6:50 PM on September 13, 2012


[Any more gross gendered insults or catcalling and you can find a new internet home. Thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 7:06 PM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm all for musicians getting paid for their work but with somewhat less than plumbers or actuaries the profession has had sketchy financial arrangements since the time of Mozart. Well probably since the time of that famous drummer Ogg.

Not sure about kids in a winter chorus but tiny dancers in the Nutcracker (legit productions) get paid. Well not usually for rehearsals but a token for performances. But I read the blog/help wanted announcement and it sounded as much as a contest (woo get to play with Amanda, your friends will envy) as a gig announcement.

I really hope that the Great Internet Trends move creative folks to being self supporting rather than the rock star lottery slaves that so many are now. But it may be the long slow decline of a profession and we will only have amateurs doing the Ring Cycle every few years or the great Beatles sing along.
posted by sammyo at 7:07 PM on September 13, 2012


I don't know about you guys, but I'm gonna do this. I've been practicing for years, and I deserve my five minutes of recognition.

I'll go to rehearsal, grab the French horn, cram my hand in the bell, double and triple tongue notes like a boss, and finger the keys with a fury never before seen...

I figure, if I'm good enough, maybe she'll have a change of heart and pay me for my efforts. Right?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:21 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And Palmer has just responded with a detailed post on her site.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:21 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am fond of her willingness to engage with her critics, even when I don't agree with her actual positions. And that's a good, detailed response.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:37 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know what? The world is full of musicians who love to play their instrument, love to practice, really take it seriously...but have, for whatever reason, no desire to do it professionally. We see this on the internet all the time, with people (see MeFi Music, Songfight!, YouTube, etc) taking the time to write and record music, and share it with the world, with no hope or desire to get paid and no patience or desire or ability to be a full-time or part-time pro musician. They might be too old, they might have full-time day jobs and kids to raise, they might be lazy, whatever; offering a few of them an opportunity to expand their casual creative reach beyond YouTube et al to have a no-strings-attached (in either direction) night on stage is pretty boss for the few people willing to do this.

This doesn't mean there aren't reasons not to do this, of course, just that for some people this is a very nice thing: a chance to show their chops with no risk, no strings and no effort beyond showing up.
posted by davejay at 7:55 PM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


restless_nomad: “I am fond of her willingness to engage with her critics, even when I don't agree with her actual positions. And that's a good, detailed response.”

Yeah, that was classy of her. Her public persona put me off, like it put a lot of people off (especially with that Evelyn Evelyn thing) but – well, she's just another musician trying to get by. And honestly $1.2M isn't that much in the context of putting together an album and a tour. I'm still not sure how I feel about this, but I do respect her for engaging critics when it would be a lot easier and less stressful not to.
posted by koeselitz at 7:58 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think we're overlooking to terrible hardships faced by all those professional-ish musicians who were forced -- possibly at gunpoint -- to donate their time for meager-to-no compensation.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:17 PM on September 13, 2012


I'm with kittens on this. I fully understand why people would be honored and thrilled to play with a star they admire. I don't understand why said star can't cough up a few bucks.

It's not a perfect analogy, but I'm currently producing a short film. Here in Hollywood it's easy to get a lot of free labor by paying people in credits. In other words, you get someone who usually works as an assistant director and make them the director, make a cameraman a DP, etc. We're giving quiet a few people credit bumps on the film. But we're also paying everyone, from the PAs on up. Because we have the money and we respect the people. It's really hard for me to understand not giving muscians a hundred bucks or so. Yeah, it's paperwork and money. Yeah, they'll do it for free. So what? To not pay someone when you are making money off the project is gross.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:17 PM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


A conversation about professionals never working for free, being posted on a site running Apache, probably using open source browsers... oy vey
posted by underflow at 8:20 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not particularly impressed with Palmer in general but I wouldn't say I'm excited enough to call myself a hater. I thought her response posted by bitter-girl.com was honest and worth reading even though I'm not sure I agree with everything she said.

But I really wanted to thank whoever it was upthread who mentioned Unwoman, because finding her has made reading all several hundred comments in this thread worthwhile.
posted by immlass at 8:32 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I often make the joke that as a poet, I'm fortunate there's no money in poetry, but it's the joke that isn't realiy a joke, because it's true. It's not that I'm never going to profit as a poet, but that, even if I manage to beat the odds and become well-known (for a poet, which means maybe 3-10,000 people in the world would know who I was, and that is highly unlikely) I'd still lose money making books and writing.

What that means is that the other practitioners of my art form I'm lucky enough to meet write and keep writing not to make money, or for job security, but because it's the thing they love, and most of us are more than willing to perform for free and to offer our written work to various publishers to be published without pay (or sometimes even at a financial loss). I once made a chapbook that was completely letterpressed and handbound; it cost me about $3000 to make en edition of 90, which I mostly gave away or bartered for other books.

Right now I have a manuscript draft sent out to a handful of friends who have agreed to edit it (without pay) and give me their feedback. This past Monday, I read a poem to a room full of strangers, for free (actually, at a $6 loss, since I paid the cover charge to get into the venue).

None of this bothers me, nor does it bother me that I can't make poetry my vocation. In fact, I feel blessed, because my weird obsession with an obscure and dying art form has brought a pantheon of beautiful and amazing people into my life. Joy, friendship and community are way more important to me than money. I can certainly respect that not every writer will feel the same way I do about it, but it saddens me that the measure of respect for a fellow artist for some people boils down to abstracting art into dollars, and I think one of the best things that could happen to the "music industry" is if it went away and pop music became more like poetry: a thing people did because they couldn't help themselves, and because they wanted to have joyous lives and be deeply and meaningfully connected with other people.

I don't know Amanda Palmer's music, but if she put out a call for poets to perform onstage with her, I'd probably volunteer, because it sounds like fun, and she seems like she'd be a cool person to make art with. And free drinks!
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:42 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


underflow: A conversation about professionals never working for free, being posted on a site running Apache, probably using open source browsers... oy vey

With probably a fair bit of the traffic carried by Linux-based routers, and most of the DNS lookups against ISC's BIND, and I'm sure there's plenty of other infrastructure I'm not thinking about just now. Oh, one thing, the GNU C compiler was probably used to create everything mentioned so far.

Without lots of professionals working for free, we couldn't be having this global conversation about how professionals should never work for free.
posted by Malor at 9:08 PM on September 13, 2012


I read Amanda Palmer's response, and I think I appreciate that she's coming from an honest position of wanting to make music and the maximum amount of fun: for her, her audience and the volunteers.

But one bit that stood out was how she felt criticism of her use of volunteers disempowers those musicians (from being able to volunteer).

I'm not sure I agree that this is the problem.

I think she's in an awkward position where she wants shows to be unpredictable, she wants musicians to practice and be good, and she wants (most of) those musicians to be free.

And maybe there's no way to have all of those things at once without looking bad.
posted by zippy at 9:15 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


What's interesting to me, and I haven't seen it mentioned upthread unless I missed it, is that she makes a big deal about the need to pay her graphic artists and designers when she's explaining what that Kickastarter money is going to pay for. Keep in mind that her figures are based on her collecting $200,000 LESS than she actually did.

"i have to pay the VISUAL artists who joined this amazing art party. i commissioned them all to paint their art, they own it. i’m only BORROWING the art for the art gallery tour — and using the “likeness” (the digital copy) for the album/book/etc. packaging – and then returning the art to the artist to keep. still, i paid them all. add another $20-25k there. i feel very good about giving them all that money."

As she says further in, "All business choices, all art choices." She has the money to pay these musicians, and is choosing to spend it on things other than paying these musicians. She definitely recognizes that artists deserve to be paid, and that's why calling for musicians to back her for free seem so odd and shitty to me.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 9:49 PM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Fuck if I can figure out what the right thing is.

That she played for free is a non-starter, unless she played for free in a band where she was the only one not getting paid I don't want to hear that this is paying dues, just like she did. These people can go play for free on a street corner and be the main attraction.

I wonder what she thinks of farmers using migrant labor for well under minimum wage. Those workers have a choice too.

We do curtail our own personal freedom for the sake of solidarity, a case could be made that volunteering is the same as being a scab, and Palmer is just a another in a long line of bosses keeping the working man down.

But Her volunteers never joined any union, and never agreed to solidarity. They aren't even professional, they are professional-ish, which I take to mean very good amateurs.

The first task would be to convince the volunteers that it is for the good of all that they not play for free. Not argue that Palmer is wrong to make the offer.

I guess if anyone feels really strongly about this they should picket. And argue it to the volunteers that musicians should stand together in unity.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:50 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


At this point, Palmer could take that million buckeroos and use it to cure cancer and it wouldn't matter: she's gonna come out of this looking worse than when she came in. All in all, I seriously doubt she will have won over any new fans, and from the looks of it she might've lost a few. Maybe she'll learn a really valuable lesson from this or maybe she'll just continue to be Amanda Palmer.
posted by item at 9:54 PM on September 13, 2012


In fact, I feel blessed, because my weird obsession with an obscure and dying art form has brought a pantheon of beautiful and amazing people into my life.

Thanks for that. I needed it. Cheers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:01 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is the crux of the thing:

"we’re looking for professional-ish horns and strings for EVERY CITY to hop up on stage with us for a couple of tunes [...]
we need a COUPLE of horns [...]
and we need enough strings [...]
you’d need to show up for a quickie rehearsal [...]"

Then you need to pay me.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:04 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Open Source Software is generally free. Amanda Palmer is getting paid to perform.
Ah, so the only way the analogy would hold up is if there were people somewhere using open source software as part of their commercial businesses' infrastructure, such as, say, nearly every business everywhere.
posted by roystgnr at 10:14 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


A million doesn't go that far,

Whoa, whoa, whoa. The album and the tour are not supposed to be money losing propositions. (Everyone here talking about how much money it costs to make an album doesn’t realize how cheaply albums are being made for now, and how little the people working on them are getting paid.)

If the album and tour were being given away for free then you could talk about how expensive it is to make an album and tour, but she is expecting to make money on this, and most certainly will. (Never mind that I cannot believe that she’s spent that much money, doesn’t add up.)
posted by bongo_x at 10:16 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Joy, friendship and community are way more important to me than money. I can certainly respect that not every writer will feel the same way I do about it, but it saddens me that the measure of respect for a fellow artist for some people boils down to abstracting art into dollars

Here's the thing, as a fellow poet--you say this like it's a choice but a lot of people don't have 3k to drop on a chapbook; the fact that it's even an option for you means you have options other people can't even dream of on their best day. Working for free or spending money on a hobby is not a choice for a lot of people. It's not like poor people have the chance to be poets and say "no, I'd rather wash dishes and wipe butts for a living because I don't like community and joy and friendship, I love money and that's my choice". When you need to eat it's not a choice. When your kid looks at you and is hungry it's not a choice. When your aged grandmother needs a surgery and you have to pay for the home care afterwards that's not a choice. Or maybe it is, but it sure as fuck isn't a choice between "joy, friendship and community" and money. It's a choice between suffering and money. People who want money aren't all shallow and greedy. Some of them are just hungry or trying to keep themselves and their loved ones from hurting.

This is obviously a bit of a derail but it's a huge, huge issue for me in the "creative community". You're not able to do this stuff for free because you're more awesome than other people, you're able to do it for free because you're lucky. Ultimately, what people are worried about here is a system where only lucky people get to play, learn, and invest in music because there's no way to make money from it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:17 PM on September 13, 2012 [25 favorites]


I can’t wait for people to start pranking her by showing up to rehearsal, going through the whole schtick, and then totally fucking up the show on purpose.

I said I can’t wait.
posted by bongo_x at 10:18 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


So if she's playing Stubbs outdoor in Austin, that's maybe 4000 capacity? I don't know, I would have guessed 2-3, based on seeing Pavement and Motorhead there, but whatevs, it's hard to find good numbers. Tickets are $31. So say she sells 2k, that means the show grosses $60,000. Is there any way she's making short of 10 or 20 grand here? That oughtta cover her gas and maybe the per diems for the 'real' backup guys, I reckon...

I mean, screw the Kickstarter, she's a professional musician alright. That's what bugs me about this- this ain't your eccentric next door neighbor at open-mike night w/ a ukelele who could use someone to play triangle on a couple of songs.

So that's why this annoys me... you wanna use local pick-up musicians? Fucking pay 'em! This kinda crap might be swell if you're out touring 6 to a van and sleeping on peoples' floors, but as cute and folksy and Twittery and personal as she might be, she ain't that.
posted by hap_hazard at 10:44 PM on September 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


I work in a very tiny marketplace and charge several hundred dollars for an hour of time (number shown simply for purposes of demonstrating demand for my nerdy skill set).

I just want to point out at this rate you could work for two hours a day and easily give away six hours of your time and still be in the top 5% of household income in the States.

Not everyone--hardly anyone--is in that position. A lot of the "I'd sure do that!" people in this thread are in similarly privileged positions. The reaction from those folks is pretty much the definition of privilege.
posted by maxwelton at 11:01 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I meant to add that surely a small price to pay for being privileged is to try and watch out for those who aren't, and not exploiting people is surely one of the ways to do that. As mentioned above, just because someone wants to do something doesn't mean they aren't being exploited.
posted by maxwelton at 11:04 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Oh god, is surely my crutch word?)
posted by maxwelton at 11:09 PM on September 13, 2012


I just want to point out at this rate you could work for two hours a day and easily give away six hours of your time and still be in the top 5% of household income in the States.

Assuming that's all pure profit with no overhead and no other staff to pay, I guess.
posted by The World Famous at 11:53 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


As I've understood it, the Kickstarter money is independent of the tour. She tracked out what she would do with it, provide to the contributors, etc.

hap_hazard makes the point that strikes me as relevant and interesting, but I know essentially none of the economics behind gigs like hap is talking about (though I miss Stubbs!!).

