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the difference between “thanks anyway” and “go fuck yourself”…and another question. (book blog #2)

good lorrrrrrd. 600+ comments and counting, and so much insanely intelligent stuff.
(if you missed it, the last blog – about my new book – is HERE.)
while we’re cooking with gas, i’m just going to keep asking. so read on.
jamy and i spent the entire day in hermosa talking about the book outline and reading through these comments, and i pasted a lot of our back-and-forth below. there’s so much high-class stuff – if i didn’t cut and paste your comment, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t read (or amazing)…a lot of what i grabbed was random, in order to keep a certain flow of conversation going.

meanwhile, on topic, trent reznor just did an interview for SPIN magazine.
i was interviewed about a week ago about mr. reznor for Fader magazine, who are doing a giant, personal profile on him to be published in a few months. trent was always really kind to the dresden dolls when we toured with him, and i talked about how he defended us from the NIN stage when some assholes in the audience heckled us.
when trent went from doing-it-himself back to using a major label a little while ago, i saw a lot of people bitching about it on twitter and calling him a “traitor” or whatever. i totally stood by and defended his decision to work with a label. he can do what he wants. why the fuck not? i know what it’s like to run your own label and you can NEVER do what an office of full-time label people can do. it’s all about help, time and energy. want more help? you may need to go to a label and share your profits. like everything else i find myself defending…crowdfunding, labels, etc etc etc: it all comes down to the same thing: IT’S THE ARTIST’S DECISION. LET THE ARTIST DECIDE.
even though i may never do it like NIN, or like radiohead, or like miley cyrus….i think whatever path they choose is fine. use a label. don’t use a label. make mainstream music. make loud dissonant noise. twerk your brains out. being an artist is about forging your own path (in content and in business practice) and following your own path.
anyway, what trent says below ties in DIRECTLY with the question i asked you guys. read:
“Nine Inch Nails feels bigger than it ever has,” says a bemused Reznor. “Is it because we’re on Columbia? Is it scarcity? I don’t know, but it doesn’t feel bigger in the sense that we’ve desperately adopted some new clothing style. It feels organic, and it feels good not to be worrying about whether or not we shipped vinyl to the cool record store in Prague. I know that what we’re doing flies in the face of the Kickstarter Amanda-Palmer-Start-a-Revolution thing, which is fine for her, but I’m not super-comfortable with the idea of Ziggy Stardust shaking his cup for scraps. I’m not saying offering things for free or pay-what-you-can is wrong. I’m saying my personal feeling is that…


via SPIN

i think one of the important things to consider here is the difference between saying “my album’s not a dime. it’s not a buck. i made it as well as i could and it costs 10 bucks, or go fuck yourself” and “my album’s not a dime. it’s not a buck. i made it as well as i could and it costs 10 bucks. if you don’t want to pay for it, thanks anyway (and hopefully when you torrent it and love it you’ll eventually share it with someone who will support me directly).”


for the record: i think trent is great, and i think being a musician right now is frustrating for a lot of reasons.
i also think the most important thing we (especially we musicians) have to keep in mind is that there are as many paths as there are musicians.i’m never going to hold it against NIN, radiohead, prince, regina spektor or miley cyrus for doing what they want…even if i’d never do it. that goes for artistic content (though you never know, i might come out with a hard-hitting industrial album and do a whole series of twerking videos directed by david lynch to go along with it), and it also goes for business systems. do i hold it against one direction for having a huge label? hell no. they couldn’t be a boy band without that system. do i hold it against people who charge $20 for album downloads on bandcamp. nope – and though i doubt that system would work for me…MAYBE it works for them. maybe they have a base of extremely devoted fans who understand that the $20 is going to fund something important. no system is not allowed. this is the only way forward. not one answer. millions of answers, and respect for every artists’ decision.
Meanwhile, THIS article landed on my twitter stream this morning (from @rebeccahiscott) and couldn’t be more timely:

it’s written by a music lawyer and THIS part is key:
“Older artists – that is, artists from my era or before – tend to shun the idea of fan funding because it feels like begging. They tell me that they respect and appreciate their fans, and they’d never cheapen the relationship by begging them for money. I think this perception is in part because many DIY artists conduct their fan funding campaign in a manner that really does feel like begging. I’ve unfollowed scores of Twitter feeds comprised of relentless, increasingly desperate pleas for donations. Updates like “Come on, we’re at 52%…only FIVE DAYS LEFT to pledge – we NEED your support” several times per hour. This sort of pressure has colored how we feel about fan funding.”

and this is EXACTLY what so many people, hundreds of people, responded in the blog comments.

sometimes it’s just about TONE. how you ask. i know that my TED talk was inspired DIRECTLY by watching artists APOLOGLIZING for crowdfunding.
i couldn’t stand seeing one for kickstarter video that started with the lead singer of a band saying: “hey guys! so this is the embarrassing part where we come begging you for money!”

i wanted to grab those people and shake them and say “it’s OKAY. just ASK. just ASK. stop apologizing, you’re making us all look bad when you cower and apologize. JUST ASK.”


so to the comments now, some highlights and my (and jamy’s) additional thoughts….
there were lots of really great succinct comments, along these lines….


