i took the better part of this past week and sorted through & responded to – see below – over almost ONE THOUSAND (jesuschrist) collected responses to the past “why i am not afraid to take your money” blog, since it got posted and reposted all over the place (thanks cory @ boingboing, mike @ techdirt, popurls.com, absolutepunk.net, iconfactory.com, and all the other folks who spread it around & rewteeted it).
i have a lot to say. please feel free to cut, paste and share it as you so choose.
it’s broken down into four parts:
1. Virtual Crowdsurfing (an explanation)
2. Selling Out (my personal definition)
3. Why This Works (for me but maybe not for everybody)
4. Money, Art & Random Balance (the economics of trust)
5. AFP responds to comments
1. VIRTUAL CROWDSURFING (an explanation & a continually rambling manifesto…)
first, tons of people asked if they could donate directly to me. yes, you can: HERE.
the topic obviously hit a nerve all around. goddam.
i got a phone call from NPR (american public radio) a few days ago and was invited to do a studio interview about this topic for their show “on the media” as a result of all the buzz.
the funniest thing about that: at the end of the interview, rick told me i was the only person who sounded optimistic and, well, “happy” about this whole music industry mess.
well…yes. i am happy. why? because i’m not chained…and i’m not even technically FREE! i’m still stuck on my record label!!!!
but it doesn’t matter. i have a direct way OUT of the system that relies not on suits in offices, but on a working wireless connection, the goodwill of my fans, my work ethic, and the quality of my output.
so yes, of course i’m happy.
and as far as i can read hundreds of comments down, so are a lot of other people who are GLAD to have free-er content and less middleman involvement, though it means more personal responsibility.
we just need to agree to make it work.
my cellist friend zoe keating (@zoecello), who more or less runs her own business out of her house (and isn’t signed), told me a few days ago on the phone that people have been ordering multiple CDs directly from her website and simply putting, in the comments section of paypal “PLEASE DON’T MAIL ME THESE CDS – i just wanted to send $40 because i want to support you!”.
i’ve had multiple people try to write me checks/hand me cash at shows because they’d downloaded music for free and wanted to just give me money.
there’s obviously something going on here… and it’s obvious to me that the public is willing to support a new system.
i also firmly believe – as many of you seem to – that this new era of music and content (less huge blockbuster artists supported by the mass media, more living-wage artists supported by smaller fanbases) will actually drive the quality of content UP. artists will hopefully no longer be in this game for the wrong reasons (i.e. to be instantly/luckily famous and rich) but instead will take an honest look at the work it takes and the lifestyle it provides; in most cases, not a luxurious one, but a fulfilling one.
the naysayers are free to try their own systems.
do it! but as far as i can tell, what i’m doing is hurting nobody.
a few months ago i was traveling around impulsively after a long tour, taking off-time and visiting friends and family in various cities and discovering the then-newfound magical powers of twitter.
i used these magical powers to put together flash-mob-style donation-shows on beaches and in parks, to find last-minute practice pianos, to find cafe/yoga/wireless recommendations, to find crash spaces for me & my assistant, even to twitter for rides to and from the airport from random fans (twitchhiking!). why the hell not?. call me crazy. but i like these people and trust them enough to do that. i got a fantastic ride from the denver airport to boulder from a woman who told me all about her two kids and brought me some drawings they’d done. she kept my number and a few days later, she gave me a ride BACK to denver…and this time brought the minivan, her partner, AND their two kids, about whom, at that point, i knew everything. it was like getting an adopted family for a few hours. it was either THAT or the bus. simple? for me, yes.
i started to call this “virtual crowdsurfing” because the metaphor was just too perfect.
at a show where people are crowdsurfing, you can’t just stand there on the edges, wondering endlessly if you should jump in or not…biting your nails, hemming, hawing, calculating whether the collected masses will really care about you and whether a few people in the moshpit might be assholes and not pull their weight.
if you wait too long, the show’s over.
you must dive, pray and work on a faith-based system that folks will have your back.
you might wind up on the floor, shit happens. but people will help you up, brush you off, push you back in the pit.
and you, in return, need to hold your hands up in the air when somebody’s flailing body comes in your direction…you cannot duck, you cannot run in fear that you might break a nail…or a finger.
i was doing a signing after one of the beach shows in LA and i realized i’d left my wallet and phone (visibly) unattended in my ukulele case, where people were asked to toss their money in, about 20 feet behind me.
over 300 people had put dollars, drawings, notes and little ponies in there.
my wallet and phone were untouched. i hadn’t even thought about protecting them.
am i an idiot for leaving my shit out? absolutely.
is my faith in my fans profound beyond words? yes.
and so it is: i am grateful as fuck to be riding on the upstretched hands of my audience, blissful in the randomness, happy for the gorgeous mess, high on the trust, and plenty willing to lose a glove, shoe, or some other article of clothing that gets accidentally ripped off in the bacchanalia and falls by the wayside.
end part one.