If she's taking in the sort of money hap mentions, seems shoddy that she can't find a way to pay about 4% of that to performers.

I'd love to take in the thoughts from anyone w. greater knowledge of the economics of these things, to the extent that they're consistent enough that anyone can relate relevant information.
posted by ambient2 at 11:59 PM on September 13, 2012


If the album and tour were being given away for free then you could talk about how expensive it is to make an album and tour...

The album is, in fact, being given away for free.
posted by Lazlo at 12:02 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The thing that sticks in my craw is that only some people on that stage are getting paid. If no one was getting paid, it would be a charity gig - fine. If everyone was getting paid, even finer. But here a group of people will engage in a musical collaboration, and yet some people's contribution to that ensemble is not worth paying for. Why?
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 12:47 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't pay for horns or for string players,
Kickstarter dough -- it don't stretch quite that far,
Fuck those whiners, we are the media,
Hysterical moaners, showing off their mania

I don't want to hear, but you're making me,
Assholes tweeting loud, and they're shaking me,
Maybe we can reach a kind of compromise...
I'll show them my Map of Tasmania?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:00 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


A lot of the "I'd sure do that!" people in this thread are in similarly privileged positions. The reaction from those folks is pretty much the definition of privilege.

Dude, people in the poorest countries on Earth, the ones struggling hardest to survive, still make music on a daily basis. And they would laugh at the thought of actually being paid for sharing their skill with their chosen instrument.

The entire concept of being paid for something that everyone does, like they breathe, is an extraordinarily privileged position, in and of itself. It's nice that we can support it in some cases, but it's neither necessary nor ethically required. It's a luxury, and I'm glad we can afford it, but don't paint it as anything else.
posted by Malor at 3:00 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


only some people on that stage are getting paid

I think the difference here is that those getting paid are those on the full tour with Palmer. The others are city-by-city volunteers.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:19 AM on September 14, 2012


(Almost) everyone cares for children, too. Are childcare workers privileged for expecting to be paid?

For everyone saying that it's their choice therefore it's okay, would you be okay with a nanny making $2-3/hour and sleeping in the child's room on a cot? Because some people are willing to do that, right here in NYC, one of the most expensive cities in the world.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:25 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a terrible analogy. The people who are appearing on AP's stage are not doing so because they're desperate for money but (presumably) because they will enjoy playing with her. You might as well complain that friends or family who babysit for free as a favour are taking away work from professional childminders, or that the (pro) drummer who sits in with my band sometimes when our regular drummer can't make it is taking away work from other pro drummers who I would otherwise have to pay.
posted by unSane at 4:42 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, but the city-by-city volunteers audition and rehearse with the core musicians; they have to be up to a certain standard.

These professional-ish players may or may not be virtuosos, but they have been chosen because they bring something valuable into the mix - just like the musicians who are getting paid.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 4:45 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I write open-source software, full-time, for money and I perform, part-time, for money. Sometimes I give my services away free of charge, always and only in situations where doing so will benefit me, and others in the same marketplace, more than it hurts me or others in the same marketplace.

Amanda Palmer's call for auditions doesn't even remotely qualify for this and, in fact, clearly comes across as an insult. I guess it might appeal to amateurs and wannabes, but wait a minute - there's nothing wrong with being an amateur or a wannabe, as long as you know better than to do stuff like this. WTF.
posted by tel3path at 4:48 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The World Famous has said everything I would say much better upthread, so I won't add to the noise any further.
posted by unSane at 4:48 AM on September 14, 2012


One musician's response: Paying musicians
posted by dfan at 5:02 AM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Raising money from donors and not paying her workers. Is she running for office? Because as a political consultant I see this stuff all the time.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:23 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's the thing, as a fellow poet--you say this like it's a choice but a lot of people don't have 3k to drop on a chapbook; the fact that it's even an option for you means you have options other people can't even dream of on their best day.

Sigh. Look, it took me three years to make the book, because I had to pay for the materials piece by piece - it wasn't like I had $3K in the bank to spend all at once. Kickstarter didn't exist back then, so I did what people all over do when they have an interest in something outside their vocations: I paid for it a little bit at a time over several years.

And the argument that I have options seems weird here - it's definitely beside the point - the musicians who volunteered to be in Palmer's show have options too, and they have opted to be in her show. And they all seem happy to do so.

It's not like poor people have the chance to be poets and say "no, I'd rather wash dishes and wipe butts for a living because I don't like community and joy and friendship, I love money and that's my choice". When you need to eat it's not a choice. When your kid looks at you and is hungry it's not a choice. When your aged grandmother needs a surgery and you have to pay for the home care afterwards that's not a choice.

Friend, you don't really know my situation, so this whole bit right here isn't persuasive and is a mite bit offensive. Now that I'm nearly 40, I am fortunate enough to have a decent job, but as little as 3 years ago, I was going hungry between paychecks and hiding my car from the repo man. I still wrote my poems expecting nothing other than the joy or writing them, and I still offered them to people for free. At that time, I ran a regular show, which took a good 10-15 hours a week to prepare and put on, and I did so for no money (and sometimes at a loss). I was also volunteering for a local non-profit, serving on the board of directors for a different non-profit. And I know plenty of poets who are in far worse financial conditions than I was then who still, now, do amazing, beautiful work as writers and performers because they love what they do. When they get paid, it's awesome, but your attempt to lecture me about privilege in this regard fails because I have myself been in worse straits than you describe above, and know plenty of people in the same boat.

I get that some people would like to be paid to make their art. More power to 'em. But many people make art because they love making art, and because it brings them joy and community. Those are the kind of people who volunteered to be in Palmer's show. And many of them report that their financial situations are better because of doing so. The sense I get from reading Palmer's statements about the shows is that she's after that kind of extracapitalist connection and sense of surprise, community and fun. If you don't want to participate; don't. But to speak on behalf of supposedly exploited musicians while ignoring the fact that the musicians themselves are saying they're not being exploited and are, in fact happy to participate smacks of paternalism.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:39 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ultimately, what people are worried about here is a system where only lucky people get to play, learn, and invest in music because there's no way to make money from it.

Also, this statement pretty much ignores most of music history. Just in the 20th century, jazz, the blues, country, rock and roll and hip hop were all created by working class musicians who held down jobs or went hungry or both. The idea that one can have a career in music is itself a function of privilege; not being able to have a career in music is what I'd call a "first world problem." And yes, I agree, it'd be nice if we had a system in which more people than just the lucky could pursue their artistic endeavors with more of their time, but we have never had such a system in this society. Unless you're suggesting that the system we have had, which is based on giving most of the resources to 1% of the musicians, making celebrities out of them, which itself is psychologically and spiritually damaging to the artists themselves, is not based on luck. In which case, I'd strongly disagree with you.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:53 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm one of the people that doesn't mind her incorporating at-will, unpaid musicians as a project. That could be interesting, though it would 100% without doubt certainly times a hundred have been better had she planned to offer them even a small stipend. What rankled is that she said she "can't afford" to pay them. Which is bullshit. If you can't afford to do that, then you can't afford this kind of tour. If you're not willing to adjust your own cut to pull off this awesome project, then it's disrespectful.

I am also actually a lot more gobsmacked by the stuff in her response.
there were cities like new york where jherek – and everyone in the band – really wanted to make sure we had a 100% tried-and-true string corps. he didn’t want to bank on possibly risky volunteers that night. chad raines, my guitarist, who’s also in charge of wrangling the horns, agreed on that front as well. so we called our more professional horns and strings friends in new york, and we freed up the budget to pay them. we’re doing that in some cities, and in some cities it’s a total grab-bag of strangers on stage.

it’s very important to me that we clarify that – not everything you see on stage is black and white, and those specific musicians in new york (and in some other cities) who got paid shouldn’t be put in the same category as the volunteers. WE called THEM personally because we had lots of experience with them and knew what we were gonna get.
How does one interpret this? "Audiences in New York are so much better/more likely to fund me on a continuing basis that we can't 'risk' volunteer musicians [even though this city is more likely than almost any other to provide you volunteer musicians at a professional level?]. The other chumps out in the sticks won't know the difference and will be happy hillbillies just to share the stage with us, and the dumb crackers in the audience won't kow the difference?"

And it's framed as being about "freedom" and "choices" as opposed to being about an obviously ill-thought-out idea into which the value of musicianship and the band's ability to seed the art world were never entered. As I said snarkily on Facebook, 'I think I know who's been reading Ayn Rand.' As I said above, it was initially the "can't afford" - when obviously she can - comment that initially rankled. But the response makes it worse - a lot worse - by revealing the very self-centered, bubble thinking going on in this outfit.
posted by Miko at 5:58 AM on September 14, 2012 [21 favorites]


It's interesting that you say that. I am relatively ignorant of music history, I will admit that, but I do know that (for example) Nina Simone's first gig was a paying gig in a bar.

And, knowing everything that goes into a handmade chapbook, there is no doubt that it is a huge amount of work, but that doesn't erase luck as a component of your ability to commit time and effort towards your art. Those 10-15 hours a week of work would be, for a lot of people, directed towards basic survival tasks. That doesn't make creating a chapbook wrong or anything, and frankly it sounds beautiful and like it is perhaps a worthwhile endeavour. But with your justified pride in your hard work should come the acknowledgement that no, not everyone is able to do the same thing if they work hard enough or care enough. A lot of people work very, very hard and never have that opportunity. The world is profoundly unfair in that sense.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:04 AM on September 14, 2012


How does one interpret this?

I was assuming that it's because those shows were where reviewers for national publications were most likely to see the show.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:05 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man. I play wind - not well enough to do it as a living, but certainly well enough to pick up a score for an afternoon, rehearse and play that night. And if I band I loved played local to me and threw up something like this - I'd probably be stoked to do it. But the sheer shittiness of the AP ad, especially how they specify the level of skill required, makes me recoil. There no clear way of working out if what they mean is "please don't waste our time if you can't cope with a band situation", or "if you are not up to proper professional scratch, despite our paying you no money, we will be dicks to you".

Although I have my suspicions.
posted by ominous_paws at 6:08 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


But with your justified pride in your hard work should come the acknowledgement that no, not everyone is able to do the same thing if they work hard enough or care enough. A lot of people work very, very hard and never have that opportunity. The world is profoundly unfair in that sense.

Why do you assume I don't know those things? And, knowing them, what should I then do? Not make art? Only make art if I can charge for it? Be mad at Amanda Palmer because she's asked for volunteers and a good many people were happy to volunteer?
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:08 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fact that the volunteers want to do it is neither here nor there. It's more the terms of the deal, and those terms make this deal either an offer of charity, or an invitation to be exploited.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 6:09 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fact that the volunteers want to do it is neither here nor there. It's more the terms of the deal, and those terms make this deal either an offer of charity, or an invitation to be exploited.

Actually, by definition, if the volunteers know the terms, and freely choose to participate, that is the very opposite of being exploited.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:13 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why do you assume I don't know those things? And, knowing them, what should I then do? Not make art? Only make art if I can charge for it? Be mad at Amanda Palmer because she's asked for volunteers and a good many people were happy to volunteer?

No, avoid saying things that strongly imply that people who want artists to be paid are venal, greedy, joyless, only care about money and not about art, etc. etc. etc.

Although I do wish that poets would stop entering pay-to-play contests and that they would stop submitting to journals that give preference to their subscribers.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:14 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


eustacescrubb, if you're asking for suggestions, I would suggest that you not sacrifice to make art only to give it away free to enable someone else to make money out of it.
posted by tel3path at 6:14 AM on September 14, 2012


there were cities like new york where jherek – and everyone in the band – really wanted to make sure we had a 100% tried-and-true string corps. he didn’t want to bank on possibly risky volunteers that night. chad raines, my guitarist, who’s also in charge of wrangling the horns, agreed on that front as well. so we called our more professional horns and strings friends in new york, and we freed up the budget to pay them. we’re doing that in some cities, and in some cities it’s a total grab-bag of strangers on stage.

it’s very important to me that we clarify that – not everything you see on stage is black and white, and those specific musicians in new york (and in some other cities) who got paid shouldn’t be put in the same category as the volunteers. WE called THEM personally because we had lots of experience with them and knew what we were gonna get.


Holy shit. So New Yorkers are important enough to get paid, but the rest of us schmucks in flyover country aren't.

It also puts paid to the notion expressed earlier that 'professional-ish' isn't explicitly asking for people who are actually professional quality musicians.
posted by winna at 6:19 AM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


Interesting point on the trickle-down-economics involved (or not involved) from The Register.
posted by ominous_paws at 6:20 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the responses on the blog put it, I think, perfectly:
That you pay in some cities and not others is an easy out and suggests you think some fans are more deserving of a more polished show than others. Thats contemptuous, and to post about it and still expect players or cooks to bend to your will without compensation other than your own mythos/brand is narcissistic.

its narcissistic because it all revolves around You. Your call for free players requires I accept the rule that The Glory/Fun/Privilege/Experience/Hang With AFP is of more value than the skill set I bring to help make the musical moment work, or the say $150 or so that could feed my family.

[...]

But to establish Your Presence as the compensation for the gig is arrogant. It says that 20 minutes Of You should be worth more to me than paying rent. Of course , it may be for some, and that's fine. And Im also free not to take the gig. Its the inherent assumption that you set up that I find distasteful, and the cynical calculation that you've figured people will do it. To bet and plan on people making that choice is taking that arrogance a step further.
On the one hand, I think, hey, if you can get it, then get it. That's how I feel about pretty much anyone who's creating anything. On the other hand, it's shitty to brag about all the people who come and bring you a hot meal in exchange for the privilege of hanging out with your fascinating, scintillating self.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:29 AM on September 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


I was assuming that it's because those shows were where reviewers for national publications were most likely to see the show.

