Who killed Amanda Palmer’s career?

Hey, here’s a question. Can anyone out there name one crowdsourced ad that has been good? Well, there's Silk's Bukkake Ad! Oh wait. That sucked.

How about The Obama Poster design? Well...that seemed to have gotten bad press, since it was an unpaid solicitation to create a jobs poster.

Why would they be upset? Is it because crowd sourcing is nothing more than a cynical ploy to get free work? Or in the case of at least one ad agency, you actually pay them to work? Is it because asking someone to give up their talents for free, no matter how you spin it, is a shitty thing to do?

Yes indeed. And it’s also why the American Federation of Musicians of the U.S. And Canada have started a petition in the hopes of getting Dresden Doll and singer extraordinaire, Amanda Palmer, to pay her musicians.

According to AFM’s petition,

After raising almost $1.2 million for her new album and tour on Kickstarter, Amanda Palmer put out a call for "professional-ish" musicians to volunteer to rehearse and perform in her Grand Theft Orchestra. In return, Palmer says, "We will feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down, give you merch, and thank you mightily."

Let's start with the obvious. Palmer raised $1.2 million in advance for her new album and accompanying tour, yet says that she can't afford the $35,000 needed to hire musicians. That doesn't pass the smell test.

The petition mentions a New York Times Article that shows other musicians and their unions are none too pleased about it either.

As for Palmer, the Times quoted her as rejecting the criticism outright:

“If you could see the enthusiasm of these people, the argument would become invalid,” she said. “They’re all incredibly happy to be here.”

Yes. Just like it’s a privilege for you to beg your way into an agency internship. Or pitch against dozens of other creatives, at some "new model" agencies. This is of course, assuming your work gets chosen. Otherwise you're S.O.L.

It doesn’t help that musicians are the ones most upset at Palmer, including Steve Albini
who zinged her with this:

I have no problem with bands using participant financing schemes like Kickstarter and such. I've said many times that I think they're part of the new way bands and their audience interact and they can be a fantastic resource, enabling bands to do things essentially in cooperation with their audience. It's pretty amazing actually.
It should be obvious also that having gotten over a million dollars from such an effort that it is just plain rude to ask for further indulgences from your audience, like playing in your backing band for free.
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 about where the money went a while ago, and most everything in it was absurdly inefficient, including paying people to take care of spending the money itself, which seems like a crazy moebius strip of waste.

The burn caught up to Palmer enough, and enough criticism was hurled her
way it prompted her to write a blog post that can only be described as the poster child for circumlocution, in which she kinda, sorta doesn’t really apologize at all for her actions.

Sifting through it, here are some choice nuggets:

(her caps, not mine) YOU HAVE TO LET ARTISTS MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS ABOUT HOW THEY SHARE THEIR TALENT AND TIME.

Ah yes, it's the great excuse. Look no one HAS to play with me for free. They just have to play for free if they want to play with me. It's their choice.

(her lower case, not mine) " here’s another good way of thinking about it: 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. "

Ah so in addition to playing for free, we should also cook for you. That's a rich magical feast indeed. And who doesn't love patronage?

" The volunteer musicians have been the same. We’ve been doing this for over a year now. Sometimes we get seasoned pros, sometimes we get people who barely play at a high school level. 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 worth it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve met some fantastic people through it. "

I guess she's never heard the adage: you get what you pay for. But just as an ad agency is wrong when they adopt the “it’s a privilege to work for us,” attitude, it’s just as wrong of her to do the same thing. And playing the martyr about the whole thing is ridiculous.

I suspect, she doesn't realize how incredibly defensive she sounds with her “butt outta my business,” attitude. Guess what, Amanda? You made it our business when we funded your music.

What’s sad to me is how in the face of such criticism, instead of taking to her blog to right was has become a social media fiasco, she decides instead to further sully the Amanda Palmer brand by attempting to hide behind self-righteousness, and the ‘the freedom to choose.’

She’s lucky to have people still willing to share the stage with her at this point. We'll see how her tour with the appropriately named Grand Theft Orchestra does.

But if the petition against her is any indication, those "volunteers" may be a lot harder to come by.


Updates!

Amanda Palmer Update - thanks to a tip from a musician friend, we were pointed to an excellent post by a producer, mixer and audio engineer, named Justin Colletti. And surprise surprise, he thinks the same thing we do. Please read the full Amanda Palmer Update here.
And here's the final update, nary a week later, where Amanda Palmer caves, pays her musicians, and spins it as kindness on her part.


about the author

kidsleepy CD copywriter with 18 years experience who has worked in many cities including New York, Atlanta, Montreal and currently Los Angeles. I snark because I care.

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