[above: the photographer lindsey bynres, who was sent my way at the coachella festival by her girlfriend tegan, took this killer photo at one of this past year’s perfect moments.
i made it into a heavy-paper poster (neil’s idea actually, credit where it’s due) and you can buy it HERE.]
some more thoughts, for the in-depth blog-reader:
2. WHY THIS WORKS (an explanation)
there’s something particularly awesome about the fact that we are in a new age of wild west internet where the protocols and etiquettes aren’t set.
i want to state clearly:
i am not trying to find an answer for everybody.
i am ONLY trying to find an answer for me. i am an artist, i need to support myself. i’m not trying to save the world or make internet history.
my career, growth, trajectory and fanbase are unique.
what works for me may not be the best course of attack for lady gaga, MGMT or zoe keating.
please bear in mind the last ten years of my life (you may know all this, but if you aren’t familiar with me, this is crash course in my life):
since the birth of the dresden dolls in 2000, i have pretty much been on tour and i have, with very few exceptions due to sickness or mad schedules, signed and hung out with my fans after almost every single show.
if i had to guess how people i have signed for, hugged or connected with…..it’s probably in the hundreds of thousands of people. (literally).
some nights brian (the dolls’ drummer) and i would sign for over a thousand people, for 3-4 hours.
we would take a lot of time to really meet people, talk to them, hear their stories, connect with them. in a lot of cases, stay in touch with them.
and now i know my fans. there was no way this could have happened overnight.
just like any real one-on-one relationship, you can’t dive in and expect faith and trust.
you don’t fuck someone one night, never call them back and still expect they’ll come visit you in the hospital or bail you out of jail ten years later.
you have to keep an ongoing, honest, real connection with them.
you have to keep feeding the relationship, calling, checking in, caring.
please understand: i don’t preach this from a high horse, i say this so you (especially who don’t KNOW me) understand that the people i am reaching out to…these people KNOW ME.
a lot of them have MET me. a lot of them have FED me, HOUSED me, helped me carry heavy amps and gear up stairs, promoted my shows in their towns.
to this day, i rely on them for TONS of help. and this is a huge part of why i feel confident that i won’t look like too much of an asshole when i reach out to my fanbase for money.
even those who haven’t helped me directly follow the story, they see how my life functions and they offer what they can.
they’re part of this ride, part of my struggle to live this weird life with it’s many travels and ups and downs.
for the most part, they trust me. and i trust them. time and attention has made that possible.
i’ve also been blogging, hanging out on our forum (theshadowbox.net, which has been up since about 2001), vocally supporting our live bootleggers, posting and organizing gig photos, fan art and videos, doing weird free gigs, (recently) twittering up a storm, making countless random/weird-ass youtube videos (…i’ve paid filmmakers out of my pocket to make well-edited karaoke videos of me singing avril lavigne songs just because i think it’s fucking hilarious – the industry guys could never understand why i was doing these things. they would ask: why would you spend your time on this when you could be spending it on your career? my answer: this IS my career. i am doing this because it’s FUN and because i CAN motherfuckers). i used to do all these projects workaholically and gleefully alone. nowadays i have more help organizing my shenanigans, mostly in the form of (god bless all of them) my assistant beth, my internet team at BRAT, interns & friends and lovers pitching in, and my management. and more. and i love doing these things.
but i don’t expect to get directly paid for these things.
in my mind, these things have nothing to do with direct profit and everything to do with helping fuel the connection between me, the fans, the songs and the world in general.
when that connections is strong, i’ve always figured (maybe naïvely?) that the money will show up as and when i need it.
and you know what? it does. and always has, more or less – in the form of ticket sales, merch sales and now online donating and webcast auctions.
i’ve pretty much always had enough to get by and when i’ve run out, i’ve borrowed from friends (and even fans, sometimes) until things weren’t too tight.
that being said, i don’t think my plan would necessarily work for an artist who hasn’t built up a trusting and personal relationship with their fans.
it doesn’t have to take years and years, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
in response to a lot the comments out there…i hear a lot of artists (tons of writers and visual artists commenting out there as well) complaining that the world doesn’t seem to want to recognize the practical exchange that MUST take place if artists are going to continue to survive and therefore create. i wonder if this has something to do with the fact that we LIVE in a world of free and constantly-accessible content. when i was a teenager, most of the art you liked HAD to come from records, books, VHS tapes or other hard-copy objects you bought in a store or hunted down in a library. nowadays all of that art is freely available with a very quick google. what value does that place not on the work itself, but on the time and sweat that went into creating that work…..the human face and energy behind the product that is freely shared?