Well, exactly. Those shows matter. And you spend money on things that matter.

The other really interesting part of the response is about "crowdsourcing" [ie, asking for free donations of] food. She makes a lot of how generously this food is given, and sometimes by "professional chefs."

I get this. It's an indie/grassroots/punk thing. My friends who are/have been in punk bands absolutely tour this way. They pay for gas, and hope for the rest - crash on floors, take whatever food is offered to be shared, catch as catch can. It's a pretty cool community-building thing and, for bands whose gigs will pay $100 for four people if they're lucky, it is a necessary mechanism to allow touring to be possible. For the fans, taking care of performers is a way of ensuring continued access to live shows in their community at all.
we constantly crowdsource food. across the world, our fans volunteer to spend a whole day, sometimes more, cooking and arranging to get warm food to the venue: it’s a truly magical feast sometimes. and it’s a simple exchange: we ask them to volunteer, they volunteer joyfully.

these people (some of whom are real-life professional chefs) have to actually lay down money, sometimes hundreds of dollars, for all the food they cook and bring us. they choose to spend their talent, time, (and money) cooking for the band. then they come eat with us. our gratitude is huge. we don’t have to order take-out from the falafel joint next to the venue, we get to meet cool people instead. i’ve made some great new friends like that. it all works out pretty great.

is it always perfect? hell no. do we sometimes end up with a five-course gourmet feast one night, and a sad/bland potato salad the next? hell yeah. is it worth it, and do we eat our sad potato salad with a smile? you bet we fucking do.

i’ve never come under fire for crowdsourcing food…but can you see the parallel? you could call us out for not putting our money to the local falafel joint, or for not hiring a cook for the tour. but that’s not the way we see it. we just see the joy around the table backstage as the rider wine flows and everybody involved has a good hang.
But at some point in her musical career, Amanda Palmer and her band crossed over from this being a need allowing them to complete the tour. They've maintained it as a way to connect with fans and build a community around the band. It's smart and it's awesome. But once they've achieved the level of fame/income/exposure access they have, I don't think it's particularly generous to expect fans, most of whom have less than you, to take care of the food line item in your tour budget. At somepoint, they grew beyond this.

Observing all this, I think Amanda Palmer is wanting the best of both worlds. She wants to live in the DIY, indie, community world where filthy lucre doesn't have to taint our relationships. But she also wants access to the best venues, studios, and road comforts and wants the best and most positive coverage and continued grubstaking she can get. I don't think she's fully reckoned with her change in status over the course of her career. Certainly, once you (as an artist) are doing well, and you can employ other artists, some aspect of that newfound power can be used for good. You remember what it was like playing for free and choosing betweeen cigarettes (or beer, whatever) and food. You can now help create a new structure for musicians, be that mentor/employer who pays a decent wage for the good work you do, and exercises the kind of selectivity that raises the game overall by supporting more those people who work harder, are more cooperative, and are more talented.

I see her as not completely understanding that she is a member of the musical/cultural elite now, and lives quite a wealthy person's and artist's lifestyle. She doesn't understand that she has a lot of power, and that playing small and cheap doesn't reflect well on her or her band or even her musical projects and entire genre and fan community. There's a missing self-awareness here that would have prevented the entire clusterfuck.
posted by Miko at 6:32 AM on September 14, 2012 [31 favorites]


I woke up this morning realizing I had been straight trolled... Hat tip, Amanda Palmer! Nobody does it better!
posted by SharkParty at 6:40 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


And it's framed as being about "freedom" and "choices" as opposed to being about an obviously ill-thought-out idea into which the value of musicianship and the band's ability to seed the art world were never entered.

I think the most telling part is saying we freed up the budget. It seems like a dichotomy where some musicians that they know personally must be paid, so Amanda budgets for it, and other musicians needn't be paid so they don't pay them.
posted by ersatz at 6:52 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, avoid saying things that strongly imply that people who want artists to be paid are venal, greedy, joyless, only care about money and not about art, etc. etc. etc.
This is the thing that I find most puzzling about this thread. There are plenty of shadetree mechanics out there who tinker with their cars for the sheer joy of it, and maybe even sometimes work on a friend's car in exchange for a six-pack. Or heck, maybe even for free.

If a garage called such a guy up and said "Hey, we need an extra pair of hands this weekend, what do you say? The garage will charge for your labor and other guys are getting their regular paychecks, but we'll pay you in beer and hugs, and give you a t-shirt. And by the way, you've got to be pretty good; don't show up and waste our time," people would call him a chump for taking that deal.

Yet people who suggest that local musicians ought to be paid for performing in a fairly high-profile gig, where the rest of the band is getting paid, are assholes?
posted by usonian at 6:58 AM on September 14, 2012 [16 favorites]


the $35,000 required to pay seven or eight musicians for 36 tour dates at union rates was too much.

That's less than $138 per person per show.
posted by Miko at 7:07 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


(pass the hat).
posted by Miko at 7:07 AM on September 14, 2012


I couldn't read her reply earlier because her site was loading. Just now I got her site to load but had trouble reading her reply because of how uncomfortable it made me. I am absolutely flummoxed by the things she's saying.

How can she think her band touring with Nine Inch Nails for no pay is somehow comparable to this situation? Or the fact that her paid opening act, who are traveling in her tour van, volunteered to play with her band? Or, most bizarre of all, how does she think the fact that some of the strings and horns in some of the cities are actually being paid makes her look better? She very obviously wants quality musicians on stage, but in some cities she's willing to pay musicians to do the same thing that she won't pay for in other cities?

She says that she's played ukulele on the beach for free and then in the next sentence says that she's been paid thousands of dollars for a one-hour show and doesn't seem to realize how ridiculous that sounds. You can afford to play for free sometimes because you get paid thousands of dollars for a one-hour show! You can afford to "give away your album for free" (when what you mean by that is letting fans pay what they want) because of how many thousands of fans you already have, because you know how many of them will choose to pay you for it, because of how many tickets you will sell on your tour of 1000+ capacity rooms that your booking agency has set up, because you already got $1.2 million by just asking for it.

Amanda Palmer or Radiohead doing "pay what you want" is not equivalent to me doing it. Radiohead made a lot of money asking people to pay what they wanted. When I did it everybody chose to pay nothing. I don't do it anymore. And the fact that they did it absolutely alters the public's expectations and affects the marketplace for people like me.

I've been screwed over financially a ton of times at my own very-small-time musician level. And then I've also been in positions where I could've screwed over other musicians, taking more money for myself and leaving less for them, and I've chosen not to. Because fairness and integrity and professionalism are important to me. The first Dresden Dolls record was released on a major label in 2004, when Amanda Palmer was 28. They toured with Nine Inch Nails in 2005. I don't know at what point she became able to support herself as a full-time musician, but she has been a nationally-known artist for the better part of a decade. Her attitude smacks of faux-naive "we're all in this together"-ness, as though she's on the same level as the people who give her things for free because she sometimes does things for free, and hey so does David Byrne!

Anyone who reaches Amanda Palmer's level of fame and success as a musician got there through some combination of talent, hard work, lucky breaks, and valuable connections. Oftentimes pre-existing wealth is involved, too (although I have no idea if this is true for Amanda Palmer) -- people who have never tried to promote music don't usually realize how much money can buy exposure and fame. Successful artists very often like to downplay or ignore everything but the talent and hard work, as though they got to where they are solely because they deserve it and the cream always rises to the top. And everyone can certainly write me off as bitter and jealous, which I am, but I've been around the music world enough to know that isn't how it works. And for Amanda Palmer to compare herself to the people she's asking to volunteer for her, as though they're on the same level and their actions have the same ramifications, is highly offensive to me.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:11 AM on September 14, 2012 [26 favorites]


Rather, I couldn't read her reply because her site wasn't loading.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:12 AM on September 14, 2012


[quote]

Amanda Palmer or Radiohead doing "pay what you want" is not equivalent to me doing it. Radiohead made a lot of money asking people to pay what they wanted. When I did it everybody chose to pay nothing. I don't do it anymore. And the fact that they did it absolutely alters the public's expectations and affects the marketplace for people like me.

[/quote]

And (showing the other, classier end of the scale) Radiohead are known for paying their crew/support VERY well, so far as to have them on payroll when they aren't touring so that they can have the option of having them available for shows without much advance warning. They will also pay off union crews at venues that use them and still bring in their own crew, since they prefer to use their own people.
posted by Windigo at 7:55 AM on September 14, 2012


This is the thing that I find most puzzling about this thread. There are plenty of shadetree mechanics out there who tinker with their cars for the sheer joy of it, and maybe even sometimes work on a friend's car in exchange for a six-pack. Or heck, maybe even for free.

If a garage called such a guy up and said "Hey, we need an extra pair of hands this weekend, what do you say? The garage will charge for your labor and other guys are getting their regular paychecks, but we'll pay you in beer and hugs, and give you a t-shirt. And by the way, you've got to be pretty good; don't show up and waste our time," people would call him a chump for taking that deal.

Yet people who suggest that local musicians ought to be paid for performing in a fairly high-profile gig, where the rest of the band is getting paid, are assholes?


I think the disconnect here is that a lot of us - or at least me - think that this comparison isn't accurate. I don't see Palmer's request as similar to asking someone to come work a shift and do some oil changes at the garage the garage where you don't have a relationship.

To me this seems more like we're talking about a shadetree mechanic who does her own oil changes and brakes but gets her transmission work done at a garage and has a good relationship with them. She's one of their more knowledgable customers and they're chummy when she brings in her car. It's probably a more meaningful interaction to her than the garage workers since they have many customers.

One day the garage sends out an email to their customers saying hey, I know some of you do some of your own more basic work. We're going to be doing some fleet maintenance this weekend on some cool cars the specialty rental shop rents. If you'd like to come do a few of the more basic tasks along with our mechanics for an hour and get to see under the hood of a Maserati and a few Porches we'd be delighted to have you. We'll need to make sure you really know your way around a torque wrench first so come around for some checkout before the event.

It's not a call they put out on the job boards and not attractive to a lot of folks who do this for a living, but it puts some of the people they have a prior relationship with into a space they'll enjoy. It may or may not be a net positive to the shop, work-wise, when you consider the time spent vetting multiple people and keeping an eye on them compared to just hiring one person. But it has a positive business valuation for them from the standpoint of strengthening customer relations.

That's not a perfect parallel, but what analogy ever is? Also, the arts is loaded with this baggage of being a place where people do undervalue the work of practitioners and the nature of the work allows a lot of these sorts of abuses. And I don't think Palmer's position is perfect or without flaws. You're certainly entitled to think that these sorts of requests and arrangements harm the field for folks who want to work and get paid; I don't think that's without merit.

I do think calling this a naked money grab overlooks the nature of the relationships and that the above mechanic comparison is incomplete.
posted by phearlez at 8:22 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's more like Lamborghini calling a mechanic up and saying, "hey we're gonna bring around next years model, do you want to come help us tune her up and we'll let you take it out for a test drive."
posted by empath at 8:28 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is no "analogy". This is simply someone trying to get professional services without paying for them, and expecting the professionals to be grateful for the offer.
posted by tel3path at 8:31 AM on September 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'd actually be really curious to look, once the tour is done, at the musicians who signed up and figure out the proportion of "professional" (as in, regularly play for money) vs amateur musicians.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:34 AM on September 14, 2012


When I was booking headliners at my parties, we always, always looked to book fans of the act to open for the headliner, even if they weren't popular themselves. We gave them drink tickets and guest list spots for their friends, but no money. We didn't do it because we were too cheap to pay people, but the local djs that work for pay a) wouldn't have been a good match for the night because they wouldn't get the vibe we were going for the way a true fan would and b) I knew how I would have felt if I could open for someone I was a fan of, and I wanted to let friends of mine have that experience. You can't fake that kind of enthusiasm for any amount of money.

And if the guy we booked was actually good and smart, he could work that opportunity. At least one person got signed to the headliners label afterwards.

Everyone of those djs practically begged us for the opportunity to play with their heroes, and thanked us for letting them do it afterwards.

Seriously, consider the fact that to be an opening DJ for a big act, you need to have spent many hundreds of hours or even thousands of hours practicing and spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on equipment and records. (and the equivalent for a guitar player or what have you), the 50 or 100 dollars that you would get for a paying gig would be peanuts.

To get to the point where you get paid, you have to invest a lot of time in building a social network and a brand so you can guarantee that people will show up and pay to see you personally instead of the actual headliner you are performing with. A lot of djs/musicians, myself included, don't find that sort of activity appealing, so they don't do it. But they shouldn't complain when they don't get paid by the people who did, and who in no way depend on them for their own success.

Really what it comes down to is: are you bringing people? Paying people? Then you should get paid. If you are just tagging along on someone fame, and doing something that is inherently rewarding, then, you shouldn't expect to get paid. Roadies should get paid. Touring musicians should get paid. Locals getting to jam along with their favorite band for one night? Unless you have your own local following, forget about it.
posted by empath at 8:42 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to see bands auction off a chance to play with them. I'd be curious how much money that would bring in.
posted by empath at 8:44 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, call it confirmation bias, but this kind of "Work for me and help me make a profit because it'll be cool and fun!" thing only seems to be picking up steam. Just last night the proprietor of a new hip pizza parlor in my city posted this to facebook, and a local arts organization thought it was cool enough to shared on their page:
we re getting slammed nightly and are rather light on staff. anybody want to volunteer being a floor person during our dinnner rush tonight, tomorrow, saturday or sunday? clean up. food running. positive energy. free pizza and drank.
This pizza place ran a successful $15,000 Kickstarter campaign as well as a sold-out fundraiser concert and got coverage from multiple national media outlets, including NPR, USA Today, and the Huffington Post.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:48 AM on September 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


Locals getting to jam along with their favorite band for one night? Unless you have your own local following, forget about it.