Asking is an invitation. Begging is a demand.


one of my favorite comments, period:

Gabriel Komisar
I always thought that asking for something meant that “Yes” and “No” were suitable answers.
Ex. “May I have a handjob?”
“Alright then.”

Whereas with begging you are demanding something from someone.
Ex. “Dammit Charles, I need a handjob!”
“Oh, if you insist.”


AFP: good point here – asking is a normal part of daily life:

Rachael Pixie
Asking: one asks for things all the time. I asked my co-worker to forward my calls. I asked my friend if she wanted to take a walk. I asked my boyfriend if he felt like having spaghetti for dinner. Casual asking. We do it all the time. Even smaller moments are acts of asking: “excuse me, do you have any aspirin in stock?” while at the store. It may sound like begging if you have a migraine, but I’ve not yet gotten to that. Asking is something we all do, all the time, sometimes without thought. Sometimes with great thought. Sometimes, with hesitation. But it is a normal part of life. Many times, asking is without expectation. And on the other side, asking can be used to delay response. We learn this as children, asking our mother for something, only to be told, “ask your father.” And his answer? “Ask your mother.” Asking can be frustrating. Ask someone for something, or to do something, and in return, perhaps they will have to ask someone else. Sometimes, this is a legitimate thing. Sometimes, it’s a way of shifting blame. We all ask. We ask casually, we ask seriously. And I’d wager that most of us do not go a day without asking something, be it to gain an understanding of something, to obtain something, or to have someone do something for us. Or, to do something for someone else. “May I help you?” or “What can I do?” And so much of this is in the phrasing, the intent, and the way the asking is done. Shrugging and saying, “how could she ask me something like that?” Or “I know she asked for this, but what was she really asking for?” We ask questions when we don’t know the answer. We ask when we do. And we ask when we don’t want to know. Sometimes, we can’t help ourselves. Asking by and large fuels our interactions in this society.

My co-worker just asked me what I am writing. I said, “a longer than I expected post about the differences between asking and begging. Because there’s this singer, you might like her, but anyway, she asked me to. So I am.”


asking is like courtship; begging, you are already naked and panting


JAMY: Well, when you put it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad …

Blaire R
The way I see it, begging is the more desperate form of asking. The first time you make a request, it’s asking: it might be polite or demanding, but it’s still just asking. When you have to ask again – and again and again and again – that’s begging. It’s proof that you are so desperate to accomplish a goal that you’re willing to keep asking. Like you said, people don’t like to ask. It’s uncomfortable, it’s somewhat self-demeaning (sometimes), it’s humbling. It’s also an act of submission to the person you’re begging: if you ask once, you’re saying that person is useful; if you beg, you’re telling the person that you need them enough to give them some amount of power over you.

AFP: this was a recurring theme….there’s a lot of these comments….the FIRST TIME is asking.
the fourth time…it’s more like begging:

Begging is repetitive asking, with increasing desperation.

arin Antal
Ask once, get your answer, move on. Ask twice, get the same answer; now you’re begging. Or annoying. Same thing.


When one wanteth, one asketh. When one needeth, one beggeth. Here endeth the lesson. Eth.

AFP: awesome. eth.

Jamie Metcalfe
It depends on the situation. It’s circumstantial. Asking can be begging, but begging cannot always be asking. It’s much deeper, more immediate and more intimate. Asking implies questioning, where begging implies dire need for what is asked for. There is nothing wrong with either.

We beg our lovers to stay and we ask them what we can do to keep them around. Sometimes they go hand in hand. Sometimes it’s completely ugly, sometimes it’s completely beautiful. When someone is selfless and helps you in your time of need it feels less like begging, and more like a genuine human connection.

Begging can be looked down upon, asking; not so much. Begging is beneath most people. But most cannot achieve all their goals by themselves.

upon reading this, Jamy says: “ehhhh, i dunno. in a love relationship? begging never produces a good outcome. it’s always too late once you’re begging a lover to stay.”


Miss Bri Saussy

AFP: this really reminds me of the TED talk, where i talk about….”trust versus force.”
when you ask “HOW DO WE MAKE PEOPLE PAY FOR MUSIC”, you’re talking about force.
when you ask “HOW DO WE LET PEOPLE PAY FOR MUSIC”, you’re talking about trust.

so maybe:

asking = trust
begging = fear.


To generalize, most Americans (perhaps Occidentals) cannot bear the idea of being helpless, dependent, and/or passive; and are deeply uncomfortable with the idea of one person not being able to solve all their problems alone. This is not to say that all Americans/Occidentals buy this notion hook, line, and sinker – but its ghost pervasively haunts this society, and is wrapped up in our individual and collective psyches in ways we often don’t see. Need and help are still cultural anathema; something only comfortable for many if they are in the position to be the one offering, rather than asking or receiving, because it is (consciously or unconsciously) perceived to be the more powerful position. (Power dynamics – longer conversation for another day.)

