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:


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.


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.

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Sad I clicked here's picture

This is a horrible and utterly ridiculous post. AFP is not defined by this "skim the surface" bullshit. Stay negative kidsleepy.

kidsleepy's picture

Wat a truly insightful comment, @Sad I Clicked Here.
SO sorry you don't like the fact an artist raises 1.2 million for herself, but somehow doesn't have enough funds left over to pay her fellow musicians, and asks for them to work for free for the privilege of being on stage sharing some laughs with the all mighty AFP. Tell me, if this isn't what defines a person's character, what is? That sounds more negative than any of us who point it out. Exploitation is exploitation no matter how someone spins it.

AnonymousCoward's picture

The link I clicked on to get to this page had a completely different title than the article's title...Really I have no idea who this artist is and I don't really care either.

Also I think this article misses the bigger picture. People are outraged at this? Are you kidding? What world have they been living in? This kind of thing is completely normal now. I'm not saying it's right, or fair, but I've seen this in many many industries. I've seen this exploit volunteers model in everything from cooking companies to health and wellness companies to psychic reading businesses. And on some level the volunteers are learning and getting experience FOR THEMSELVES (not for anyone else or to move up in their career)...

The only difference is that it sounds like a bunch of people are pissed they paid for this to happen. Look around, so many people are doing this volunteer crap nowadays that unless you're running your own business you probably aren't going to be in a position to profit.

AnonymousCoward's picture

That 1.2 million may be hers as of now but it took thousands, tens of thousands and millions of people to produce "her income" and for her to act so glutinous about such charity as i see this, well she doesn't deserve to be where she is, not only has she embarrassed the local music scene she has embarrassed artists all around whether they make millions or 10 bucks... Volunteering is an expected thing apparently in her eyes but i doubt she volunteers to play shows or to preform for sick children etc.... just another artist who is caught up in this bullshit lets make millions for something i enjoy doing, her HOBBY at that..... As a musician i wouldn't support anything to do with her, i wouldn't even take a first glance at her music after doing some research on her, just rude and well another self absorbed person within the music industry.... how awesome, and also the reason we pirate our music solely, and for me i've met many bands and its taken till those approaches for me to decided whether i will buy there music or just download it and for her shes a download nothing more and definitely nothing out of my pocket... Selfish just plain selfish

persephone111's picture

Amanda Palmer is glutinous? omg

Stephen Johnston's picture

If people funded it, and she didn't lie, then how the creates the music is up to her.

Carol Forte's picture

Truly embarrassing. I find it amazing that she has the gull to ask fro money with full knowledge that these 24,000+ people are doing so with the thought that their money will go towards building a quality band and studio, etc and then to find out this smug jerk of a performer was putting on a ruse to get free money. I'd be surprised she even brings out a new album at all.

One thing is for sure she is unlikely to get any more donations in the future. But then she will just change her name and do it again.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Her music is truly awful

Sam B's picture

So Amanda Palmer is looking for an band composed of some kind of mythical people who aren't playing music for the money? Who are doing it for some kind of...fun? That complete and utter bi...



So basically, as I understand it Amanda Palmer said:
'Hey, local, music-playing fans, come rock out with me. I will feed you, and it'll be something to tell the grandkids.'
A whole bunch o' people volunteered. And the internet had a hissy fit, because the idea of somebody having more money than them offends them on a deep, personal level.

As someone who's roadied an orchestra, I can tell you it costs a shed-load of money: far more than you'd ever imagine. Get enough decent-quality musical instruments together in one place and the insurance alone is eye-watering. Amanda Palmer wanted to get some fans involved for the tour. Good for her.

And just for the record: AP's not hiding behind 'freedom to choose'. She doesn't have to hide shit. Every single member of her orchestra is there because they chose to be. They weren't tricked, they weren't rounded up with wire whips, they wanted to be a part of the experience. And good for them, too.

kidsleepy's picture

If someone wants to work for free, then that's their business. I wonder, while you were a roadie for an orchestra, did you ask for compensation or were you doing it just for laughs? If you asked for compensation, should we assume you are a bad person?
I'll go with no on that one. In this incredibly horrible economy, especially, you should get paid for your work.
By the way I don't know why you want to differentiate between someone who gets up on stage for the first time and a seasoned musician. Hell even wedding bands get paid.
If you bother to read the entire article it is making a larger point about our society here at ADLAND too, and this purveying notion of 'having laughs, exposure, etc,' is something to hide behind because it is still exploitive any way you cut it. You said so yourself. It costs money to put on a show. Someone who doesn't want to pay the money and ask people to play music, and cook for free etc, is lame.

So yeah you're right. Everyone that is volunteering to work for free knows they are working for free. But...they didn't actually have a choice, did they? It's either, do it for free, or don't do it. So it's a non-choice. you say good for them for working for the experience, then maybe you should forgo your roadie paycheck to see what that experience gets you.

And finally-- let me clarify-- since you might have missed this point in the article: It isn't just "the internet" having a hissy fit as you say. It's musicians. Engineers. A musicians union. You know-- people who could jump on stage for free and are saying "fuck you." They're the ones bringing the petition.