What? These locals didn't ask for the "opportunity", it was "offered".

I'm not even a musician, and I wouldn't accept an "offer" to audition, rehearse and perform Three Blind Mice on my primary-school recorder on the terms presented here.
posted by tel3path at 9:09 AM on September 14, 2012


I am a good cook. I have cooked in professional kitchens, and I love cooking at home. I am never happier than when making food for people, especially for my friends. Being a host and sharing the food that I have made is one of the things I love most about being alive.

So if I invite a friend over for diner, that is a joyous thing for me. It's a thing I like doing. I don't feel exploited at all doing it.

And if a friend invites himself or herself over for dinner, it's still something I will enjoy doing, if I am able. It's a little weirder, just a bit, but I would, generally speaking, have a hard time saying to a friend, "no, I'm making dinner but you can't have any" if they asked.

But if a friend invited himself or herself over for dinner, and then took my food that I had prepared and sold it to someone else, that would totally change the dynamic of what was going on. I would be unhappy with that. Even though I love cooking and am generally pretty happy to give food to my friends.

I feel like what Palmer is doing here is a lot like that third scenario I described. The people doing the performing are not like people bringing a potluck supper to feed a band, or giving her a place to crash. They are part of the product that she is selling.

And, as someone who has played music for free and would be totally chuffed to play with somebody I really liked. Part of me is like, I'd totally play for free.

But I've seen enough in the world of unpaid internships and labor concessions to know that getting people to work for less is a prisoner's dilemma being run by people who operate the payroll and who give themselves bonuses for successfully iterating that dilemma over and over again, and I think it stinks.

So I could see it both ways, a bit. But this morning, I read Palmer's explanation about why it was okay for her to ask for volunteers, and I've to to say that her own explanation, more than anything, left a bad taste in my mouth, in part because I don't see how anything that she's saying couldn't also be said by any venue owner or music label exec who knows that they can get a new band tomorrow. It seems like any time there is a disruptive force in an industry, management uses that disruption to extract concessions out of labor. It's no secret that crowdsourcing and the internet are disrupting the music industry.

Palmer: in exchange, i’d ask that you not criticize us because we belong to a different culture, where we’re playing a different game, with different rules.

It's interesting where you draw the lines, when you are making a different game with different rules. I would think that musicians with professional-ish skills, playing live in front of sold-out, paying audiences, should be paid, especially when other musicians sharing that same stage, are being paid and indeed are making a living by touring. That would be a rule that I would insist on, if I were playing a different game and I cared about art being a serious professional enterprise. The most radical, disruptive, subversive, different game in the world, right now, would be a game in which the people making the decisions had to make goddamn sure that the people at the bottom get paid, and paid enough.

But the game that Palmer is playing seems to be pretty damn compatible with the old game, in which "you should be happy we chose you; lots of other people work for free and we could just as easily replace you with one of them."
posted by gauche at 9:13 AM on September 14, 2012 [20 favorites]



Amanda 'Millionaire' Palmer

Everybody realizes that funding something on Kickstarter is essentially pre-ordering a good and/or service, right? It's not giving money away, she's not rolling around on a bed of benjamins, and who bought what and for how much, and where that money's going, is all laid out really clearly.


A million dollars being filtered through your endeavor, even if you are not being paid a million dollars, puts you in a different class than the vast majority of musicians, is my point. That money is going to pay lots of different people for lots of different things and that is great. I am all for this. But these other people, the trombonist in Wichita, etc, should also be paid. That they might be willing to do it for free because they are fans is sort of beside the point.

When I pick up shows with working musician friends if they get paid I get paid. Not a lot because they don't get paid a lot, and I usually just put it toward a round, but still. I promise you that the $15 bucks I get from my just squeaking by buddy is a lot larger part of his income than scale would be to AFP.

How about this: instead of any actual payment, Amanda Palmer agrees to play in the back up bands for each of these musicians, for beer and hugs, at some future date?
posted by dirtdirt at 9:16 AM on September 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


Did the Rolling Stones pay Gram Parsons for his "work" on Exile on Main Street in a form other than room, board, and smack?

I'm not even a musician, and I wouldn't accept an "offer" to audition, rehearse and perform Three Blind Mice on my primary-school recorder on the terms presented here.

On the terms offered by Palmer, would you accept an "offer" from your favorite band in the world to sit in with them as a sideman?

A guy I play in a band with did some consulting work a while back for a band that I can fairly call one of the top 5 biggest bands in the history of music - not musical consulting, but something else; his day job. They flew him to where they were on tour, where he spent a few days with them, hung out with them during rehearsals, got to know the band members pretty well on a personal and business level so that he could do his job well for them. He was there for their soundchecks, etc., and was standing at the back of the stage during their show at one of the largest open-air stadium venues in the world. Would it have been a dick move of the band to say, at some point before the show, "hey, we heard you're in a band and you're pretty good. Do you want to jump on stage and play a song with us tonight? We'll need to rehearse the song a bit with you first." Honestly, would you be outraged if they had done that?
posted by The World Famous at 9:21 AM on September 14, 2012


Ludwig, do you have a link for that? That's some outrageous shit right there...
posted by ominous_paws at 9:21 AM on September 14, 2012


TWF, I think that's not... a massively analogous situation, really.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:25 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Just in the 20th century, jazz, the blues, country, rock and roll and hip hop were all created by working class musicians who held down jobs or went hungry or both.

Say... what?!

How many well-known twentieth century musicians are there who weren't making money from their craft? Sure, none of them were making a living in their first few years, but they rapidly started to make a living from their work because otherwise they would have left music.

I can off the top of my head name one: Charles Ives (and I'll bet most of you have never heard of him).

> And honestly $1.2M isn't that much in the context of putting together an album and a tour.

Say... what?!!

These days, $1+ million for an album and tour puts you not just in the 1%, but probably in the 1% of the 1%.


I just read Ms. Palmer's blog on the subject. Before I read it, I thought she was clueless. Now I think she's very well aware of what she's doing - and not in a good way.

Key points:

> YOU HAVE TO LET ARTISTS MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS ABOUT HOW THEY SHARE THEIR TALENT AND TIME.

It seems like she's deliberately ignoring the argument that everyone is making - just because you can get away without paying your musicians, just because tons of musicians will volunteer to play for free because they are desperate for the exposure, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

and...

> because this isn’t about money. for me, this is about freedom. and about choices.

My bullshit detector rings and rings here. If it isn't about the money, then pay the money. If it isn't about the money, why is she keeping the money?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:27 AM on September 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


Ludwig, do you have a link for that?

Here you go. I guess it's possible that the proprietor only meant the request to go to his friends, but he posted it publicly, and it was then shared publicly by a local community page, which is where I saw it. At least the comments so far are unanimously negative.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:27 AM on September 14, 2012


And yeah, Ludwig, that's pretty egregious. "We're getting slammed every night and we don't have the staff to handle it" is a problem that gets solved one, or both, of the following ways:

1) Hire more staff; and/or
2) Raise your prices.

It's not legal to have volunteers come in and work for your for-profit business, and -- I say this as someone with a great love for small, hip pizza joints -- somebody should drop a dime on them.
posted by gauche at 9:27 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


TWF, I think that's not... a massively analogous situation, really.

What's different about it other than the popularity of the act and the size of the venue? If your favorite band offers you the opportunity to play with them on stage for free but wants to practice a bit first, that's simply not exploitation. At all.
posted by The World Famous at 9:28 AM on September 14, 2012


But if a friend invited himself or herself over for dinner, and then took my food that I had prepared and sold it to someone else, that would totally change the dynamic of what was going on. I would be unhappy with that. Even though I love cooking and am generally pretty happy to give food to my friends.

Probably more like Gordon Ramsey dropping by your town and asking if you want to help out in the kitchen for a night. Maybe you wouldn't do it, but a lot of even professional chefs would, I think
posted by empath at 9:31 AM on September 14, 2012


Probably more like Gordon Ramsey dropping by your town and asking if you want to help out in the kitchen for a night. Maybe you wouldn't do it, but a lot of even professional chefs would, I think

Professional cooks are expected to do stages or unpaid internships as part of their career, which are problematic just like any other expected unpaid internships.
posted by grouse at 9:35 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The World Famous, those weren't the terms on offer, which were to attend an audition for a band with whom I have no pre-existing relationship, at my own expense, and I better be good enough and not embarrass myself, and if I don't embarrass myself I might have the opportunity to do a job for free that others get paid to do.

I get the whole "there's a friend of ours in the audience and maybe he'd like to hop up here." This isn't the same thing.

Often, I see contests where one of the prizes is to work for free in my field for a day. If I won such a prize, I would politely decline it, and leave it to the kind of starstruck amateur who would actually benefit from it - enjoying their day in "showbiz" to tell all their Facebook friends. If I were to accept such a prize, I would just make myself look like a simpleton.

I also wouldn't be "outraged" if Amanda Palmer were offering to donate her performance to these locals' own gigs as recompense for their services. I don't know if it would be the best idea, but it would go some way to making this the great promotional opportunity she thinks it is. She isn't offering that, though.
posted by tel3path at 9:36 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, for a start, he's already getting paid to do other work for them. He's already involved, profitably, with the band.

He doesn't make his living, presumably from music.

He's doing one song, not playing the the whole set AND acting as the support.

And he's just got to "practice a bit" - not give up a half day's further unpaid work.

All you're doing to make your analogy is changing the situation on multiple axes to make it more reasonable until, surprise, it's reasonable! Not a particularly incisive analogy...
posted by ominous_paws at 9:36 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


My new band name is Amanda Palmer's Scabs
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:38 AM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh, and in your story the band's consultant has had this asked of him in a pleasant way - not with some shitty emphasis on HOW EMBARRASSING IT WILL BE FOR EVERYONE if the services he's offering aren't up to pro standard.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:42 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, that's what really gives this away for what it is: the who do you think you are, wanting to play in my band? scolding tone.

I have seen unpaid internships advertised in similar ways, though, complete with links to "10 ways not to completely suck as an intern" lists, and unpaid internships sure are gaining ground. Eventually it'll become more common to have to volunteer your time to a restaurant whenever you need to earn your next meal.
posted by tel3path at 9:45 AM on September 14, 2012


Maybe you wouldn't do it, but a lot of even professional chefs would, I think

Whether someone would do something or not is not necessarily the best question to ask here. I keep referencing the prisoner's dilemma in relation to these kinds of situations because it's a useful analogy. If you were in the prisoner's dilemma, you would absolutely defect. The problem is not that you would defect, it's that despite Palmer's rhetoric about playing a new game, what she's doing is pretty much the same game.
posted by gauche at 9:47 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The World Famous, those weren't the terms on offer, which were to attend an audition for a band with whom I have no pre-existing relationship, at my own expense, and I better be good enough and not embarrass myself, and if I don't embarrass myself I might have the opportunity to do a job for free that others get paid to do.

So it's the "let's make sure you don't suck" part of the deal that has you upset?

I also wouldn't be "outraged" if Amanda Palmer were offering to donate her performance to these locals' own gigs as recompense for their services.

That's what's happening here, isn't it? This is becoming their gig, as well as hers. They can tell their own audience to come see them open for and play with Amanda Palmer.

He doesn't make his living, presumably from music.

Is there any reason to believe that Amanda Palmer is soliciting professional musicians who make their living from music?

He's doing one song, not playing the the whole set AND acting as the support.

So if the band extended their offer to have him play with them for the whole set, that would make the offer unethical?

And he's just got to "practice a bit" - not give up a half day's further unpaid work.

I didn't define what "practice a bit" means in the hypothetical, but I'm interested to know what you consider the threshold duration of practice that, in your mind, would transform it from fun opportunity to exploitation of labor. Personally, I'd consider it an even more fun opportunity to practice for half a day with the biggest band in the world than to just practice for 15 minutes or so, so I'm trying to understand the mentality of someone who thinks that spending more time with their idol is worse than less time.

ll you're doing to make your analogy is changing the situation on multiple axes to make it more reasonable until, surprise, it's reasonable! Not a particularly incisive analogy...

I didn't realize I had changed the situation on any meaningful axes. So let's fix it to make it work by your terms:

Let's posit that Led Zeppelin reunites for a tour, and they get, I don't know, Dave Grohl to play drums for them. And they then have a contest where people submit an entry form and 5 people are selected in each city on the tour, from whom one person in each city will get to play rhythm guitar on stage for Led Zeppelin and will get to open for the band. The application asks that only competent acts apply, since they'll be performing in front of a stadium full of Led Zeppelin fans for 45 minutes and then performing with Led Zeppelin. When the 5 are selected, they then go to the venue the day of the show and practice with Led Zeppelin for the entire day. The band selects the best of those five, and that's the person who gets to open for and play with Led Zeppelin. Outraged?
posted by The World Famous at 9:50 AM on September 14, 2012


That's what's happening here, isn't it? This is becoming their gig, as well as hers. They can tell their own audience to come see them open for and play with Amanda Palmer.

And, because it's "becoming their gig as well as hers", they are getting their names on the posters and they are seeing a cut of the door or ticket sales, right?
posted by gauche at 9:53 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not at all, as long as they pay the winners at least national minimum wage for performing.
posted by tel3path at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2012


Not at all, as long as they pay the winners at least national minimum wage for performing.

Why?
posted by The World Famous at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2012


They're working.
posted by tel3path at 9:55 AM on September 14, 2012


They're working.

