It’s Amanda Palmer day, here at Collapse Board
You knew we’d go for this one, didn’t you?
It’s a mistake to write musicians and band out of the payment equation, and it’s a complete insult to do so when you’re making money off of their work. Stiffing the musicians who make you look good and put money in your hands is not punk rock, and it’s not crowd-sourcing. It’s just old-fashioned exploitation.
Maximising profit is the name of the game. Punk or not, that is a damn fact.
Amanda looks bad cos we all know she got a huge amount of hard cash pumped into her project. It’s a matter of public record. But I bet, in response to that, the project has also gotten proportionally bigger. Compared to major label budgets for the world’s top artists – marketing and tour support being the two most important ones – she’s still gonna have to work really hard to keep this thing alive without a label. And that means saving money where ever she can and being the bitch. Madonna does it with a big red pen. Mick Jagger still claims his national pension … The fact that her fan-base is so strong that she is able to rely on them for all her resources is wonderful. They want her to fill their demand for her product. So that’s their choice.
I too have asked talented people to work for me for free (witness this very website). I too am aware that when money enters the equation it fucks the shit up out of everything. Are you simply being penalised for your transparency? No one’s gone after the Olympics for their armies of volunteers. And I strongly suspect the imbalance is way greater there.
There’s been a lot of heated debate around these three posts – and obviously elsewhere on the Internet. Here’s a comment from Lucy Cage left on the third one that I thought was particularly interesting:
I like these questions and yes, I do think she is being penalised for her transparency. I think she is being publicly (and quite virulently) shamed because she is upfront about making money out of music.
Here’s a fact: the current music business paradigm is fucked.
Here’s another one: that is not Amanda Palmer’s fault.
It is not her responsibility that capitalism fucks people over and there is not (yet) a straightforward, equitable way for everyone who creates art to be fairly compensated for their time, energy, enthusiasm and creativity. She is very clear about the fact she is trying to work out another way of doing things, one that doesn’t involve record companies and middlemen, and humble about the fact that it may not be perfect and may not work for everyone.
She is also clear about the fact that she is not asking anyone else to do the same as her and to play endless guerilla or benefit gigs for free or to give their music away for nothing as she chooses to do or to work outside the confines of a traditional record label set-up. The fact she is trying to find a new, practical and accountable way to make a living in her exploitative, deceitful, inequitable industry seems a brave and honourable thing to do.
Nor is she expecting anyone to play for her for free or demanding anything from anyone; she’s offering an invitation that she herself would be prepared to accept from other musicians. (In Brighton last year no one turned up to play horns on a particular song: they did it without the extra musicians. It was fine.) She pays her collaborators whenever the budget allows it and – unlike the vast majority of people working in the industry – is honest about who and how much she pays.
The Kickstarter million is a red herring: she certainly hasn’t just pocketed it. Read about the breakdown of where it all went on her blog.
But most crucially of all people who are lambasting her are turning a blind eye to the reason most artists create things: the absolute fucking joy of it. The love of music, of writing, of making art. Capitalism doesn’t make space for this. Creative fulfillment is outside of its parameters. That’s capitalism’s fault not the fault of the people who write or create or paint because otherwise their heads would turn inside out. I wish everyone would stop shaming the musicians who chose to get up on stage with her and have a ball; they can make their own decisions about what they do with their own talent. If they’ve done the maths and judged that the fun and the pleasure (not just exposure) they’d gain from playing in a big show with an artist they admire is worth their time and effort then really that’s their business.
Claiming that all artistic activity associated with a financial situation deserves to be compensated in hard cash is missing the point; the market forces us to be disingenuous about the situation, to pretend that there is no reward in fun, love, creative fulfillment, companionship, community, pleasure in one’s craft etc. Artists have more need of financial protection because it is so difficult for them in this current system to make a living but plenty of other activities that are conventionally carried out in return for money are also done for love or for the benefit of the community (I have friends who do other friend’s accounts because they love them: is that scab behaviour too?). Artistic endeavour is just one of the more obviously problematic examples because artists are so routinely fucked over, more so than plumbers or engineers; it’s horrendously difficult to be a salaried artist or a adequately-paid writer. The fact that artists, writers and musicians do not have enough money to pay their rent is the fault of the fucked system not the fault of other artists, writers and musicians who do not get paid for their work and do it anyway.
I saw an anti-Amanda blog on the Huffington Post of all places: the site that notoriously makes its fortune by not paying its writers. To me, being complicit in propping up the HuffPo is much more dodgy than Amanda Palmer putting a call out for people to join her on stage but I still think people have a right to hand over their words to line Arianna’s pockets if they want to do so. I got called a scab once for writing for this (resolutely uncommercial) site for no financial reward; if I wrote for a ad-funded music site for free as plenty of my peers are doing, would I be complicit in cheating every other freelance music writer out of their next meal? Maybe I would. Maybe that would deserve as much scorn and loathing as AFP has attracted. But the fact remains that *all* artists work/have worked outside of the financial model at some point because the financial model does not account for love.