It isn't class warfare. It's called decency.

Dabitch's picture

How far we have come! The Grateful dead " evolved up to a 23-ton sound system and a large traveling entourage of road crew, family, friends, and hangers-on — most of whom would later become staff employees complete with health-insurance and other benefits... " but these days we have one person on kickstarter famous enough to let a bunch of people come "rock out with her" for the fun of telling stories to their grandkids. If they ever will have kids, when they never make money, nor have health insurance... There's a big picture, and I feel like people have been missing it for years. Almost makes me want to bring back the deadheads and the hippies.

its me's picture

How are people mad that someone isn't paying volunteers?
Isn't that kind of the point of a volunteer.

Did her kickstarter say that she was going to use the money to pay for these musicians?

If not, then stop spreading mis-information and go complain about something more useful.

kidsleepy's picture

People aren't mad that amanda palmer raised a lot of money to make her album. We never said this was so. The New York Times never said this was so. Steve Albini never said this was so. The other professional musicians never said this was so. And a musician's union never said this was so either.

No one gives a shit Amanda Palmer raised over a million dollars for her album. What people are upset about, dear "it's me," Adland included, is that it's kind of a slap in the face when Amanda Palmer raises over a million dollars to create music, and does a victory lap over it, only to turn around and stiff musicians who are backing her on a tour where she will no doubt make money by selling merchandise, playing live every night, not to mention save a lot of money in case you didn't read it the first time, by NOT PAYING her backing musicians.

Do you really honestly think it's okay to go out on tour and make all the money on tour, and not pay the people who are playing your music? Sorry but I don't. And neither does the New York Times, Steve Albini. Other professional musicians. And a musicians union.

I keep referencing these people because we linked to them, so you could get a better understanding of where we're coming from and where everyone else is coming from. We're not 'spreading disinformation.' We're reporting facts. Perhaps you haven't bothered to read further. Hopefully you will, because you are clearly missing it.

AnonymousCowardess!'s picture

@its me The kickstarter funding was for the RECORD, ART BOOK and TOUR. How is it spreading misinformation saying she's not using the money she raised for what she claimed she would use it for?

Dabitch's picture

Listen, one of the people signing that petition puts it quite nicely:

Because unfair exploitation of labour is exploitation of labour whether it is happening to crop pickers or first responders or musicians.

Indeed. And here's a thing that I will never fully grok. All these years I've been hearing how terrible the big bad music corp™ is, being sticklers for copyright (boos from the crowd), while demanding artists they had nurtured to fulfill the contracts they had signed for the pay they had received (Hiss from the crowd), and then they even had the gall to put out shit like Britney Spears (boos from the crowd!!), and you all hate them so much. Lets all download everything for free because music corporations stick it to talented musicians so we're gonna stick it to da man. And everyone keeps saying "I'd rather pay the artists directly" etc. Yeah? And now that a musician is sticking it to the other talented musicians, and suddenly it's all "well hey, it's an honor to play with her" like she's Nina Simone.

Seriously? She gets to screw musicians out of pay and keep the dosh like one of those big bad music corps... because... she did it on Kickstarter and that is the hot shit new Kool-Aid? Or something? It's not adding up for me, someone needs to 'splain the hypocrisy and how you guys make this logic work here. And will AFP ever re-invest in other musicians like those big bad music corps used to do? I'm just wondering who's the man here.

Kendall's picture

I think she's really smart. Why should she NOT want to try out band members for free, until she finds one she really clicks with? At that point she could hire them permanently. But in the meantime it gives her a chance to work with a ton of different musicians and musicians a chance to break into a permanent gig.

Stick to your guns Amanda and don't let the Haters get you down.

Dabitch's picture

I hear ya Kendall. Auditions are cool man. They're usually not done as paid shows where Amanda walks away with the money for it though.

kidsleepy's picture

@Kendall Thanks, I have now seen the light. If I follow your line of thinking, then why should we NOT pay underaged kids in Thailand pennies to make our sneakers until we decide they're the right ones to hire for a dollar a day instead?
In the meantime, until we find the right underage kid, we can still choose from a whole bevy of them and everyone gets 'exposure.' Yeah that sounds like a great plan.

Although it's maybe just a wee bit lopsided when you're the only one who is holding the purse...

AnonymousCoward's picture

Sounds to me like the "professional musicians" in these unions are just pissed off because some unprofessional non-union musicians are volunteering to play for free causing them to be out of a paying gig. Boo fucking hoo.

mcpow's picture

Wow you are irritating and bitter. I hate the dolls music, but she is totally in the right here. Having an amateur, volenteer band is part of her vision, Don't like it? Dont participate. Either way STFU.

karateden's picture

waited on her once. not a good tipper. doesnt surprise me that she doesnt want to pay her musicians....

ThisWebsiteSucksAss's picture

So she never promised to pay anyone and you people are bitching? She did nothing wrong. Everyone needs to stop being a whiny little loser.
They got their hugs, high-fives, beer and merch which was all they were told they would get.
This is a terrible article and the people creating the petition sound like a bunch of annoying activists.

