The Sound of People Dancing. (A Thing + Ongoing Discussion about Patreon).
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(*official thing*, public post, because it’s a share-worthy discussion.)
HOLA my loves.
so….i’m Thinging the Thor Song (Thor Thong Thing? Thor Thing Thong? Thuper Thpecial Thor Thing Thong Therapy ?)…but first, i wanted to post a continuation of the discussion that i kicked off the other day. Yeth.). note that this is thing #2 this month, some of you will have hit your cap and won’t be paying for it, and i’m doing that on purpose (it’s the 31st today).
it took me several hours to read through all 445 comments (which is, if you’re curious, about 6% of all the patrons…did you know that the internet has a free percentage calculator? now you know…).
and though, in a way, i wish all 7,838 patrons had responded, i’m simultaneously glad i didn’t have to spend four or five whole days reading 7,838 comments. these 445 comments have given me a very good sense of how you guys are feeling out there, and i can assume that the other uncommenting folks are happy to let the 445 be congressional delegates for the masses.
i’m so grateful for those of you who took the time to write profound, articulate messages back to me as i muse about the Ways of Patreon and How and What to Thing. i thank you all, especially the lurkers and first-time commenters.
and i hope this isn’t boring any of you, but then again, if you’re bored…skip the long bit below and just listen to the music.
which is right here. it’s called:
THE SOUND OF PEOPLE DANCING
….and i’m giving you patrons the fully engineered mix of the uncut live recording.
here’s the link on soundcloud, and the artwork sketch is over there as well.
mind you: this is the full 25-minute recording, including a sweet n’ rambling 5-minute introduction. the lyrics are pasted in the text on the soundcloud…. but please don’t read them before you listen. it’ll make the listening different and too intellectual. however, if you’re *not* going to listen to the song, though, go ahead and read the lyrics as a poem instead. that works.
for the listeners: i recommend a bath and wine.
ok. i digress. the link:
note: i am not making this soundcloud passworded or private. it’s a public soundcloud link, you can share it if you want. but i’m not going to tweet it, or Facebook it, or share it ANYWHERE but here.
we’re in workshop phase: i’m going to take this 25-minute version and probably cut it down to about 15-17 minutes for the general public (bandcamp, youtube, the version i’ll put on social media, etc).
i’ll probably chop out the introduction altogether, or just keep a very edited-down 45 second version of it, and i’m going to chop out some of the instrumental bit at the end (it’s beautiful, but i think it goes on too long…i’ll probably carve out several chord cycles off the end – maybe 5 or 6 of them). HERE IS WHAT I WOULD LOVE: if you have any feedback about the edit, especially if you’re a music-person who has a keen ear for editing, please weigh in below. i’m reading. i’m going to try to get a finished copy of this out within the month. i’m only Thinging it here once, now, in rough draft format. the finished version will be free to you and all.
for the record: i like the idea of working this way occasionally, and giving you guys a rough draft of something before it gets polished and mastered….this is fun.
that brings me to PART TWO of this post…which is a much longer, deeper discussion of how this patreon is working.
we had a WONDERFUL TIME at the hudson “town hall”. thank you to EVERYONE who made the extra effort to show up there hours before the show to sit and talk with me. as you can see from the photo (credit: sid khlasa), about 50 people showed up to rap with me for a couple of hours about patreon and thinging. we pulled our chairs into a circle and had a nice long chat.
generally, the group discussion pretty much reflected what i read in the 445 comments, and i’ll hit some key elements in the text below.
it seems like 97% of you are in the “shit is awesome, change nothing” camp, which is a blessed relief. it is so nice to know that you guys have so much faith in me.
a few broad strokes:
there was a pretty much unanimous vote in favor of thinging the thor song.
it seems to me that while the majority of votes were in favor of “thinging” a website rebuild, enough people were hesitant to make me hesitant.
i think it may make sense, as i move forward, to keep the Act of Thinging loosely tied to the metaphorical post of the Real Artistic Gesture or Actual Performance- and not get into the habit of Thinging anything that could be defined as “Infrastructure”. there are so many costs associated with running amandalanda – salaries, office rent, materials, websites…maybe best not to cross the line between the table where the art gets made and the table where the computers and telephones and printers sit….for now. we can always keep talking.