3. SELLING OUT
to the artists out there: i’ve never heard a louder clamor of agreement in the comments from the other artists in this community.
just to remind you and to basically summarize what everyone else here seems to think (except for the few people out there saying “why don’t you get a day job, bitch?”)…
repeat after me:
ASKING FOR MONEY FOR YOUR ART IS NOT SELLING OUT.
selling out is when you go against your own heart, ideals and authenticity to make money.
selling out is an action, a 180 from a stated position.
i don’t consider pop stars to be sell-outs.
the lady gagas, britneys and madonnas of the world are UNABASHED about why they got in this game: fame, money, über-success, chart-topping hits.
but if neil young were to suddenly hire the matrix to write him a thumpin’ dance album and then appear on saturday night live snogging bob dylan, i’d have reservations about his integrity.
4. MONEY, ART, and RANDOM BALANCE (the economics of trust)
for your amusement i dug up an old photo of my busking self.
this was harvard square, probably in 1999…
i stood frozen, and when money was tossed into that little tin vase i would unfreeze and give away a flower & a moment of eye contact.
(and to answer Nic, who commented:
I’m really curious about a technical aspect of this. I’ve been mulling this over for while since I read this blog, and I really wanted to know. Is there sun screen built into that paint you would wear? Cause I know that I would be burnt to a crisp after one day, yet alone 5 years.
nope, no sunscreen. i tried to stay in the shade, but i’m probably heading towards acute cancer of the face at some point. don’t worry, i’ll blog and ask for donations for the chemo…).
this is interesting:
i was always ASTOUNDED at how consistent my take was at the end of a day of street performing. after a few years, i could pretty much rely on what i would earn in a given hour, even though ALL OF THE DONATIONS from people on the street were random and impulsive.
there were good days and bad days, but there was a definite average.
talking with jason webley last week about busking brought something up that i hadn’t known about him…when he was a street performer he wouldn’t actually set up his accordion case to collect money. it made him feel too weird. so he would just play in the street for a half hour or so while a crowd gathered, then he would sell CDs.
i sent him this blog, and he responded:
i should probably clarify, it isn’t that I “never” had the case out… I often did, but mainly I considered it a CD display. And the way I did my shows energetically, people almost never just came up and put money in… it would have broken the mood. They would wait until i stopped and then I’d sell the CDs. It’s interesting to me how my mind worked about that stuff, I really didn’t like the idea of people tipping me by throwing dollars into my case, however I found it perfectly fine and somehow very fulfilling when people bought my cds.
so, that’s how jason did it.
zoe keating, a few nights ago, told me something similar about busking weirdness…she used to busk on her cello to make ends meet, but she couldn’t bring herself to lay her cello case down in front of her.
she said it just felt too crass. so she would lay her cello case somewhere to the side, right on the edge of her peripheral vision, and people could toss in money as they wished without it being right in her face.
and that’s how zoe did it.
(this impromptu concert was free to the public).
i find the differences between all our styles fascinating.
it’s simply more proof that all artists HAVE to carve their own way, within their own comfort zones, when it comes to commerce, online or otherwise.
it seems to me that everybody keeps hoping we’ll find A SINGLE way to fix the problem of money, music and the industry.
there are LOTS of systems now, LOTS of tools at any artist’s disposal, and they are all there for the taking, à la carte. it’s up to you and your own taste.
there used to be just one general way to be a band: work on your act, sign with a label, cut record, tour.
now there are as many ways to put an online price tag on your work as there are small musical genres that used to be overlooked and are now finding a fanbase because of the net.
THIS IS A GOOD THING. once again, it will not be a tool for the wanna be rich-and-famous, it will instead empower the artist and the fan and put an end to a painful old hierarchy.
i noticed lots of people commented apologizing “i’d love to give you money but i’m a poor student/artist/bastard”….
this is important:
i would never begrudge anyone who can’t give me money. never.
when i was a street performer, there were tons of penniless punks and poets straggling about the pavement.
sometimes somebody generous would drop in a 20 dollar bill.
sometimes a punk-rock poet from the pit would pick a bouquet of leaves off a tree and leave them at my feet, or write me a poem and drop it in my tin vase.
they got a flower just like everybody else.
not only did it count, it made me even happier. they had taken the time out of their lives to connect with me.
man cannot live on money, leaves or poems alone.
those who gave cash covered my rent. those who gave me poems and leaves fed me in another way.
and indeed, it always worked out, day after day, year after year. my rent got paid, my soul got fed.
do not try to pay for your next concert ticket with stolen foliage.
but you get what i’m saying.
we take care of each other in this way.
TO THE COMMENTS.
many of these comments are edited down, i pulled out relevant bits.
fyi: there were an OVERWHELMING number of amens and positive comments.
because i found the negative ones to be thought-provoking, i selected more of those over the rah-rah ones.