In what sense? I'm working right now, creating content for Matt Haughey's website. So are you. Are you being paid minimum wage?
posted by The World Famous at 9:57 AM on September 14, 2012


> The band selects the best of those five, and that's the person who gets to open for and play with Led Zeppelin. Outraged?

Absolutely. Led Zeppelin can afford to pay them, and they should.

The idea that it's OK when 1% gets the 99% to work for free because they can is morally appalling.

(Interestingly enough, a live Zeppelin track is on my radio station as I wrote this....)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:57 AM on September 14, 2012


tel3path: Setting aside snark: What, in your opinion, makes the string quartet's relationship with Amanda Palmer an employer/employee relationship as opposed to that of independent contractors?
posted by The World Famous at 9:59 AM on September 14, 2012


I wouldn't, as here they're looking for full support bands and fans to play an actual part within the band, instead of trying to fill traditional paid session musician roles forming part of their opening band and playing extraneous parts, for free. Also, I expect I would if your guys effectively fired their whole touring band and just replaced with unpaid fans for the whole tour.
But I mean sure you can just keep chucking out situations which feel varying degrees of more reasonable because they are meaningfully different, and I can keep talking about how I feel they are different - not sure it'll be that interesting though.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:03 AM on September 14, 2012


A fair point. Do you, ominous_paws, think AP's ad hoc volunteer ensembles should be legally considered employees rather than independent contractors? If so, why?
posted by The World Famous at 10:07 AM on September 14, 2012


> What, in your opinion, makes the string quartet's relationship with Amanda Palmer an employer/employee relationship as opposed to that of independent contractors?

... and ...

> Do you think AP's ad hoc volunteer ensembles should be legally considered employees rather than independent contractors? If so, why?

Why are you harping on this tiny detail? Who cares? Why is it relevant?

The issue isn't that Palmer is breaking some law by doing this - I'm sure she isn't - it's that what she is doing is morally wrong (and hypocritical for someone who wrote a long screen not so long ago about how musicians deserve to be compensated for their work).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:11 AM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


The classic test of this, for most purposes, is the so-called "ABC Test"* which contains three elements. A worker can be classified as an independent contractor when all three of the following elements are met (note: some jurisdictions only require 2 elements):

1) The worker is free from control or direction in the performance of the work.
2) The work is done outside the usual course of the company's business and is done off the premises of the business.
3) The worker is customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business.

For me, it'd be a hard sell to call it an independent contractor, because surely Amanda Palmer is going to exercise a high degree of control and direction as far as when and how the work is performed. The work is clearly done in the course of Palmer's business (performing music live in front of an audience) and is done on the premises of Palmer's business, to the extent that Palmer's business can be said to have a premises. (I think performing on the same stage, at the same time as Palmer, counts as working on the premises.)

Note that it may be the case that there are statutory or common-law exceptions for musicians or other live performers. Note also that labor enforcement has historically been pretty lax on this issue.

* 2/3 of the way down that page. Yes, that's Texas, but it's the same test that I know from practicing in New England.
posted by gauche at 10:12 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Actually it's not hypocrisy, because she's not being deceptive about what her standards are while doing something else in secret. It's a double standard, where musicians deserve to be compensated for their work, but being in Her Awesome Presence is supposed to be recompense enough.
posted by tel3path at 10:14 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't honestly grok what you're driving at here - and if you'd care to explain, rather than playing Armchair Socrates I'd appreciate it.
posted by ominous_paws at 10:14 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, yeah, TWF, it's kind of a derail, but if you want to get technical about it, under the law 1) you can't volunteer for a for-profit enterprise. No such thing. And 2) performing with Amanda Palmer would probably be, under the general rule, an employment relationship rather than an independent contractor relationship.
posted by gauche at 10:17 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've also been in positions where I could've screwed over other musicians, taking more money for myself and leaving less for them, and I've chosen not to. Because fairness and integrity and professionalism are important to me.

And they're important to a lot of musicians, who are continually inundated with requests to play for free "at my coffeehouse," "at the opening of my store," "for my friend's wedding," etc. I am not active as a musician now, but I know many professional musicians and have written about musicians struggling to put together a living. As a result, if I hire a musician even to play a couple fiddle tunes at a wedding or do ambient keyboard stuff for an event, you can be damn sure I am going to pay them. I owe them that respect, as they're performing a service I desire, at my command.

When I was booking headliners at my parties, we always, always looked to book fans of the act to open for the headliner, even if they weren't popular themselves.

That equals promotion for them, under their own name/act name. That's not what you get with this offer.

But I've seen enough in the world of unpaid internships and labor concessions to know that getting people to work for less is a prisoner's dilemma being run by people who operate the payroll and who give themselves bonuses for successfully iterating that dilemma over and over again, and I think it stinks.

Aaaamen.

AP is an open culture proponent. We want to support people doing good work, achieving high-quality musicianship. It would have been such a classy, dignified, I-have-respect-for-artists move if she had just thrown out a stipend for qualifying to do this and completing the performance successfully. Her rhetoric around it, even more than the tone-deaf structuring, is what's really disappointing.
posted by Miko at 10:22 AM on September 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


Why are you harping on this tiny detail? Who cares? Why is it relevant?

It's a response to the claim that they should be paid minimum wage. The people claiming minimum wage somehow enters into the equation care.

1) The worker is free from control or direction in the performance of the work.

Unless there's some reason to believe that musicians hired for a gig are always employees of whoever hires them, I think it's reasonable to conclude that the level of control and direction involved in a music gig is not sufficient to knock this prong out.

2) The work is done outside the usual course of the company's business and is done off the premises of the business.

Playing on stage with Amanda Palmer is outside the usual course of these musicians' business - it's a one-off gig. And it's not done on the premises of Amanda Palmer's business entity, it's done on the premises of the club.

3) The worker is customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business.

Yep, this one is satisfied here, too.

So, yeah, TWF, it's kind of a derail, but if you want to get technical about it, under the law 1) you can't volunteer for a for-profit enterprise. No such thing. And 2) performing with Amanda Palmer would probably be, under the general rule, an employment relationship rather than an independent contractor relationship.

They're not volunteering. They're contracting to do a one-off job in exchange for non-monetary compensation agreed upon before performance.
posted by The World Famous at 10:22 AM on September 14, 2012


But, just to be clear, although I'm not outraged and although I think it's perfectly reasonable for an amateur musician to knowingly agree to perform with their favorite band on a one-off gig without monetary compensation, I do think it is uncool - though not unethical or illegal - for Amanda Palmer to not just slide each of the performers a hundred bucks or so at the end of the night.
posted by The World Famous at 10:25 AM on September 14, 2012


Um, no, when I've done volunteer gigs I didn't get beer. I got sandwiches, t-shirts, and travel cards. Plus the fliers and programs with my name and headshot included. That's what volunteers get. I ws happy with that because I was volunteering for a non-profit venture, for a cause more important than Earn Money For Some Random Narcissist And Be Grateful. And You Better Not
Embarrass Her Either!
posted by tel3path at 10:29 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I also can't use my volunteer gigs to bolster my professional resume, because they weren't professional jobs. I wasn't paid for doing them. The most prestigious ones appear in the Public Service/Charity section, but it would be totally disingenuous to try to pass them off as any kind of employment, whether independently contracted or not.
posted by tel3path at 10:43 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would revise my analysis of #2 above with regard to the "usual course of the company's business." I think that's a closer call, actually, as it probably should be a question of the business of Palmer, rather than of the musicians.
posted by The World Famous at 10:46 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a professional stage performer. My band and I tour the country, we make music, we sell CDs and shirts. I make a good living and my band gets paid well. As indie bands go, I am doing great. I'll probably buy a house in a couple years.

The reason I make a good living is fan generosity. 100%. The key product (music) is entirely free online, through every major piracy outlet, through services I like (Pandora, YouTube) and ones I think of as cruel gangsters (Spotify). But I make a lot of money selling it, because the fans, who know they can get it free, pay for it instead (or in addition), in order to support the enterprise.

I lean on fan generosity pretty hard. I still sleep on fan couches when we tour expensive markets. They gift the band with meals, books, gadgets, toys, software, access to services, graphic design, illustration, video production, transportation, booze, medical care. No matter how "big" the band has gotten, we would not be AS big, reach as many people, produce as many albums, etc etc etc, without a wide variety of donated goods and services.

That's indie music, folks. THAT IS THE EQUATION.

You use kickstarter, you have 'tip jar' or paid 'fan flow' buttons on your site, and you do everything else you can to facilitate these sorts of fan donations. Because ALL fan support is donated, and the sum of donated fan support is how you're able to keep making music. Your fans know this. They want you keep making music. They want new fans to have the opportunity to share the enjoyment of your next album. They want you to buy a house some goddamn day because your music made them happy.

Within this particular economy, there is no reason to hassle Amanda, already deeply and publicly immersed in one the most direct gimme-please model (a successful kickstarter), for calling up fan donations of ANY AMOUNT of ANYTHING. This includes skilled labor from talented musicians. The fact that it's fun and exciting for the fan musicians, that their projects are promoted, that they can have a few beers, that they get to collaborate with someone they like -- none of these benefits (or 'compensations') to them affect this equation AT ALL. They want to donate something of worth, and it was absolutely appropriate for Amanda to ask them to. Everybody's happy.

It is not spec work, and it is not internship. It's something different. And everyone who's mad about this can FUCK OFF. I realize that's not a civil way for me to discuss this subject. The amount of bloviation and ignorance in this thread from people who have no toe in the industry has really rubbed me the wrong way.

And for the record, hopping onstage for a couple numbers, YES EVEN HAVING HAD TO SHOW UP FOR SOUND CHECK TO RUN THROUGH IT FIRST, is not something you ask payment for. If you don't feel like working that night, you don't agree to do it. If you like the person who asked you to do it, you do it for free. Every single working musician I know has done this exact thing dozens or even hundreds of times. I know I have. And many dozens of musicians have done it for me.
posted by damehex at 10:55 AM on September 14, 2012 [16 favorites]


Unless there's some reason to believe that musicians hired for a gig are always employees of whoever hires them, I think it's reasonable to conclude that the level of control and direction involved in a music gig is not sufficient to knock this prong out.

The way this element is interpreted -- and I'm speaking a little bit broadly here -- is to ask whether the employing entity can specify not only results but tasks and times and individuals. Think cleaning company that cleans an office building after business hours. The company that hired the cleaners doesn't get to specify how many people come in to work, or which specific people they are, or what sequence they clean the offices, or when they get to go on break; they just want sparkling bathrooms and clean carpets in the morning.

Palmer's auditioning specific people and I am pretty sure that she is going to tell them with a high degree of specificity what they are supposed to do and when. (Note that it's not like a bar owner hiring a band, because he's just paying for a result: music between [time] and [time]. He doesn't get to pick the bassist or write the setlist or tell the singer she's off-key tonight.)

Playing on stage with Amanda Palmer is outside the usual course of these musicians' business - it's a one-off gig. And it's not done on the premises of Amanda Palmer's business entity, it's done on the premises of the club.

It's not about whether it's in the course of the worker's business, but in the course of the employer's business. And, to the extent that Palmer's business has a premises, I contend that it is the location where she is performing, regardless of who owns it. Most businesses don't own their premises. The stage is where Palmer is creating and delivering her product. That's her premises.

As far as the independent trade, occupation, or profession, yeah, I think that one probably counts in Palmer's favor. But remember, you need all three elements. In most jurisdictions, I only need one.

They're not volunteering. They're contracting to do a one-off job in exchange for non-monetary compensation agreed upon before performance.

I'm sorry, but speaking as someone who spent a lot of time as a lawyer working on ways to legally provide non-monetary compensation for on-farm agricultural internships, this is quite simply not how it works. I'm not saying that the DOL is going to shut this arrangement down -- indeed, I'd be shocked if they even cared -- but since you seem to think it's important to parse out the legal relationships here, these are not contractors. What the are is right there in the headline. And that's against the law.
posted by gauche at 11:00 AM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


> hopping onstage for a couple numbers,

As has been pointed out a dozen times above, this situation where you are required to learn and play someone else's music and play it on your own as "the opening act" is not anything at all like "hopping onstage for a couple of numbers".

> The reason I make a good living is fan generosity.

Bully for you, but most instrumentalists simply can't do that. Most people who play an instrument for a living have no specific fan base - they are paid to play other people's music.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:10 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, but speaking as someone who spent a lot of time as a lawyer working on ways to legally provide non-monetary compensation for on-farm agricultural internships, this is quite simply not how it works.

You're preaching to the choir here. I agree with you that there's room for legal argument, and, as fun as it would be (not really), I don't think the thread needs two employment lawyers arguing back and forth about the finer points of wage-and-hour as it applies here, particularly since I'm sure both you and I can concede that our argument would be largely academic, and since we're not representing sides so much as just discussing.

since you seem to think it's important to parse out the legal relationships here

Sorry if I've been unclear: I don't think it is. I'm trying to get to the bottom of other people's claims that minimum wage has some relevance here. But I'm happy to drop that.
posted by The World Famous at 11:13 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was not a legal argument, that was an argument in favour of paying professionals for their work. Saying "minimum wage" was just a benchmark in case anyone wanted to argue that it would be okay to pay these people one cent an hour.

I would also think it was okay if she were offering them profit share, which might be more or less than minimum wage. She isn't.
posted by tel3path at 11:18 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Plus, maybe indie musicians who want a house should ask their fans to donate one. Buying one seems like a mug's game, if it's okay to call up fan donations for ANY AMOUNT of ANYTHING.
posted by tel3path at 11:22 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Why are you harping on this tiny detail? Who cares? Why is it relevant?
posted by phearlez at 11:23 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


And for the record, hopping onstage for a couple numbers, YES EVEN HAVING HAD TO SHOW UP FOR SOUND CHECK TO RUN THROUGH IT FIRST, is not something you ask payment for.