IF i were ever to switch to a monthly model, i think those tables would be pushed together. (and we’d wind up with paint all over the printer. but hey. it’d look great).
let me explain something to you guys about the REASON i chose not to go monthly, because a few people at the town hall mentioned they’d be happier to support me monthly, and not per thing.
let me grab one of the comments to respond to:
Sean Kealy wrote:
I’m not crazy about ‘thinging’. It feels, I don’t know, kind of forced. There is a sense of false enthusiasm when you drumroll into a “thing”. It feels like you may be cringing yourself as the words fall from your fingers. Sometimes I get the vibe you are stretching to find things to ‘thing’. Undoubtedly, because it takes money to be the artist you envision. We get that, and that’s why we are here.I wish the whole ‘thing’ didn’t feel so transactional. Every time you say the word ‘thing’, the audience is reminded they are going to be charged. They do a dance in their head, is this something I care about, why am i paying, is she doing this just for the money, does she need something else?
And you’re probably wondering if we’re wondering those thoughts every time you ask or proclaim to ‘thing’.We’re here giving money because we want music and art from you, I don’t think it’s more than that. ‘Thinging’ is overcomplicating the situation, financially and philosophically I’d prefer if it was a monthly/bi-weekly charge. Whatever it takes for you to just go about your life making music. If you want to run away to Alaska for 6 months and make an album, do it. Don’t worry about thinging something every month just for the influx of cash. If you want to do a 20 minute sound experience with your traveling companions, do it cause it feels right not because you need to raise money for their expenses.
thank you sean…so, the reason i chose to use patreon per THING instead of PER MONTH was, honestly, because it felt MORE liberating.
i found myself doing a lot of thought experiments:
-what if someone in my life gets sick and i decide not to make art for a few months?
-what if i go on tour for six months and release nothing?
-what if i want to concentrate for a year on writing a new book?…
-what if i wanted to go sit on a mountain-side for a year or two and do nothing but zen mediation?…etc etc.
…and i just imagined myself feeling really guilty, and i imagined a hardcore group of fans sticking around saying “DONT WORRY AMANDA, WE WILL SUPPORT YOU EVEN WHEN YOU’RE ON A ZEN RETREAT FOR TWO YEARS BECAUSE YOU ARE SO AWESOME”. but honestly, as nice as that is, i’d feel unethical about it. and i daresay that i’d see quiet a drop-off as people left, one by one.
that being said: i did realize that if i decided to go a period of time (maybe even this coming year) where i’m doing a project that feels long and rolling and worthy of monthly-subscription, i could ALWAYS just press the “thing button” on the first or last day of every month. in other words, i could rejigger the “per thing” system to resemble the “per month” system, but never the other way around.
Aldous Cyriac Lázár said:
Just by intuition my reaction was: 20 minute jam no thing. Present. Redoing the website. Thing. Fucking expensive!
…and this brings out a REALLY INTERESTING POINT: just because things are expensive, doesn’t mean they should necessarily be thing-ed. the 20 minute jam, which i did, indeed, just THING, wasn’t expensive “in itself”….it probably cost less than $2,000 all told to rent the recording studio and pay the engineer.
BUT it cost a lottttt to bring Thor & Friends on the tour and fly and house and feed them, and it was so, so, so good to have them with me, and it was so good to have a larger band to support my dad, and there are reasons way beyond the practical that i wanted to have a larger art-family on the tour. it felt righter. and it cost money. see how it gets blurry?
the new website is an art-delivery device, indeed, but, like superkate’s salary or the cost of my office rental, it’s infrastructure.
on the OTHER hand….if i created a website (or an app, more likely) that was actually, in itself, a piece of art/music/beauty, like brian eno’s “bloom” app (still my favorite art app of all time)…THAT would be a thing. are you with me here?
