Update: Amanda Palmer will pay the local horn and string players she previously enlisted to volunteer when her band of merry players rolled into town. A barrage of criticism aimed at the singer (see below) caused her to rethink the practice. She addressed the kerfuffle and change of heart on her blog:
“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.”
Read Palmer’s entire letter HERE.
Amanda Palmer serves as a shining example of how to think outside the box when it comes to funding her projects outside the major label system. Upon leaving the Dredsen Dolls behind, Palmer turned to fans to help fund her solo career. A recent Kickstarter campaign funneled $1.2 million into Palmer’s coffers to pay for the recording and release of her new album, Theatre Is Evil.
As she embarks on a tour to promote the release, Palmer’s asking fans to cough up additional cash to pay for concert tickets and she’s even asking musicians in each city to volunteer their time and talent and join the band for a night. It sounds like a neat opportunity for horn players and string quartets looking for exposure. Palmer promises beer, hugs and free merch in return, but some in the musical community argue a giant bear hug won’t help pay the bills.
In an open letter to Palmer, Portland French Hornist Amy Vaillancourt-Sals writes”
“Here you are, and you’ve raised over $1 million for your tour and album release. Here we are as musicians on foodstamps, maxing out their credit cards to keep the lights on, are hoping that we have enough money to pay next months rent, and have instruments that are in need of repair, need to be replaced, and even need to be insured. We are looking at you now and your request for musicians to come play with you for free, and most of us have even fallen in love with you and your music, and how do you think we’ll respond? We’re f*&king perplexed, agitated and disheartened, to put it mildly! What would you say to you if you were in our shoes? I have a pretty good guess…”
Now, Chicago’s cantankerous studio wizard Steve Albini joins in. He popped up on the message board for his Electrical Audio recording studio to blast Palmer for lacking the “self-sufficiency and independence” to figure out a way to traverse the country without relying on free labor.
Albini’s post in it’s entirety:
“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.”
Palmer addressed critics, specifically Vaillancourt-Sals, in a lengthly post on her Tumblr blog stating that not all the musicians perform on a volunteer basis in every city. Palmer and her crew didn’t want to gamble on the sketchy proficiency of volunteers in a market like New York, 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.”
We’re not sure admitting you can scrape together the funds to compensate players in cities with more eyeballs and reporters, but you can’t spare a dime in someplace like Lincoln, Nebraska is the best move.
The crux of Palmer’s argument revolves around this mantra: “YOU HAVE TO LET ARTISTS MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS ABOUT HOW THEY SHARE THEIR TALENT AND TIME.”
Musicians, we want to hear from you: Would you sign up for Palmer’s experiment? Do you think this degrades your value as a professional musician?
— Janine Schaults