Then why did she say on her web site that in "cities like new york where jherek – and everyone in the band – really wanted to make sure we had a 100% tried-and-true string corps" because they "didn't want to bank on possibly risky volunteers" so they "called our more professional horns and strings friends" and "freed up the budget to pay them."

And why did the New York Times report: "Ms. Palmer also said that she could not afford to pay the extra musicians she requests, a string quartet and three or four sax and brass players. The cost, she said, would be around $35,000 for all the tour dates."

Palmer is acknowledging that these musicians are integral to her performance and that their contributions have monetary value, but since she can get them for free on account of her enthusiastic established fanbase she's going to take advantage of that and doesn't want to be judged for it. This isn't just a fun thing for her fans -- she needs these people in order to make her show happen, and she knows what it would cost to hire them.

I think your assumption that anyone who isn't into this "doesn't have a toe in the industry" is off-base. I've toured, and I've slept on floors. I've also slept in a van when I didn't have floors to sleep on, and I was always very thankful that people were willing to open their homes to me and be generous. But I wouldn't have accepted their generosity if I could have afforded to do otherwise. Amanda Palmer is not some DIY upstart, her situation is not comparable to some no-name act like mine, and for her to act like it is is just posturing.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:24 AM on September 14, 2012 [21 favorites]


The amount of bloviation and ignorance in this thread from people who have no toe in the industry has really rubbed me the wrong way.

So we're seriously not allowed to have an opinion if we don't have a "toe in the industry?" That's crap.

It so happens that I do have a toe in the industry and have had for some 20-odd years. I don't play but my husband does, most of my close friends do, my son does, I am very good friends with several studio owners/producers, I have been intimately involved in many domestic and overseas tours....but even if I didn't have that resume, I would still be allowed to have an opinion on this subject.
posted by cooker girl at 11:39 AM on September 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


I don't know why I can't let this go (well, it's raining, coffee's still kicking in, whatever. At least it's not just me.)

It's the scale of things that bother me. I've been listening to and seeing punk/indie/smalltime acts forever- people who tour on a shoestring, people who have dayjobs, people who crashed on our couches for SXSW because they're playing for beer money, And you know, if any of these people were able to say sell $19,000 worth of t-shirts in a day off of Twitter, it would seem a little different. I'd at least expect them to bring some beer, right?

Because otherwise it just does seem *cheap*, and in a gift economy that ain't right. You don't take all that monetized goodwill and go around exploiting people who love you, when it would cost you a comparative pittance to do the right thing.

Odd how the intersection of generally-libertarian rhetoric on here (hey man, if people will do the work for free, then how dare you expect money for it)(not that that's everyone but it is a constant strain from some) collides w/ the OOH Social Media Changes Everything stuff. Because if you take that leap into the future, and get your fans to support you outside the traditional channels, but then turn around and fuck people over like a record company would? That's not change I can believe in.

Well, sure people have free will etc, and golly yeah it's only music we're talking about here, but still: maybe all mammals seem to have a basic conception of fairness. And this seems clearly, obviously unfair.

n.b.- I have no dog in this fight. Don't play strings or horns, am probably the 15,000th best guitarist in Austin on a good day, and nobody will probably ever pay me for it. Still, would do this thing if Fucked Up asked me to, not so for other musicians I love, depending basically on how much the tickets cost, and whether they're millionaires or not. Not marxist, but would rather not be a sucker, either.
posted by hap_hazard at 12:03 PM on September 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


hmm borked the mammals link fwiw
posted by hap_hazard at 12:08 PM on September 14, 2012


You might as well complain that friends or family who babysit for free as a favour are taking away work from professional childminders

But since Amanda Palmer is not your personal friend of family member, wouldn't the analogy be more like babysitting for a child star for free? It would be a kinda cool story to be able to say you once babysat a child star, and you could tell future employers for babysitting gigs, "I babysat [today's equivalent of Haley Joel Osment or whatever]," which might help you get hired, but then again the kid's parents could easily afford to pay a babysitter, so why not?
posted by naoko at 12:10 PM on September 14, 2012


Not at all, as long as they pay the winners at least national minimum wage for performing.

Why?
posted by The World Famous at 17:54 on September 14 [+] [!]

They're working.
posted by tel3path at 17:55 on September 14 [+] [!]



It is quite possible most of the people choosing to participate believe they're playing, not working (pun intended!). Just because some would consider it work doesn't make it so.

Context is important. When the profession in question revolves around an activity that 90% of practitioners do as amateurs for free (some just as talented as professionals) don't expect your word to be law on what those 90% should do and how they should feel about spending their free time.

No one humps tables at pizza places for free in their spare time. Music as well as photography are two examples where there are far more amateurs and grey area 'semi-professionals' than people making a full-time living off of the activity. Comparing them to corporate internships loses important context.

FWIW, I think her offer comes off as offensive. When you ask for something for free you'd better be very tactful if you're going to attempt to demand a certain level of quality. Muddgirls point upthread about barter vs. hard currency plays into this offensiveness. However, saying you find it tacky and offensive is a far stretch from saying everyone should accept it is somehow universally unethical or immoral.
posted by stp123 at 12:32 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also relevant. Not really.
posted by stp123 at 12:37 PM on September 14, 2012


However, saying you find it tacky and offensive is a far stretch from saying everyone should accept it is somehow universally unethical or immoral.

I'm sorry, I've been reading this thread in dribs and drabs and I seem to have missed the point where people were saying this about the guest musicians (vs about Amanda Palmer)?
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:41 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Professional musician here. My feeling is, and has always been: Everyone gets paid or no one gets paid. Amanda Palmer is totally within her rights to do this and I'm sure there are plenty of musicians, even full-time pros who would taker her up on this. But, if I were Amanda Palmer, I would feel very shitty not paying people for this. But, I'm not and she's stated that she feels it's OK. Indeed she feels it's OK to hire and pay people in NYC, whereas in other cities she's fine with not paying them. This strikes me as an odd line to draw in the sand, but there it is.
posted by ob at 12:45 PM on September 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


damehex: “It is not spec work, and it is not internship. It's something different. And everyone who's mad about this can FUCK OFF. I realize that's not a civil way for me to discuss this subject. The amount of bloviation and ignorance in this thread from people who have no toe in the industry has really rubbed me the wrong way.”

Er – I thought most of us complaining here were musicians who are trying to make a living at it, to greater or lesser degrees of success. I guess I missed the part where you checked everybody's cabaret card and made sure they were part of the local musician's union or whatever it is you did to eliminate us from having a "toe in the industry."
posted by koeselitz at 12:59 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


FOR $500 AMANDA WILL CALL YOU TWICE A MONTH AND TELL YOU HOW FUCKING AWESOME HER LIFE IS
posted by ominous_paws at 1:02 PM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


TYR-R: If I'm reading muddgirl and tel3path correctly, they are both claiming it is Wrong in some broader sense, similar to unpaid internships. There was also reference up thread to scabs and the role of the musicians accepting the offer.
posted by stp123 at 1:05 PM on September 14, 2012


I think your assumption that anyone who isn't into this "doesn't have a toe in the industry" is off-base. I've toured, and I've slept on floors.

It is off-base. I spent a lot of my 20s performing, and a lot of my 30s in roots music in kind unique settings, even putting on music festivals for people at every level from worldwide fame/richie rich to penniless Caribbean fishermen, and that's actually where my perspective is coming from. You're making money at a show? Then you pay the people you're asking to perform.

It's not like I don't get the scene. I just don't like her take on it or the way she's messaging about it.
posted by Miko at 1:18 PM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


You're making money at a show? Then you pay the people you're asking to perform.

This is exactly how I feel. I give away my writing to people who don't charge for their publications. If they charge, they pay. It's a matter of respect.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:45 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, I do think it is Wrong to recruit musicians in this way, in both a utilitarian and moral sense. I think it's quite clearly economically abusive and has negative implications beyond the one single gig. The worker is worthy of their hire.

If a musician chose to participate in this, I wouldn't think they were necessarily doing something morally wrong, but I would think they were being very self-defeating and gullible, as well as actively contributing to the depression of their own and other musicians' future wages. If this goes well, it's not something that's going to happen just once.

I understand the concepts of fan work, volunteer work, and professional work done on a shoestring. It doesn't move me to sympathize with someone who has the money to pay all her performers but would prefer only to pay for some of them. The worker is worthy of their hire, even when that means choosing between ploughing the night's profit back into the band or using it to buy a bag of peanuts. It's also clear that our Amanda's budget problems aren't quite at that level any more.
posted by tel3path at 1:46 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


And everyone who's mad about this can FUCK OFF. I realize that's not a civil way for me to discuss this subject.

Realising that it's not civil doesn't excuse loosing your cool in a contentious thread that has gone swimmingly for 500 comments. I think that a) paying the musicians in certain gigs but not the volunteers in others, b) coming from a Kickstarter where the fans covered 300% of her aim for a cd and and tour but not budgeting for a full band, and lastly c) framing it as a favour to her fans -which it partially is- while not acknowledging that these extra musicians are necessary to put on a proper show doesn't paint Amanda Palmer in a great light. You said that musicians depend on the generosity of their fans a lot, so when people think that a musician is not acting very generously towards the fans who are acting generously, it's fair game to discuss it.
posted by ersatz at 2:04 PM on September 14, 2012 [16 favorites]


The way this whole affair is shaping up, playing for AFP on this tour might might not provide the sort of exposure a musician wants - either for the sit-ins or her paid core band.

Nothing as dramatic as blacklisting, but imagine you're a pro, one of the paid ones. With this on your CV, the first question people will ask is "Oh - That tour, where she used amateurs, right? So... were you paid or unpaid?"
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 2:10 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nothing as dramatic as blacklisting, but imagine you're a pro, one of the paid ones. With this on your CV, the first question people will ask is "Oh - That tour, where she used amateurs, right? So... were you paid or unpaid?"

I don't see the problem. You respond that you were paid, and that you expect to be paid for this job, too.
posted by The World Famous at 2:19 PM on September 14, 2012


The trouble is that you usually don't get as far as answering questions about these things in your CV. People will glance at it and assume you were unpaid.
posted by tel3path at 2:22 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The trouble is that you usually don't get as far as answering questions about these things in your CV. People will glance at it and assume you were unpaid.

Why would that matter? And if you're a musician applying for the sort of music job that requires you to submit a written CV, why would you include this gig on the CV at all?
posted by The World Famous at 2:24 PM on September 14, 2012


Yeah, and then you get asked about it the next time as well, and maybe another time, and then you drop it off your resume because the weird amateur/pro mix thing is gonna be the only thing people remember about this tour in a year or so's time - and why have gigs on your card that raise questions?
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 2:27 PM on September 14, 2012


You might be surprised how many music jobs/festival applications/grant applications/studio gigs require a written CV.
posted by Miko at 2:27 PM on September 14, 2012


the weird amateur/pro mix thing is gonna be the only thing people remember

I think the only thing they're going to remember is just what a bad PR move this was for Amanda Palmer. I wouldn't really want to be associated with it. I guess this CV question is only a problem for people who do, and it'll be theirs to deal with.
posted by Miko at 2:29 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I did a gig like this, I would leave it off my CV because I wouldn't be able to claim it as professional experience or as volunteer work.

In general, if I did a gig like this I wouldn't want people to know about it because it would a) discourage them from paying me and b) make me look like a bit of a simpleton.
posted by tel3path at 2:29 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


You might be surprised how many music jobs/festival applications/grant applications/studio gigs require a written CV.

I don't think I would be. I just don't think I'd put this gig on a written CV.
posted by The World Famous at 2:34 PM on September 14, 2012


Whether it's a written CV or something more informal, the point is the 'exposure' that some commenters upthread have pointed to as a valuable outcome for the volunteers might not be that valuable. As for the pros, it's a forgone boost to their rep points. For some of the musicians on the tour, this might be the biggest paid gig they have ever landed, and suddenly, eh, maybe don't mention it?
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 2:37 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I got the impression that the career boost would be from exposure to new potential fans, not as a resume builder.
posted by The World Famous at 2:42 PM on September 14, 2012


But they'd be playing someone else's music in someone else's act. Sure fans could buy the guest musicians' merch, but it's not a trail that would seem to lead directly to the guest musicians' gigs.
posted by tel3path at 2:52 PM on September 14, 2012


But they'd be playing someone else's music in someone else's act. Sure fans could buy the guest musicians' merch, but it's not a trail that would seem to lead directly to the guest musicians' gigs.

Did you see the link above about one of those unpaid performers raising $23,000 on her own Kickstarter project based on the publicity she got from playing for Amanda Palmer?
posted by The World Famous at 2:57 PM on September 14, 2012


Oops - I forgot the italics tag on that first paragraph. Sorry.
posted by The World Famous at 2:57 PM on September 14, 2012


So I guess no one who's condemning her read that link from Amanda Palmer's blog on how the money is being spent.

Especially part where she mentions she's going to probably break even:
to take the band on TOUR to six cities and install the art shows is probably going to break even, but if they don’t sell out (looks like some won’t) we might eat it a little bit on that art tour. let’s say we wind up not selling out berlin and LA. we still have to pay to fly the band, gear, art (carefully!!!) and crew to each city. that difference might sink us about $10k.

Or she could raise the ticket prices, play to a venue with less fans because the prices were too high.