AFP: this is interesting, for sure. so many people, over the last months, have brought up the difference between east and west and the buddhist tradition of “begging” monks who go door to door and are considered an integral PART OF THE COMMUNITY – part of the ecosystem…..

and, related, there are many many about the “power dynamic”:


You only beg for something when then other person has all the power and you have none.

jamy muses: “in asking you’re taking responsibility…in begging, you’re throwing off the responsibility and putting into the hands of the beg-ee.”


love this:

Hanno Smit –
Simple, asking makes you want to give because – you WANT, you LOVE, and you CARE. Begging makes you need to give because you feel GUILTY and OBLIGATED. Its almost like that spanking you got for bad behaviour v.s. the lollipop you got when you were good. The outcome is similar but the associations are polar opposites.


and this is really good:

Stephanie Axberg revsparker
There are a certain kind of people who like to play the victim… and I know this because, however much it embarrasses me to say, I used to be one of them. Nothing that happened to me was ever my own fault, and I could never be responsible for where life led me, and when I needed something, it almost always came to begging. It took some things happening in my life to wake me up and make me realize that the power was in my hands the entire time, and the culpability for where I had ended up. I like to think that I am doing way better now, and it’s a lot harder for me to *ask* for anything now, since I came from a place where I used to beg.

… I think we, as humans, have to stand up for those who have been oppressed to that point, but how do we tell the difference between real victims who are begging and reaching out for help and those who would manipulate and play on our emotions to get what they want?

I don’t know the answer, I just try to be compassionate to those around me, and to save my energy to help the people in my life who really deserve it, for those who helped me rise out of my old ways of thinking and being and who stuck with me.


this is great:

Tank Gina Louise Brown
I’m not sure if I agree that this is the difference between asking and begging, but it touches on something I think is important to bring up here: it’s really, really important to make it OK for people to say “no.”

The idea of having a band come around asking for donations at a concert they is really uncomfortable — it means I have to look them in the eye and say (implicitly), “You’re not worth that much to me.” It puts me in a position where my options are “give” or “be rude.” It’s very similar to when people working for Greenpeace or the Red Cross or whatever see me walking around with headphones on, come up to me, and put a hand out like I’m supposed to shake it. I get FURIOUS at those people. Walking away from them is hard, and of course, it’s supposed to be — they exploit my desire to be polite in order to coerce me into listening or giving.

What makes Kickstarter (for instance) different is that there’s no penalty to walking away. No force of coercion. If I don’t give anything, I don’t have to confront anyone about why. And giving me that option communicates humility and respect — and it engenders respect in turn. It makes me more likely to help out, actually, because it makes me like the person asking and feel like they deserve a chance.


really well put:

Shawnie Alvara
Begging is asking without the intent of hearing no. Sort of like stealing is like borrowing with no intention of returning.


and i love this…

what is the difference between asking and begging?
Jess says:
How tightly your hands are clasped together.

AFP: what a fucking image. it’s so true. softly, pleasantly clasped hands, asking. tightly clasped, wringing hands and white knuckles: begging.


beautifully put. i like “invitational”:

Angie J-s
Asking is INVITATIONAL. It’s about saying, “Hey! I’m doing something really cool and I’d love it if you were a part of the fabness. Wanna join me? ‘Cause I could really use (whatever is needed).” Asking is prosperity-minded, coming from a place of gratitude and joy and inclusiveness and passion and confidence. It has a whole different feeling to it – for both the person doing the asking and the folks being asked. Hooray for asking!

Begging is poverty minded and carries some seriously icky extra baggage. Begging demands attention, comes from a place of “can’t do it on my own” and is often met with avoidance or even anger. And really…who the hell needs more guilt or negativity for, y’know, anything? Fuck begging.


Are you asking us or begging? Show your work in your response.



Erika Ensign
“We ask for what we want. We ask for what we need. Sometimes we beg for what we need, because desperation can quickly turn asking to begging. When we beg for what we *want* instead of what we *need*, we’re failing both ourselves and the person we’re begging.”

AFP: THIS is so interesting. the idea that begging IS ok in the context of extreme need, a life and death situation. begging a passing car to slow down because you’re stuck on the side of the road in the desert after your car broke down if ok, right? (though jamy adds: throwing tacks on the road is not ok, and amanda adds: because it leaves EVERYBODY STRANDED.)


i could go on and on, and the comments are continuing to pour in even as i write this.

so here’s my next question….
(and that’s jamy ian swiss, my current book doula, on the right. he says hi).

answer away. i expect these stories to be good.

i ask one more thing of you all: PLEASE use the handy dandy up-vote system and vote up stuff that resonates….
when the blog starts getting over 500-1,000 comments it can get overwhelming and it’s fantastic when the power of the multiple commenters/readers actually use their hive mind to shift the good stuff to the top.

have at it.


p.s. and by the way,
here’s a link to trent’s new record…
it costs $10, or go fuck yourself. :)

EDIT – FEB 6, 2014: peoples! this is legalese stating that i CAN USE YOUR COMMENTS, or portions of your comments – in the book, freely, and you won’t come suing me. you’ll be seeing it at the bottom of every blog where i’m asking for comments that i might use in the book. don’t be scared.

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