As someone who’s worked in marketing and professional arts/industry associations, I can tell you that in general, relying on people’s good will to keep the money flowing is never a good idea, even if what you have to offer makes the world a better place, etc.
Amanda, you offer something of great value to your fans, but as you know the music industry, independent or mainstream is a fickle bitch, people’s tastes can change and you will find yourself with fewer fans than before (‘cept for me – I’d never leave you!). But is the solution to constantly change your image to compete with changing trends? Do you market yourself in the traditional industry manner where you essentially *tell* people to listen to your music, buy albums, attend shows, etc.? Frankly, I love the fact that you haven’t, but I worry that someday, your earnest independent method of promoting yourself and your work might hurt you as well…
so ironic, the many people who commented saying “this won’t work because MOST people won’t support you…except for ME! I’LL support you! if only there were more people like me…!”
don’t you see…? we’re ALLL HERE. it’s you, me and a bunch of other people here making it happen.
i never change my music or image to please people. i do what i want. those who are turned on will stay, those who aren’t will trail off. there’s enough of YOU to make it work. end of story.
How come you got half the money for a date you didn’t attend?
(AFP: this is re: the dates with holly gaiman that were sold on my webcast, see the last blog)
because i brokered the deal, dude.
AFP- I spent the past week ruminating on your dilemma as it’s something I face with my own fans- how up-front and open can you be without ruining the appeal of the artwork? Two of my most marketing-savvy friends and I talked about this on our 7-hour drive to PodCamp Philly this weekend too. One of the conclusions we reached is that there’s a threshold where talking about money becomes offensive… and it’s impossible to really gauge that threshold until you’ve crossed it. Our best guess is that once your revenue begins to seriously overshadow that of your fans, it may seem more like bragging than being honest and open. My own conclusion is that it’s a matter of selecting the right channel- if your goal is to act as a beacon for other musicians (like me), save the raw numbers and “business” end of the art for the musician-oriented channels. When the CD Baby DIY podcast interviews you, talk about raising $10,000 from a webcast, but when you’re targeting the music fans directly (via your blog, Rolling Stone, etc.), be less specific and focus on the art or the process.
totally true. i think that once all this money-talk blows over, i may speak about it very little. but right now i’m enjoying making a point.
(by the way everybody, i tuned into matthew’s live weekly webcast at http://matthewebel.com the other night and brought over a bunch of folks by twittering. he played well into the night for us as we chatted in his chatroom and drank beeeeer and, at the end, i logged on for a spontaneous piano webcast from my apartment as a thank you. all HIS fans who hadn’t known me just switched ustream channels and we continued the party. i love the internet. this is the SHIT. you can read someone’s blog-review about it HERE.)
Art isn’t about making money.
no. it’s not.
and the day art starts making itself without the help of artists, we’ll be all set.
I am very surprised that people would be complaining about your requests for money going to you. I was more than happy to help support you, and that is why I didn’t just buy your DVD from your site for myself, but I bought 3 more for my friends. Also, I recently went into a music store and checked out the WKAP music book… It was beautiful and I wanted it BAD… but I didn’t buy it. You know why? I wanted to buy it from your site so that the money would go to you. I love supporting you because I know you will NOT disappoint. What you put out is of the utmost quality and I am thrilled every time. I am not one to be swayed into liking something just because I already like the artist… I can honestly say your music, DVD, WKAP book, videos, music books, etc. are all extremely impressive and worth supporting in the best way possible! And there is no reason that YOU, a chill-inducingly amazing artist, should be struggling when the Hannah Montanas, Katy Perrys, and the like are living it up. They should rot!
no, be nice. they shouldn’t rot. but will they maintain their lifestyles or their fanbases? check in with them both in 10 years and let me know.
I find it sick that people are dying in Africa and India and dont even have the opportunity to get a job at mcdonalds or cutting grass but yet you who are fully able to get a job at mcdonalds or any landscapping job gets on here and asks for donating money because you are an artist and need to eat to keep making music. I am on a personal journey to stop any donations to you.
Its sick kids, poor people with mental health problems in 3rd world countries dont even have the opportunity to eat once a day or work yet our money should be sent to you..
please do not obligated to give me any money for my art.
give it to the starving children! yay.
Anyone who hopes to own their future in the arts needs to own their money, know where it comes from, and decide for themselves where it’s flowing to. Why do you guys think every filmmaker who’s making an impact owns their own production company? Media is entrepreneurial. In fact, it’s opening up to new talent. The tradeoff is that nobody owes anybody a damn thing – least of all a break. Film, music, and art in general has become about breaking out, instead of breaking in.
SO WELL SAID!