Wait till MeFi finds out about the Family Crest. Six core members and over 250 'Extended Family'. Even on the albums! The horror!
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:57 PM on September 14, 2012


Yeah, I shouldn't be trying to argue that the exposure is useless. Clearly there are musicians who know how to make that work.
posted by tel3path at 3:04 PM on September 14, 2012


Did you see the link above about one of those unpaid performers raising $23,000 on her own Kickstarter project based on the publicity she got from playing for Amanda Palmer?

Good for her! And exposure isn't completely useless (though it might be a bit of a lottery) - it can, and does, lead to people getting breaks. But sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes it's the wrong type of exposure which hurts your career. I'm not sure that this tour is shaping up to provide good exposure for anyone involved.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 3:21 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I guess no one who's condemning her read that link from Amanda Palmer's blog on how the money is being spent.

Wrong guess. People have said that she didn't budget well i.e. didn't plan her expenses properly. The link shows how she's budgeted, so it doesn't refute that argument.

Amanda Palmer: if we keep our expenses down, and keep the tour pretty practical and the video budget way down, i could probably put $100k of this in the bank personally. which would be great. but i might just be close to zero as i head off on tour this fall.

I don't care to get into specifics about how she spends her money. I thought she was a bit cool for the Rebellyon thing and think she's a bit less cool for the way she handled her tour.
posted by ersatz at 3:33 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


how does this differ (besides number of performers) from imogen heap auditioning cellists in a "contest"?
Aha! Cello Contest
Each night on my tour I would really love one of you to come up and play the slightly mad cello part for Aha! with us on stage. We'll go through it once or twice at soundcheck to make sure you/we can hear everything OK.
Download the 'Aha!' cello sheet music in PDF format here.

Auditions will be held online in the comfort of your own home/space via Vokle by me 2 to 3 days prior to the gig in your area. They will be live and public! Please set up a speaker to be playing Aha! in the background while you play along.

We'll let you know the same night if you're playing with us at the gig of your choice.

Good luck! Lots of love xxx
posted by nadawi at 3:43 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the difference here is that those getting paid are those on the full tour with Palmer. The others are city-by-city volunteers.

Not quite. She is paying the non-tour musicians in some cities, like New York, and in others, she's using volunteers. She says this in her response blog post, that it's a city by city thing. My faulty memory was that she wanted to nail the performances in big cities like New York, and was more relaxed about other places and would use volunteers there.

Or maybe some cities have union rules about performances, so everyone stage gets paid?
posted by zippy at 3:56 PM on September 14, 2012


Did y'all see the link above that compared Palmer to the most annoyingly annoying of reedy-voiced, "look at meeeeeeeeee!" high school drama students?

Because if it isn't there then it really should be.
posted by item at 3:57 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


how does this differ (besides number of performers) from imogen heap auditioning cellists in a "contest"?

It doesn't. Imogen Heap should just hire a fucking cellist already. Having people audition and then play for free is a bad trend.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:58 PM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


i guess it seems like a trend i've seen a lot of, but for some reason this specific instance of has caused a firestorm. is it that the kickstarter got so much press? that people love to hate amanda palmer? something about this specific case that sets it apart from other indie+ level acts who do the same thing?
posted by nadawi at 4:02 PM on September 14, 2012


Auditioning people to play for free is not different just because it's done by Imogen Heap, no.

The same action, done by two different people, can get very different reactions, and apparently Amanda Palmer is widely considered annoying in ways Imogen Heap isn't, therefore apparently Imogen Heap gets away with it.

I also notice that Imogen Heap doesn't mention payment at all, so it's not obvious that she's asking people to work for free.
posted by tel3path at 4:04 PM on September 14, 2012


For some reason this specific instance of has caused a firestorm.

Amanda Palmer has a huge online presence, so awareness of this instance is high. She also seems to be something of a polarising figure, with people willing to put a large amount of energy/effort into defending or attacking anything associated with her. Plus, it's an instance of a scary trend, where jobs you'd love seem to be increasingly rescast as a jobs you do for love.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 4:12 PM on September 14, 2012


People have said that she didn't budget well i.e. didn't plan her expenses properly.

So everyone who did raise objections is in a currently touring/recording music act and knows how much this producing an album and going on tour costs?

Also the outlays seem to completely contradict that Amanda is stingy because those costs are going in the pocket of artists, graphic designers, recording engineers, CD/LP manufacturing plant workers, printers, publicists, tour mangers, band mangers, airlines workers, stage hands, rental companies, instrument makers, hotel workers, infinium ad nauseum.

A TRUMPET AND STRING PLAYER SIT IN A FOR A SONG OR TWO? OBVIOUSLY SHE HATES PAYING PEOPLE FOR ANYTHING. SHE'S A DRAMA WITCH!

/sarcasm

Did you know most ushers at large concerts/venues are volunteers? Where's the outrage for that? If its a job worth doing, its worth paying for, right?
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:15 PM on September 14, 2012


'Seem' seems to be my crutchword. Ugh.
posted by Ripper Minnieton at 4:15 PM on September 14, 2012


I had never heard of Imogen Heap's use of free musicians in her otherwise-paid band until now. If anything that makes it more alarming since it shows it's more of a trend rather than a little experiment by Palmer.
posted by grouse at 4:17 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did you know most ushers at large concerts/venues are volunteers? Where's the outrage for that? If its a job worth doing, its worth paying for, right?

I'm not sure where you're getting this information.

1. if the venue is a nonprofit, there can be volunteers.
2. If it's an arena, stadium, club, etc., there are paid staff.
3. It's a lot easier to learn a seating plan and direct people to their seats than it is to learn to play a musical instrument capably.
posted by Miko at 4:38 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the comments on her blog:
Having taken part in two (ish) of these things as an unpaid musician ,im probably in a good position to comment!
Crowd-sourcing fan-musicians is all well and good to promote an awesome feeling of inclusion - i volunteered as an open suggestion to play back in 2009, way before any of the grand theft stuff and (as i put on twitter earlier today) i honestly had the time of my life! I got to share a stage with my idol and i will NEVER forget it!
Fast forward to 2011 and i applied once again and was accepted to play as part of a show. £100 in travel costs and a VERY short runthrough later and we're told we're being replaced by a different horn section. Ouch.
Yes it was a huge show, yes there was a lot at stake but i will never forget that show for the sad reason that we werent deemed good enough. My point? If you want Real Professionals (which i believe is the familiar point made in the blog), pay for them.

Im glad the chance to get this off my chest came up, its been breaking my heart for a year. Yes i funded the kickstarter, i will always admire you and follow you, but as for seeing another live gig, i cant. Havent played trumpet since.

H xxx
Comparing that to this from Amanda Palmer paints a pretty grim picture:
sometimes it’s a lot of work. and every night, we work with who and what we’ve got. and it’s a risk, a game we love playing. it isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. and i wouldn’t have it any other way. i’ve met some fantastic people through it.

and honestly: i’d take a less experienced horn player who was overjoyed to be on stage for the fun and experience over the pro who’s clocking in to get paid and doesn’t care about me or my band any night of the week."
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:10 PM on September 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


That's always the trouble with mixing the personal and the professional. This woman obviously took this at the most personal level, got her feelings hurt and her self-esteem torn to shreds over what should have been a professional decision. And then she has to take responsibility for her own hurt feelings, because hey, that's the business, and it's presumably her fault for being too much of a squeeing fangirl and too emotional.

There's a certain type of person who likes to do business with friends, or cultivate personal relationships with their business contacts, and then exploit the best of both worlds at others' expense. They make claims on you as a friend (or in this case as a fan), you go above and beyond, get damaged, and you are responsible for picking up the pieces because you have the responsibilities of a professional. It's as if they were keeping a balance sheet where your additions column doesn't count.
posted by tel3path at 5:37 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


There's something just very ungenerous about posturing like that to your fan community. "You grok what you're doing, you're cool enough, or you're not. Only a douche would ask to be paid when we're offering you something so amazing as being seen with us."

It's structuring opportunity for others from a very privileged position. That there are people who want to play along is neither here nor there. There will always be such people; you come to take it for granted. But what kind of statement are you making about yourself, and the role of someone with fame and power, by taking that position?
posted by Miko at 7:18 PM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


So everyone who did raise objections is in a currently touring/recording music act and knows how much this producing an album and going on tour costs?

Probably not, but if* she cannot afford to pay some of the musicians, one doesn't need to be an active touring/recording musician to point that out. Just like one don't need to be a minister of finance to point out the deficit in a country's budget. However, a lot of people here are musicians or have seen bands record/tour without a million dollars. It's great that Amanda Palmer pays all sorts of people for recording or touring; that doesn't contradict supporting that she should also pay all her musicians.

*even though she can 'free up the budget' for important shows.
posted by ersatz at 7:18 PM on September 14, 2012


That, and you don't have to write arrangements for your tour that require "seven or eight" string and horn players. That's one reason it's pretty expensive to hire a swing-style big band! That's a lot of people to pay.

You do the tour, and the arrangements, you can staff to.

If you can't afford the arrangements you feel you must have, let me introduce you to the Macbook.
posted by Miko at 7:24 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


There no clear way of working out if what they mean is "please don't waste our time if you can't cope with a band situation", or "if you are not up to proper professional scratch, despite our paying you no money, we will be dicks to you". Although I have my suspicions.

I don't know about Amanda, but Jherek is a total sweetheart and I'm really having a hard time imagining him being a dick to someone who just wasn't as good as they thought they were. Especially since I've seen him do an opening set with new material on an instrument he clearly wasn't very comfortable with, and bomb. I've also seen him play a set with his nose running with snot from the crying he did while talking about his experience in the community of artists and musicians that has coalesced around Jason Webley over the last dozen years, at the afterparty for Jason's going-on-hiatus show. The man is full of love. I will brook no intimations that he'd be a dick to a fan.
posted by hades at 7:50 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The man is full of love.

If only he called the shots in this band.
posted by Miko at 8:05 PM on September 14, 2012


Just wanted to add this conversation, from Nick Mamatas' blog comments here. It's a good one, and compares the situation to that of freelance writing.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:09 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The comments in that thread are really good.
posted by Miko at 8:17 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


She is telling people exactly what they will get out of it. If they don't like the deal, they don't have to show up. People are making their own decision to join her onstage because they like her and they think it will be a fun experience. Not sure what the problem is.
posted by Catbunny at 8:51 PM on September 14, 2012


I'm not bothering to critique the people opting in There are any number of idiosyncratic reasons why people would accept this deal. I'm critiquing her. She should know better, and given her position, should do better.
posted by Miko at 8:55 PM on September 14, 2012


She should know better, and given her position, should do better.

I guess my whole reluctance to jump on one side or the other comes from my gut-level assumption that no, she does not actually know better. She's made a successful career doing stuff like this - asking for ridiculous things, banking on her personal fame/appeal/likeability, taking what people offer freely. She's been rewarded for that behavior for a long, long time. She's never been given the slightest reason to consider anything from anyone else's perspective, because in her world, people give her shit, and to all appearances are delighted by the opportunity to do so. Sure, no doubt people fade away after a while, and I bet she's been accused of all sorts of things by friends right before they become un-friends, but there is a never-ending supply of people to replace them. So this must be how it works, right?

Yeah, I'm totally projecting. I worked for a woman who was a professional musician from high school on. This was the dynamic in her life. This is the way things always worked. On a business level, she's savvy and professional and knows how the game is played. On a personal level... well, she has her worldview, and you can buy into it or not, but you'll never in a million years convince her it's wrong, because it's working for her.

And I think this is a symptom of a lot of systemic things that are unpleasant. I think there's sexism involved, for sure - the kind of sexism where a woman needs to use her charm to get things because no one's going to give them to her on merit, or believe she got them any other way, so she may as well bat her eyes and go for it. I think the economics of musicianship are terrible, the lack of health insurance is a crime, and it's not a career I would wish on my worst fucking enemy. I think music is at the forefront of the first world's transition to an attention economy, and it's a hellish place to be - riding that wave is rife with insecurity, danger, and the historically-unique opportunity to fuck up in real time in front of everyone in a way that people can reference forevermore with five seconds of effort.

So no, I don't think she's doing the right thing here. But I really think that's the symptom of a larger problem, one I have no idea how to fix. Maybe the next generation of musicians will have some of this sorted out, and if they do, I think it will be in part because people like Amanda Palmer are fucking up in interesting and highly visible ways right now.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:12 PM on September 14, 2012 [19 favorites]


She is telling people exactly what they will get out of it. If they don't like the deal, they don't have to show up. People are making their own decision to join her onstage because they like her and they think it will be a fun experience. Not sure what the problem is.

Hooray for not misleading people. Hooray for not forcing people to do things. Unfortunately, those are not the only crappy things that people can do.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:13 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The most charming boss gets the best scabs. But I still spit on scabs.
posted by mobunited at 9:58 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why you're calling these musicians scabs. Maybe it's a usage of the term I'm just not familiar with. Can you explain? Is someone on strike?
posted by The World Famous at 10:30 PM on September 14, 2012


From the comments on that Nick Mamatas piece:

A man called the local musicians union to arrange a six-piece band for a wedding. He asked the rep how much it would cost.
"Well, this isn't the final figure," the rep said, "but off the top of my head, maybe $2000."
"$2000?" the man scoffs. "For music??"
"Tell you what. Call the plumber's union. Ask for six plumbers to work a Friday or weekend night from 6pm to 2pm. Whatever they want to charge you, we'll work for half that."
posted by gauche at 10:54 PM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


... no, she does not actually know better. She's made a successful career doing stuff like this - asking for ridiculous things, banking on her personal fame/appeal/likeability, taking what people offer freely. She's been rewarded for that behavior for a long, long time....

You're right about that. It's probably a huge blind spot, which must be why she's so gobsmacked, and seems to keep digging.