AnonymousBATMAN's picture

Amanda Palmer as asking for resumés and footage of the professional musicians before she chooses them to play with her - for free.
It's like asking the Mexicans at Home Depot for references, and not paying them for their work.
More illegal aliens working for free is great for the economy all around, right? I learned this is new economy 101.

Dabitch's picture

I wonder how the brand™ Amanda Palmer will be seen after this story. Seems quite the polarizing move.

sandydandy's picture

The justifications for Amanda Palmer's behavior fall into the same categories:

1. She never said she was going to pay them.

So in other words, I can do whatever the hell I want and it's okay as long as I never promised anyone I wouldn't? Right?
Note to the people Amanda Palmer IS paying: Save you money. She might decide she didn't want to pay you all of a sudden, and then say "I never said I planned to keep paying you," as a defense.

2. She's engaging with her fans. If they want to do it, then they should do it.

No one has argued this point. But if people have the right to play for free, then other musicians have a right to call them on it. By working for free, they're undermining those who are trying to make a living at it. And in this economy it's already hard enough to work.

Let's also get one thing clear here: "Volunteering," makes it sound like they're building huts in Botswana as opposed to working in a venue where some people get paid, and others don't, depending on the whims of one person.

Dabitch's picture

"Building huts in Botswana" would make a great band name. I CALL DIBS!

AnonymousCoward's picture

"Wow you are irritating and bitter. I hate the dolls music, but she is totally in the right here. Having an amateur, volenteer band is part of her vision, Don't like it? Dont participate. Either way STFU."

From her blog (annoying non-caps hers):

"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."

In other words, her vision changes depending on whether the gig is important or not.

She's really not making this easy on herself.

shadoestevens's picture

What did you expect from a woman who calls herself "Amanda Fucking Palmer." Decency??

kidsleepy's picture

Not so much, really.

Dabitch's picture

Since Amanda Palmer updated once more so have we in Bully discourse will only serve to distract from everyones point Amanda Palmer if you fancy more reading.

kidsleepy's picture

Does anyone ever fancy any reading? Seems to me most people make up their minds by the headline.

Dabitch's picture

There is an interview with Steve Albani here which deserves to be tread in full so please click that link. He is making a valid point when he says : "It’s cheapness repainted as generosity and it’s gross." where he too is pointing out that Amanda Fucking Palmer is acting very much like the mythological greedy record companies in doing so. Why is it OK when she does it?

Q: Part of Amanda’s defence of her scheme seems to be that, simply, many fans would jump at the chance to play with their favourite musicians for no money — does this argument seem fair?

On the part of the fans, 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. Using people in this way, exploiting their good nature for one’s own benefit, is a cancer that taints many enterprises and it always reflects poorly on the exploiter. 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.

It’s crazy that I have to explain to you how ridiculous it is to blow a million dollars. More than a million dollars. Just say it out loud and think about how much fucking money a million dollars is. That’s several really nice houses with a Jaguar in each garage. A lifetime’s wages. It’s just an incredible sum, enough to make a hundred records. Palmer had more than that at her disposal and now claims not to have enough left to pay musicians. To pay them for gigs she is also being paid to play. This coming from someone who already had a successful career before she had her audience begin paying all her expenses in advance. A millionaire pleading poverty and asking for additional charity. It’s fucking ridiculous and it mocks all the bands who genuinely need their audience to help them conduct their business.

So that’s what I think. Nobody’s an idiot, some ways of conducting business are just uglier and more exploitative than others.

Sport's picture

Amanda fucking Palmer has no fucking clue. Volunteers? Are they putting on a concert where they charge people for tickets, or are they building houses for humanity?

Elephant King's picture

The abysmal poem by Amanda Palmer is just the latest of a long list of idiocies. 
Amanda Palmer's Stupidity List:

1. AP faked a suicide and filmed her boyfriend's reaction.

2. AP acted out a mock rape onstage.

3. AP tweeted about giving money to the KKK.

4. AP toured as a disabled person then mocked the disabled on Australian TV.

5. AP dumped her boyfriend in a flash to jump on old man Gaiman's bones.

6. AP sexted naked pictures of herself, creating a hideous example.

7. AP made a book of violent porn of herself naked being drowned in a toilet (which is what she sent to Gaiman to intrigue him).

8. AP danced around in muff wigs singing about her crotch.

9. AP admitted to working as a dominatrix (an S&M prostitute). 

10. AP faked a Kickstarter campaign using her hubbies cult connections.

The donations were huge and unverified and probably supplied by Scientology in an attempt to scam the charts using the downloads.

None of this was art, none of it meant anything. Amanda Palmer is an offensive human being on every level. She is not only talentless, she has cultivated in herself the worst qualities known to mankind.

fairuse's picture

The requested page "/content/amanda-palmer-pays-musicians-spins-it-kindness" could not be found.
So I don't forget.

Dabitch's picture

Try again

fairuse's picture

There is a car in that roof. Thanks.