I’m supremely sympathetic to your main point, and certainly in favor of direct support of artists as one possible model. I’ve blogged on these topics for years (see http://copyfight.corante.com). I would, however, like to request that you not lightly use the word “raping” to mean “ripping off.” It’s an unnecessary dilution of a serious term. The way that the Cartel abuses creative artists and steals from the people who make the whole industry possible deserve a more direct discussion, not overbroad labeling.
sorry. RIPPING OFF.
crass is the new black.
i love you
Ronald van Loon:
10k is a meaningless number. Is it pure profit? Presumably not. Also, what do you use the money for? Investment? Parties ? Drugs? I would put this in the ‘it’s not how much money you have but what you do with it’ category, to paraphrase a well-known male memberism. I’d prefer openness in these matters anyway – so just keep up the good work…
Since I’ve started listening to music as a teenager and painfully trying to get together the money to buy a new CD/artwork, I have craved to give this precious money to the person who touched my heart (the musician, writer, sometimes the cover designer, too). And for how much I understand that the record business and manager system has its use and sense sometimes, I’ve always hated the idea that something that I could easily copy gratis from a friend or download from dark corners of the internet, but that I buy because I want to SUPPORT THE ARTIST will give the artist 50ct while 15$ will get lost on the way. I just LOVE to give you my money directly for all the fun, feelings, tears and joy you are giving me, and I am grateful that you find ways to come and ask it. This is the future.
And if you manage to get really rich that way: A lot of people are getting rich with very very dirty hands or by funny tricks on marketing and clever contracts. If I see one day my AFP on her own yacht with a cocktail in her hand, earned by giving your art and so much of yourself to the world, it will just feel right.
from the comments on the blog from tale-of-tales.com:
One interesting side effect of the punk economy as opposed to the traditionally centralized model is that being an arrogant jerk about your decadent income and lifestyle carries a greater risk that your audience will be put off and less inclined to subsidize said lifestyle.
That’s probably not a bad thing in most cases. As much as the audience should take up its responsibility to support the artists whose work they enjoy, the artists should use that money responsibly. Of course, there may be border cases, where the decdadent life style is part of the art
…ah yes, like some of our rapper friends.
this is definitely one of the harder edges of this system and this topic.
plenty of people here have commented that they’d love to live to see the day where i float by them in my bling yacht made of fan-love.
that’s a nice sentiment, thanks guys.
yet: i really do wonder if people will start feeling a sense of moral ownership about my actions when the gears of the machinery are more exposed.
we’ll see. i’m not really committed to the idea that everybody HAS TO KNOW the amount of money i am earning and on what projects.
i originally threw out the dollar amounts (months ago, when i had my first webcast auction) as a statement to say: HERE IS PROOF THAT THIS WORKS.
rappers are so vocal about how much money they make it’s not even funny.
i want to see what would happen if fitty put out a free record and a tip jar.
p.s. i actually met 50 cent on a plane once, long ago when i was a little dresden doll. i approached him & his entourage (i snuck up to first class from coach) and said, “excuse me, mr. cent”.
he said “please, call me fitty”. true story. i also gave him the first dolls CD and he said he liked the artwork.
i really get where you’re coming from and i’m all for paying for art, for music, for performance. but to be completely honest, it seems really insensitive to not acknowledge in the current economy how many of your fans are in far worse debt, have much less $$$ and could never even come close to affording the travel and lifestyle you enjoy. and i know you work very hard for it, but recently it sometimes seems like you feel entitled to a nonstop flow of $$$ for your fans simply for being Amanda Fucking Palmer. for example, the last webcast i watched felt like it had little to nothing to do with art or connecting with the fans – it was all about collecting the $$$, selling stuff like those leftover photos that felt very much like an afterthought. so all i’m suggesting is that you try to keep in mind how many of us are also struggling to pay our own rent and realize that there are limitations to how much we can give financially on a regular basis.
a lot of people commented in similar sentiments…..and i’m really grateful for the very honest way people have been voicing this concern. i’ve never paid such close attention, and i’m glad to be able to get such frank feedback from everybody. note taken.
my friend kim boekbinder, from vermillion lies:
Hi! I’m in Porto, Portugal with Zoe – it is so fucking beautiful here. You should come here and play, maybe with us.
I read your blog about money the other day, I’ve been thinking about exactly that a lot since I am launching my album fundraiser right now.
I love that we are moving into a new art support model where people support the artist, not just the end result – the album. Finally art might be appreciated as an ongoing process instead of just another product.
Anyway…I was wondering if you might put a link to my fundraiser in your next money blog, if you think it’s appropriate.
Jason (via techdirt.com comments):
“artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.”
True, but who says they need to make money from their own art? Plenty of artists have made amazing music while working day jobs. Very few are able to make even a modest living with their art.
i think this person totally missed the point and reading this hurts my soul.
