[Update: Amanda Palmer has just announced that she will be paying all of the musicians she needs at each of her shows on this tour. We think it's a good move on her part, and shows the power of being able to communicate and share ideas quickly to enact change.]
Following this contest, news broke that Amanda Palmer wasn't paying her backup band. Needless to say, we were concerned. To be fair, Palmer is paying three full-time musicians to tour with her, so it's not as bad as some headlines are making it sound. And yes, she did raise over $1 million on Kickstarter, but as people who have organized former Kickstarter campaigns, it's important to understand that up to 40% of those funds can disappear in fees and taxes, especially if you don't plan correctly.
Next, it's entirely fair to touring musicians to ask fans to play on stage with them, for free, for beer, for high-fives, for whatever. Musicians should be able to determine when and where they want to play and for what. Musicians we love, like Jen Lekman, have asked for the same. And for some, maybe simply playing with Palmer on stage is worth their effort.
But after further inspection, Palmer isn't simply asking for fans to come up for a few tunes or some simple parts, she's trying to mine professional music organizations and college students who are classically trained. Furthermore, the aim of her Kickstarter was to bring her fans an album and live experience of the best quality, which has a much higher chance of happening if she were to pay a full-time group to tour with her. In short, she's broken the trust that new models of raising funds and connecting artists with fans rely upon; models that have been created by technological progress, sharing, and the belief that musicians should be paid more than they have been historically.
Initially, this post was going to be updated with a winner for tickets to her Portland show. The truth is – hardly anyone bothered to enter to win. Maybe that's telling. While Amanda Palmer has helped pioneer pay-what-you-want-downloads, bucked traditions of the misogynistic entertainment culture, and no doubt spent years improving her craft, it's truly dishearteing to see her approach to this latest tour.
Amanda Palmer has been having, one would think, the best year of her life. Celebrating a year of marriage with legendary comics writer Neil Gaiman, becoming a catalyst of artistic expression (along side others like painter Molly Crabapple) for the Occupy movement, and, oh yeah, raising over $1 million dollars on Kickstarter to fund her latest album Theatre Is Evil.
That's right. Palmer raised $1.1 million dollars through the crowd-sourced website, making the campaign the most successful music project in the website's history. Looks like all that time talking to people in public parks across America about social unrest has paid off well.
Earlier this year, Palmer spoke with me for an article on DigitalTrends about the future of the music industry, saying:
“I come from a street-performing background. I made my living with a hat at my feet for about five years. I have a fundamental belief that people love to support artists, we just need to work towards a system where the act is a simple as tossing a dollar in the basket of a musician whose street music you’ve been enjoying. Musicians need to drop any shame they’ve had in the past about asking. The asking has to just be second nature and feel as shameless and natural as the act of playing music itself.”
Somewhat foolishly, I was quoted in an article on the same site later, suggesting the public may have seen the highwater mark for Kickstarter campaigns. Time will tell whether or not that's true, but Palmer's record success, along with several independent video game projects this summer, have certainly shown that there are still enormous amounts of potential money to be gained by asking fans for startup funds. And more to Palmer's point, people do want support the artists that they love.
Likewise, artists love rewarding their listeners. In that spirit, fans of Amanda Palmer can download a free, four-song teaser of the new album featuring “Do It With a Rockstar,” “Trout Heart Replica,” “Want It Back,” and “The Killing Type,” here.
Palmer recently talked more in-depth with Rolling Stone about her latest album and the changing tide of the music business, echoing the growing chorus of working class musicians who have found new ways to make money off of their art through services like Bandcamp. Her dedication to her craft is certainly inspirational, and her career shows that hard work and originality are worth the effort.
Be sure to get Theatre Is Evil, out on Sept. 11th – the same day as our release from Fanno Creek. And don't miss Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra play Portland's Wonder Ballroom on Friday, September 28th. Tickets are only $25 in advance and can be purchased online.
As an extra-special treat, our friends at Monqui are offering a pair of tickets to the Portland show for one of our lucky readers! Simply share this post on Twitter and/or Facebook for a chance to enter. Be sure let us know that you've entered by commenting below or tagging us on one of the social networks.