I think music is at the forefront of the first world's transition to an attention economy, and it's a hellish place to be

Well, this is one reason I think the project is especially shoddily constructed. Given that we've all accepted that we can't make money as musicians by selling recorded artifacts, the main avenue left to monetize music is touring and live performance. That means it's the last best hope of making some money at this venture for many musicians. As others have noted, making and performing music is expensive to do - expensive to learn, expensive equipment, requires upfront cash investment - and it's hard work, with a fair amount of physical labor like humping equipment around. Live performance, with its structure of exchange involving ticket or door sales and direct access to a merch-buying crowd and sometimes other perks and incentives - is one of the only remaining ways to subsidize a music habit -- if not actually get anywhere with the enterprise. Palmer's proposal here is eating away at the foundations of that last remaining functional music economy.

Despite her passion for community and collaboration, we still don't see her giving the show tickets away for free. She understands that performing live is where a musician can finally make some money that will allow them to keep making music. That's why it's particularly undermining of her not to recognize that's true for other musicians as well.
posted by Miko at 7:46 AM on September 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


You know, her defense has actually changed my stance to be against her to some extent, because it makes it clear that in some places, those musicians are being paid, and in others, they're not. So what she's going for is definitely not just joyful fan participation, to be paid for with the attention of her fans. If that were the goal some of the time, that should be enough payment all of the time.

Which markets get paid musicians and which don't seems to be a function of what shows she considers more "important," probably because they're bigger venues and more likely to be attended by critics. The inconsistent handling gives me a skeevier vibe out of it than "We're reserving these slots for fans and aspiring musicians, because ART."
posted by Andrhia at 9:12 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


...should be "If that were the goal, that should be enough..." Sigh.
posted by Andrhia at 9:12 AM on September 15, 2012


$1.2M isn't that much in the context of putting together an album and a tour.

The Yeah Yeah Yeah's last album had a production budget of about $80,000.

Granted, there are other expenses such as manufacturing, publicity, etc. but come on.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:40 PM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Which markets get paid musicians and which don't seems to be a function of what shows she considers more "important"

I'm wondering if it may also be a union or local law thing, like "if we use unpaid musicians on stage in NYC, the Teamsters might not unload our equipment."
posted by zippy at 4:44 PM on September 15, 2012


the young rope-rider: No, avoid saying things that strongly imply that people who want artists to be paid are venal, greedy, joyless, only care about money and not about art, etc. etc. etc.

Basic logic: my saying I have done something for free because it brings me joy is in no way a claim or an implication that people who do a similar thing and get paid don't experience joy either.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:00 PM on September 15, 2012


Steve Albini has expanded, at least twice, on his original comments.

Excerpts:

[S]ince the new journalism is just re-posting what other people have lifted from message boards and twitter, there are probably going to be a hundred or so stories [with] headlines like 'Steve Albini calls Amanda Palmer an Idiot,' so I'd better make my position on that clear. I don't think Amanda Palmer is an idiot...

* * *

Fuck's sake a million dollars is a shitload of money. How can you possibly not have a bunch laying around after people just gave you a million dollars? I saw a breakdown ... and most everything in it was absurdly inefficient, including paying people to take care of spending the money itself ... a crazy moebius strip of waste.

* * *

On the part of [fans wanting to play for free] I totally understand and sympathize with this impulse. That's starkly different from a millionaire asking people to do things for free, under the guise that she is giving them something by indulging them. It's cheapness repainted as generosity and it's gross.... It's one of the things I hated most about the old-school record business, the practice of fucking with people who loved music so much they would put up with endless greed and abuse just to be a part of it. A new music business paradigm, if it is worth anything, should strive to be free of exploitation and be honest about its motives.

* * *

Given that the typical budget for albums I work on is less than $10,000, you can take your pick of line-items in her budget, divide by ten and still have an order of magnitude worth of waste from my perspective[....] she skimmed a couple hundred grand off the top for her pleasure prior to beginning to make the record. That alone is enough to make the record of your dreams a couple times over and seems like a straight-up "fuck you" to everybody who pledged money to the project.

posted by zippy at 2:27 AM on September 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


Inverting an advert to "come and work for free to promote yourself" can sometimes be illuminating.
posted by Wordshore at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


amanda palmer talks about the blow back.
posted by nadawi at 9:03 PM on September 16, 2012


This is more press than she's gotten in eons. Or at least since she was running around naked at the MFA.
posted by Miko at 9:08 PM on September 16, 2012


ever get the feeling that you've been cheated?
posted by hap_hazard at 3:32 AM on September 17, 2012


Of course the ugliness is outta line, but her last couple lines, "stay with us. and do me a favor….keep talking about the music."

C'mon.

The controversy's about her choice(s) so I can see why she wants people to keep talking about the music.
posted by ambient2 at 3:58 AM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


nadawi: "amanda palmer talks about the blow back."

"this is the nerve we’ve struck. and i am a really convenient target at the moment. "

welp.
posted by boo_radley at 8:41 AM on September 17, 2012


I love how she goes on and on about how scared musicians are and how hostile the climate is and STILL isn't connecting the dots. The real victim is her, so misunderstood.
posted by Miko at 9:24 AM on September 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


"this is the nerve we’ve struck. and i am a really convenient target at the moment. "

Sounds like Todd Akin.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:51 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like Todd Akin.
that's straight up ridiculous.
posted by nadawi at 12:16 PM on September 17, 2012


Justmy2c. Her response made me think of him.

I actually support Palmer's position (see above) and don't support Akin's, of course, but the responses seems similar to me:

"A lot of negativity has been driven my way by the liberal elite."

or

"I apologized but the liberal media is trying to make me drop out."

vs.

"this is the nerve we’ve struck. and i am a really convenient target at the moment."

Neither one seems willing to acknowledge their detractors' main points (respectively, rape victims do get pregnant and performing musicians in paid concerts should get paid)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:52 PM on September 17, 2012


you can't divorce them from their positions or their place in the conversation about women's access to basic medical care. you might as well go ahead and godwin the thread. there are a million places you can go to find someone who responded to a dust up by claiming they're a lightning rod. there is zero need to muddy the waters with a shitheel like todd akin.
posted by nadawi at 1:09 PM on September 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


From her response:
a lot of musicians really don’t know where their next paychecks are going to be coming from.
and everyone has a different approach.
It's true! Some people are even asking professional-ish musicians to play at their gigs for free. (Except in some important cities, like New York where they can "free up the budget.")

Followed immediately by:

this is the nerve we’ve struck.
And at the end by:
i promise i won’t feed the trolls.
I can't tell whether she is really that clueless about the whole thing, or just masterfully trolling for more free publicity.
posted by usonian at 2:27 PM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't see this as very difficult to parse. AFP is union-busting on a micro scale, regardless of how she presents this to the world.

If she really wants a raw sound, require her paid, professional musicians to show up an hour before the show and put six bottles of Patron and a case of beer in the green room. It'll look like the WWE up on that stage, if my experience playing shows is any measurement.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:26 AM on September 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Veteran rock writer Ed Ward enters this mess with some interesting points.
posted by Isadorady at 8:33 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


And now, Xeni at BoingBoing wades-in, playing the sexism card. Good. Fucking. Grief.
Oh, and selectively deleting posts calling her on it, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:10 AM on September 19, 2012


Oh, and selectively deleting posts calling her on it, too.

I stopped reading Boing years ago during the Xeni/VB nonsense entirely over their comment-handling. I don't love this "disemvoweling" approach but I'm a believer in more comment moderation rather than less, so while I'm more in the delete-it camp I'm okay with it.

What I'm not okay with is the way they'll pull that on PIECES of comments, which offends my sensibilities. Going through feedback and trimming bits and pieces not only changes the total meaning without the writer's consent but it fails to even accomplish the goal of improving behavior; people know they can rave and potentially only get their most egregious bits trimmed.

It's their sandbox and they can run it how they like but I find it distasteful.
posted by phearlez at 9:34 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


playing the sexism card.

I thought the more effective point she made was that since Palmer did the Kickstarter she has hundreds of not thousands of people feeling like they own a piece of this whole endeavor. It's the classic WWIC problem. I think the only sexism angle is that more men aren't called out for doing pretty much identical things. My take on Amanda is that this isn't a direction she tends to go in.

And maybe skipping the "I hate BoingBoing's moderation policies" rants unless they have something to do with this thread would be a good idea.
posted by jessamyn at 9:38 AM on September 19, 2012


amanda palmer referred to two star symphony as "crowd sourced strings." someone asked them if they were doing it for free - they said - "Nope, she pays now! " this is a market not generally associated with the arts (houston) so this particular tempest might be quietly over.
posted by nadawi at 10:44 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


now straight from AFP
for better or for worse, this whole kerfuffle has meant i’ve spent the past week thinking hard about this, listening to what everyone was saying and discussing. i hear you. i see your points. me and my band have discussed it at length. and we have decided we should pay all of our guest musicians. we have the power to do it, and we’re going to do it. (in fact, we started doing it three shows ago.)

my management team tweaked and reconfigured financials, pulling money from this and that other budget (mostly video) and moving it to the tour budget. 
all of the money we took out of those budgets is going to the crowd-sourced musicians fund. we are going to pay the volunteer musicians every night. even though they volunteered their time for beer, hugs, merch, free tickets, and love: we’ll now also hand them cash.
posted by nadawi at 2:30 PM on September 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


we’re also retroactively sending a payment to the folks who’ve already played with us.

I think that post definitely shows her intent to be genuine in all of this. It's also a good show of goodwill as far as talking about this as conversation over difficult issues.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:36 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good.
posted by tel3path at 2:39 PM on September 19, 2012


I thought the more effective point she made was that since Palmer did the Kickstarter she has hundreds of not thousands of people feeling like they own a piece of this whole endeavor.

Which is a point Steve Albini made somewhat as well.
posted by drezdn at 2:39 PM on September 19, 2012


me and my band have discussed it at length. and we have decided we should pay all of our guest musicians. we have the power to do it, and we’re going to do it. (in fact, we started doing it three shows ago.)

That's a fantastic outcome and an important statement. Glad to see it.
posted by Miko at 2:42 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The true mark of A Good Human is to be able to gracefully amend your actions and/or opinions when you're in the wrong. It's remarkable how many folks can't do this. Good for AFP.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:43 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good for her. Having your whole tour slightly marred by a bunch of folks at every single participatory joyfully noisy show talking about money stuff seems like a problem worth paying to have go away. I think this is the right, though not easiest, decision.
posted by jessamyn at 2:43 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And maybe skipping the "I hate BoingBoing's moderation policies" rants unless they have something to do with this thread would be a good idea.

*looks over shoulder to complete absence of anyone else*

Oops.

Sorry. It gets me cranked up :( Thumb back in mouth now.
posted by phearlez at 2:52 PM on September 19, 2012


that video at the end is fantastic. here is the map of tasmania cover that is referenced in it.
posted by nadawi at 3:03 PM on September 19, 2012


"We have the power to do it, and we're going to" is exactly what I was hoping to hear. I see there's lingering bitterness over this on my corner of the twitters, and while maybe you shouldn't have to be told that paying people is right thing to do when you can afford it and they're working for you, what's she supposed to do now other than what she's doing? I'm glad that she's come around on it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:22 PM on September 19, 2012


She got a lot of inappropriate emails and silly guff over this, even if I disagreed with her original stance. To be able to turn around from that and make a measured decision like this is really big of her. I have a newfound respect for Amanda Palmer.
posted by koeselitz at 3:24 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Glad she made the right decision in the end. That's what everyone wanted. It's a great object lesson for anyone else who thinks of doing this.
posted by grouse at 3:40 PM on September 19, 2012


Yup. She put her money where her mouth is. The only way to make an interactive relationship with your fans real is to allow it to affect your decision making, and that's exactly what she's done. I'm impressed, I guess because not being full of shit sometimes seems like such a rare quality.
posted by howfar at 3:42 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cool that's she's paying them now... although I don't think she says how much, hopefully it's the going rate. And there's a ton of passive aggression in that statement.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:56 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cool that's she's paying them now... although I don't think she says how much, hopefully it's the going rate. And there's a ton of passive aggression in that statement.
posted by fearfulsymmetry


Eponysterical irony!
posted by howfar at 4:21 PM on September 19, 2012


Glad to hear she's paying now.
posted by drezdn at 7:21 PM on September 19, 2012


Yeah, good for her. It takes a lot to reverse course like that in public and she deserves some kudos. Whoever has some residual bitterness over this should think of it as a victory for civil, respectful discourse and move on.
posted by gauche at 8:59 PM on September 19, 2012


Good on her. That's a pretty brave switch of direction, and the right thing to do.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:02 AM on September 20, 2012


Yeah, but will she do the right thing and provide royalties from her STOP PRETENDING ART IS HARD t-shirt to the original artist, who is now asserting she should share in benefits?
posted by phearlez at 1:47 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am still trying to figure out if that shirt is deliberately ambiguous.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:40 PM on September 20, 2012


i think she both ironically and unironically loves the restoration. i do think she genuinely feels it's better and a net good (because it has lots of people talking about art).

what's interesting to me about the shirt is that the art that was floating around while it was being brainstormed was (i feel) better/cleaner, and on the image of the shirt it looks worse - unintentional (?) meta-commentary abounds...
posted by nadawi at 3:44 PM on September 20, 2012


The problem was her critics (and lord, there were quite a few of those) were blinded by all the money she had, especially when comparing it to the money they had.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:45 PM on September 22, 2012


wow, what happened to boingboing?
posted by boo_radley at 11:10 AM on September 24, 2012


Boo, what are you talking about?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:27 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


honestly, it's a recognition that I haven't visited boingboing in about three years. Sorry for the noise. :(
posted by boo_radley at 4:08 PM on September 24, 2012


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