I’m one of many folks who shares music for free under Creative Commons licenses. I think this kind of sharing creates new community among listeners and among creators. Yet I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with an artist seeking the payment of money as part of distributing music and earning a living. If we are going to see the music business transform in the ways we all hope, musicians must function as small businesses. It’s true that some artists will be more crass, and some artists will be more subtle. The consumer “market” will decide which style it prefers, and reward its preference with purchases. The street busker point you make is part of the solution—and the rest is that there is no reason a music-maker can’t do business just like everyone else—and every reason why music-makers must do so.
p.s. creative commons FTW: creativecommons.org
Amanda, your work is inspiration to so many. Fuck those who don’t get it. I LOVED being able to tell everyone that I spent my night with a bottle of wine, my son Jareth, AMANDA FUCKING PALMER and BETH. AND since it was free- I was able to purchase a DVD for my son and I to enjoy, donate to a worthy cause, and have a great night doing it. Keep on doing what you do. I have no problem with you taking my money…better you than a record co. that squeezes the artistic blood out of everyone, screaming…SELL OUT!!!
re-appropriating the term SELL OUT would be a true cultural coup, wouldn’t it? we should try it.
kovacs (via comments on theshadowbox.net):
Amanda, asking the fans for money its something that is true, and everyone will have to get used to it if they continue to sample an artists content for free. I think you have been extremely astute in predicting this.
In these auctions, specifically, you’re profiting off of the fanatics, tapping into (what I percieve as) a personal vulnerability in your fan base, their adoration. Credit where credit is due, you deserve this adoration, I’ve never seen an artist give so much back. But, it borders exploitation, despite them doing it willingly. You say that Ticketmaster, Roadrunner, etc have been “shamelessly raping both fan and artist for years”. Be careful, these auctions are bordering on comparable.
Do you want to pave the way in new ways to ask the fans for money, or profit from the fanatic?
once again, this is an opt-in scenario, and the non-fanatic are never chastised.
The internet has made it such that just about anything is available for download, free of charge. For years I’ve been torn with the feeling that downloading is immoral. I take what I want, I enjoy what I take, and I give nothing back. Credit should be given where credit is due. Listening to your music, reading your words, gazing at your face, these are all things that I derive pleasure from and as such, should be justly rewarded. The guilt is easier to swallow when you feel that disconnect with the artist…. Middlemen such as the record company, the chain CD store, ticketmaster, etc enable that disconnect. You convince yourself that you’re screwing THEM over and what’s it matter when they’re already filthy rich? I think when an artist takes to their fans the way that you have, you make it personal…
me&mycharms (via thesahdowbox.net):
Pink recently did a string of 50 billion shows in Australia, and the price of her merchandise was off the charts. I heard to get a hoodie it was about $170, and the cheapest tickets to see her were no less than $100. Nobody accused her of exploiting fans or taking advantage of fanatics. It was just expected.
The only difference I see is Pink wasn’t standing behind that merch table, taking the cash personally from everybody.
bob lefsetz writes about this a lot – the time is coming where people are simply feeling TOO RIPPED OFF TOO OFTEN at shows like this and they simply go elsewhere for entertainment – thus the dying live music industry.
years of overpriced tickets, added fees, parking fees, overpriced drinks, overpriced merch…the whole thing has left a general bad taste in the mouth of the public.
as a general rule, the dolls (and i) have always tried to keep tickets as cheap as possible (except boston symphony hall…gulp, sorry about that one) and all shows all ages. i experience TONS of grief from promoters and agents about this ALL THE TIME. they KNOW they will make more money if the shows are 21+ (more liquor sales) and if the tickets are jacked up $5 here and $10 there. it’s an ongoing battle i will have to fight all my life.
I wholeheartedly agree that the direct payment of artists probably will (and should) be the future, but you mention ticketmaster as one of the greedy middlemen. I’m not taking issue with that. They are, in fact, greedy middle men. But how do I avoid paying them? I want to see artists like you and others live, but all of the venues in my city (Philadelphia) are associated with one of the big ticket companies in some way or another. I already purchased tickets for your philly show, but in the future, whenever you come back to town, is there any way I can just send you money and get tickets for a show? Or are you bound by whatever agreement you have to make with the venues?
yes i am often bound, and this is a really tough topic.
i try as hard as i can to keep fees down and to work away from venues that have huge monopolies & fees (and there are artists out there who simply REFUSE to work with live nation venues and ticketmaster…i know conor oberst was doing that for a while) but it makes your choice if venues EXTREMELY limited. it’s really frustrating and another uphill battle, but with audiences mobilized, there is real change possible. stay tuned on this one.
…I would love it if every musician had a public P.O. Box or better an online tip jar, if their publicist had a book keeper to handle the checks, and then for all the music I like, all the youtube videos I like, I could send along some cash. Maybe just 5 bucks. Because Warner bros. gives them 22 cents, and puts them into debt and obnoxious contracts. So, my 5 bucks, that gets to the artist is 20 or so times what they used to make, and then I could tip a lot more artists and when I get a head, I can gleefully go back and tip them even further, see their shows. Because they’ll still be around, and they won’t have been ripped off.