Michael DeWittJul wrote:
Usually silent but I do love playing devils advocate so here are things that popped into my head:
Would there be a way to do “Optional Things”? I feel like the Patreon brings your fanbase into a more organizable cluster but idk if I love the “thing” system. Like the 20 minute sound journey sounds cool but isn’t my thing, I’ll support it to support you overall, but I’d feel more like a $5 tribute than a $10 for it (I know, I’m talking about the money now but that’s partially what it is about, right?)…
well…i think this would defeat the point of the blanket trust/committed relationship of the patreon.
but even so, no, it ain’t technically possible to do this. patreon is an all-in model. i don’t think it would work any other way.
you can, if you want to, always put your patronage on hold for a month and come back. the credit cards get run at the end of every month and if you quit your subscription and restart at the beginning of the month, you don’t need to worry about being charged for a month of stuff you may not have wanted to support.
then again, one of the things i LOVE about patreon is the combination of surprising you with out-of-the-blue things and also preparing you for huge things that take months of work.
i won’t always be preparing you for all things, so it might be hard to pre-selectively choose what you pay for.
in short: i think if you’re in, you’re in for whatever’s gonna happen, and that’s why there’s a cap to pledges…to keep the risk low if you need that.
Victory Obiefuna seemed to get a lot of thumbs up, and articulate the general sentiment pretty well when she wrote:
I feel like the way in which you “thing” larger projects like albums should depend more on the expense associated with the project than anything else. I’m not a musician, so I have no idea how much it costs to produce an entire album, hire other musicians, book recording studios, etc. Since I’ve decided to invest in you, AMANDA PALMER, and everything that you choose to do, I’ve come to a place where I trust you as the artist to know what’s best and what kind of monetary support you need/would like for your art. Patreon gives us the freedom to modify how we contribute depending on our means and what we’re comfortable with. If we feel like the number of things per month is too high for what we can contribute, we can easily change how we contribute. That’s what’s nice about the platform.
to this, i just wanted to say YAY, and this was the general vibe at the town hall.
there’s something a little tricky about money, time expense, and trust.
some Things cost almost nothing “directly” to make, but take weeks of planning.
i have a staff to help me: we’re small, but i do have four people on salary, one full-time and three part time, plus two publicists, one for the US and one for the UK.
sometimes it takes three or four people a week to get a project together. they’re getting paid by me anyway….so how do we calculate what their time is worth for a project that’s thing’d?
in general, i’ve been trying to keep the patreon budget per project to about a third of the gross (which has been about $10k lately), but as you can imagine, that number is often arbitrary and some things cost way more and some way less. some projects may die in the water – the money is spent, i’m not happy with the result, it was meant to be a surprise, you guys never hear about it. i eat those costs as part of doing business. sometimes disasters happen. the IRS comes to do an audit. my accountants charge me an extra $10k to go through old files. a whole room full of merchandise gets rained on, or whatever. annoying shit happens. i don’t “thing” that stuff, it’s just the painful but necessary back-end of running a little company. suffice it to say i’m happy stabbing in the dark and hoping you guys are happy to be along on the ride of randomness.
and those who are finding the ride uncomfortable…well, this takes us to the most critical post, and i share it because it actually gets me thinking in a good way:
Teel McClanahan III wrote:
As it is, I feel like I’ve paid $42 to download 2 good singles, a *meh* single, some experimental art, one good covers mini-album, and twice as many mediocre cover songs. Since I’m paying per THING, it is almost impossible not to compare it to the prices those sorts of things go for on the open market, e.g.: 22 songs (regardless of quality) should cost me $22 if bought individually—or if it were 5 singles and two albums, maybe $25… but $42? Yuck.Definitely time to stop my pledges. Go back to buying individual releases as the become available…
…to which i say: YES!! you, teel, seem like the perfect candidate for someone who *shouldn’t* be supporting the patreon, but who should remain a fan and just follow the main releases.
