If you’ve been on the internet in the past couple days, you’ve probably heard about the little kerfuffle involving Amanda Palmer kinda sorta not paying her guest musicians. Okay, in all fairness, they volunteered, and she gave them beer and hugs and- you know what? Let’s back this up a bit here.
Amanda Palmer! Originally of the Dresden Dolls before she went solo, Amanda left her old record label, Road Runner, in favor of starting a Kickstarter to fund her new album. How much did she get out of Kickstarter? Oh, you know, just little something … $1 Million. She got $1 Million to make her album.
But that’s fine! Record labels are notoriously shady anyway, so at least she’s doing it herself, taking accountability, and cutting out the middle man. That means more affordable albums for her fans, and- What’s that? They’re being sold for the same price as albums put out by major labels that didn’t have $1 Million funding? Well … okay, I guess that’s just market value, and at least the album is still good and fans are willing to buy it.
Besides, live shows are where most musicians focus on raising money. Except Amanda has started crowd-sourcing musicians to play with her band, and she paid the volunteers in beer and hugs. Okay. Well. That’s … okay, I’m starting to see how some people can sort of see how that might not necessarily be seen as on the level by everyone.
Well, after a ton of scrutiny, Amanda has announced on her blog that she’ll be compensating her guest musicians in cash, which … yeah, that’s probably a good thing.
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.
i hope this does two things: i hope it makes the volunteers surprised and happy (they’ll be getting some dough they had no idea was coming) and i also hope it makes our family circle feel good about speaking out. when we handed the musicians their surprise cash backstage in new orleans the other last night, they laughed like mad and said “after ALL THAT, you’re going PAY US??!!”
Look, let’s get a few things straight: would I volunteer to play a show with her for free? Yes, yes I would. I’ve done much worse stuff pro-bono, and I really do like Amanda. I just hope she’d be willing to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for two straight hours, because that’s the only song I can remember from my fourth grade piano lessons.
That being said, should she be paying her guests? Yes, yes she should. If Amanda really wants to create an environment where musicians are supported, she also has to do her fair share to support other musicians, including the ones who volunteer to support her. I mean, I went and looked up how much she’s charging for a ticket to a live show. It’s $73 to see her here in Toronto. I’m just saying, if she’s going to charge that much for a ticket, the least she can do is send her guests a little bit of cash for their support.
What just gets me here is that Amanda asked her fans for some support, and they delivered in spades, which I think is great. It’s a new way for artists to get it out there. That being said, to whom much is given, much is expected; if you’re given $1 Million, and you’re giving back beer and hugs, your exchange rate may be a touch skewed.