But until there’s a sea change and probably even still, artists will have to solicit.
this concept is coming. as to your last line: artists soliciting IS the sea change of which you speak. it’s just going to have to be tastefully organized.
…if people accuse you of prostituting Holly again, here are two words for them “box social.” Have ‘em watch Oklahoma. Shoot, my grandparents’ first date was a box social. She was dating another guy, my grandfather wanted to date her, outbid the other guy, and voila.
re: mortality, i was actually wrong. what i meant to say was “by nature subjective”.
i just fixed the typo. thank you.
i really do believe in what i’m doing.
and i do need an amen. are you kidding? i need all these amens.
a handful of amens would be enough to keep me going.
but a thousand like this make me want to stay up all night and write a free webcast opera.
My name is George Panayotou. Amanda, I nearly wept when I read this. Partly from shame at what I believe is a drive that pales in comparison to what I’ve read here. I’ve not been spit at or ridiculed (much) or hated on straight to my face; mainly because I haven’t put my face, both my actual and my figurative (as represented through my work) out there. I haven’t risked it. I suppose people think that if you have your own website or have cut a few albums (and snagged Neil Gaiman, no less) that life has just sort of handed these things to you without paying a price in blood or without at least some effort on the part of the artist to MAKE things move in their life by an almost superhuman surplus of energy, and (dare I say it?) faith. But those ‘closet artists’ are just closet believers, afraid to proselytize their good word to all who would hear. Is there not a kingdom or a king that rewards the faithful who are spit on, hated and who stand statuesque against the tides of scorn, eyes open and staring past the glint of passing cars filled with jeering faces, locked on the summit of one’s efforts? The only kingdom that has the power or authority to reward that I know of is the work itself.
“The only kingdom that has the power or authority to reward that I know of is the work itself.”
this really, really made me stop and think, because it was so beautifully and powerfully put. i think for some, this is true.
and for others, like me, the work is a means to and end, but the work itself HAS to be enjoyable to make the end acheivable.
Money for art is great. Money for props & knicknacks is, well, kind of an insult. I think it’s cool that AFP has people willing to throw money at her in exchange for worthless shit, but worthless shit isn’t AFP’s creative output, so it really shouldn’t be what she’s selling.
the props and knicknacks are symbols of connection. that’s all. don’t confuse it.
@jimgoldstein (via twitter):
Fucking Amen! I’ve passed this on to my Twitter followers who are photographers. Thanks for saying what needs to be said.
I took heat recently during a month when I was struggling to make ends meet just for putting a Paypal donation button on my serialized novella’s web site, and asking my blog readers to take a moment to peruse my Etsy and eBay listings. I was told to go get a job at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s if things were so bad. The fact that there are people in the world who think creative people would contribute more to society by slinging fries for minimum wage than by actually creating things depresses the crap out of me. I totally appreciate the ground you’re breaking, and when I get into some positive cash flow I’ll support you in ways other than just telling people how brilliant you are.
This is all so valid. I date a sequential artist. The major comic publishing companies, and now newer ones like Tokyopop, are taking advantage of young, unestablished artists all the time with iffy contracts and low pay.
i think photographers, writers, deviantartists, and pretty much any kind of artist who provides art for free online should hop on this fuckin’ train.
I totaly agree AFP! We pay to go to the show, we pay for al this, but the money never goes to you, or any artist! I’d rather MUCH rather see it go to you so you can get things you need to continue the art! Don’t feel shame for you are totally correct in the statement that you afre making, we need to deal with the change! Fu**k the critics and the nay-sayers, for they are the ones that don’t want to see the artist grow, or survive for that matter, they are the same fat cats that are charging us the sur-charges and fees, and such. I salute you for actually making a change for the artist! And yeah, I was one of those people that tipped you as a statue, and still think to this day that that is truely awesome.
I think, like you said, the big problem is people don’t realize how they’re getting “raped” by the record company. Buying a god damn postcard that you wrote my name on and mailed to me went directly to YOU, the one that makes the amazing music and does other amazing shit which I love. I don’t want to “support” you through fucking iTunes or whatever because that’s not actually supporting you.
the naysayers just haven’t realized this is how it’s going to work from now on. i’ve been to about 10 concerts in the past 6 months, and every artist (with the exception of ones on independent labels) has said: don’t buy our new album, we don’t see a dime from album sales. instead, download our album and buy our concert tickets/merchandise/etc. because that’s where we actually make money. and i lovingly oblige.
I love it that you are honest.