i mean…this process isn’t for everyone, and it shouldn’t be. it’s backstage. and if EVERYONE was backstage, there’d be nobody out in the house. it’s the engine room, it’s ground control for the larger art-planes that go flying into the public. if what you’re REALLY INTO is just NEW SONGS, PLAIN AND SIMPLE…you’re better off being on the amanda palmer mailing list and waiting until i drop a finished, perfect, 12-song album. buy the bowie record on bandcamp and toss in a few bucks (which will go to charity, but make me happy). buy the dad record on vinyl….go support the finished product. i need you there, too.
on the other hand, Karen Degi wrote:
I’m maybe a little weird – I’m not a patron because I particularly like your music or your art most of the time (that’s not meant as criticism, it’s largely just not my genre). I’m supporting you because I love the amount of connection between humans you try to promote, and the effort you put into connecting with other people (patrons, twitter, everything) yourself. I want to support you existing in the world the way you do – I want to support people in general being more authentic and courageous and empathetic and connected. Corporations aren’t good at that, but people tend to need money, and so I’m giving you money to support a new model and show appreciation for humanity over professionalism.
My opinions on what to “Thing” – i’d like to pay for things that you are proud of and personally involved with, and I don’t want to feel like you’re “gaming the system.” Things more frequently might cause me to adjust my monthly cap, but I don’t know that that’s bad – letting people set their own monthly cap and then you not worrying about whether something counts as a Thing or not seems better than you being stuck being anxious about whether you’re Thinging too often.
to which i say…dude, you and me both. the hardest part of running this patreon is trying to figure out what feels TOTALLY authentic, and just do THAT. figuring out what is and feels authentic is WEIRD AND HARD and totally a pain in the ass and it’s why so many artists shy away from having to do this kind of crowdfunding. it can be infuriating deciding what feels right and trusting yourself and your audience to allow large swaths of messy gray area.
it is part of why i put together these insanely long posts. it’s art-making, and it’s also a huge ongoing conversation with you, the audience. it’ll never end.
now, lastly, Beth, who beautifully admits to being “a little bit drunk” when posting this (cheers!!) seems to have captured what hundreds of people had variations on, and i appreciated her extensive use of caps:
We’re all helping you to create what YOU want, and if we like it, awesome, and if we don’t, it’s a small bummer, but the important thing is WE ARE NOT YOUR EMPLOYER. We are not commissioning you to do Things we ask for. You should forever and always make the art YOU want to make. Don’t get me wrong, I super appreciate your communication when you can’t decide whether to Thing a Thing (go ahead and Thing the 20 minute poem btw, I’m sure it’ll be epic) but the whole point of this is that the money is there for YOU to create what YOU want when YOU want.
to which i say: THANK YOU BETH. i don’t want an employer. i want an audience. i want an art family.
i’ve got one, right here, and i couldn’t be more grateful. you guys are absolutely amazing, i take none of you for granted, and i hope you like the Thor Thong.
and now. back to the music.
the link again:
(again: the lyrics and credits are on the soundcloud, but here are the credits, so you can see them:
Amanda Palmer – words, piano, vocals
Thor Harris – xylophone and clarinet
Sarah Gautier – vibraphone
Peggy Ghorbani – marimba
Brockett Hamilton – pedal steel
Elizabeth Warren – Viola
Penny Buentello – clarinet
Crew at Le Poisson Rouge:
Jay Eigenmann – Engineer, mixing, mastering
Bernard Girman – Asst. Engineer
Francesca Cecala – Asst. Engineer
Recorded live at (le) poisson rouge
i love you.
p.s. please click through to comment…i’m reading. anything about the song itself, or the things. open season.
p.p.s. i know the joke is getting old but
I’M THINGING A THONG!!!!