By the way, I don’t seem to understand the system in whole yet. Where do the money one paid for a wkap cd at the gig go? To you or to your label?
this is really important, so listen…
there are artists like zoe keating who REALLY DO MAKE MONEY when you buy their music from iTunes, because they own it and are selling it directly.
you are doing them no huge favors by downloading their stuff for free. unfortunately this all comes down to educating yourself about the artists you’re trying to support.
if you buy any music right now on iTunes from the dresden dolls’ debut, yes virginia, no virginia, or who killed amanda palmer, I will never see a profit from those sales (although i will get a minuscule profit from the songwriting, and brian in turn will get a percentage of that – but it’s fractions of pennies).
however, if i were to be released from my label tomorrow and put my own songs up on iTunes independently, I’d see about 40%-50% of the money.
the best way to know? ask the artist, and hope they’ll be honest, or do your own research. if they’re truly independent (ie running their own label, chances are good you can buy their stuff on iTunes and know that money is really helping them). i’m in a position with my record label where i have no problem directing money away from their bank, because they have actively told me (and shown me) they don’t want to support my career & my art. fair trade.
as for other artists, their relationships with their labels might not be so cut and dry: mouthing off and saying “just download all my shit and buy a shirt!” can make their labels (especially if their labels are putting actual energy and money into that artist) feel very sad, and rightly so, since the label relies only on those iTunes/record sales to pay their rent. every story is different.
as far as hard copy sales go: it’s the same thing.
i will see no money from the records sold in stores.
this will change if i get released, and you’ll be kept well in the loop.
as far as why i feel morally ok about this (“why did you sign this record contract?” you may ask, and you may also be thinking: “isn’t it immoral to re-direct money away from a company who you’re legally indebted to for the work they’ve put into your career, your recordings?”)…you’ll have to wait for that story for a while. sorry.
in closing, i’d like to share with you this email that tora sent a few days ago.
tora is a member of the danger ensemble, the 5-member theatrical troupe that came with me on the who killed amanda palmer tour all last year.
i did not have money to pay them (i could only cover their airfares and travel, no salary), so every night we passed the hat in the audience at the end of the show.
people donated what they could.
(here’s she is, the blond on right, performing “blake says” with kat & mark of the danger ensemble, photo from jj174)
This reminds me, I read your blog about paying artists. I wasn’t really aware of the backstory, but the backstory in this situation is sort of irrelevant. What you said needed to be said and it doesn’t really matter what sparked it. As an artist I feel like I deal in a completely different currency. If we were to really count every little income and expense and average it out over our entire careers, we would probably (for me CERTAINLY) have earned well under the poverty line in terms of a weekly or monthly or yearly ‘income’. But thats because a monetary currency is not relevant to our cause. We don’t clock on ‘hours’ with ‘time cards’ because time is not constant or relevant for us either! My job when I work in theatre is to manipulate time and space, to bend and fracture everything we know and present it in a stylized form so that we might learn lessons from the stories we are telling…and when I think about it that way, how can I possibly fit that job (and myself) into an ‘approved’ social structure? I cannot. In a way, the only way I can possibly be paid, is if people pay me what they think I am worth.
There are those who think I am useless.
There are those feel they owe me their life.
There are those who are too proud to give (but take nonetheless).
And there are those who are generous.
Yes we do need to eat, but it also needs to be acknowledged that we work on a different system, but a system that runs parallel to the mainstream and is just as supported by it as it supports it, they feed each other. I put my hand into my pocket for the buskers because I know that we are all the same…and at the end of the day, if I really asked myself what it means to me – my favorite story, my favorite album, my favorite painting, my favorite movie, my favorite song – I can’t put a monetary value to it. It is truly priceless. And when we realize THAT, maybe we will start to be more generous towards artists.
once again, please feel free, everybody, to continue to share your thoughts on this unwieldy subject.
i feel more grateful than ever to have such an articulate and thoughtful readership.
you guys all fucking rock.
p.s. ….thank you ALL for the great reading and artist recommendations….in short:
– yes i know patrick wolf, we’re friends. i think what he’s doing is smart.
– i ordered “the gift” and it’s already arrived. will read ASAP.
– i was a huge throbbing gristle fan as a teen. RAH!
– thank you for the links to tom green, elizabeth streb’s gallery,
– yes i’ve been watching kristin hersh/cash music and jill sobule, they’re both doing awesome things and i am glad they’re out there.
– and yes, i know einstürzende neubauten has been making fan-funded records for a while, i used to worship blixa and actually stood in line forever to meet him and give him a dresden dolls CD. god knows if he ever listened to it but i like to think it perhaps found a second life somewhere in an efficient german trash compactor making splintery-plastic sounds surface-recorded with an expensive neumann microphone for his next record.
i don’t think it’s wise to charge for webcasting at this point. maybe soon, but the technology isn’t perfect and it draws more people into the party (i’m especially convinced of this watching webcasts go viral on twitter).