An open letter to Amanda Palmer: A fellow musician’s response to the TED video

Stephanie Nilles is a singer/ songwriter from New Orleans, LA who is no stranger to TVD. —Ed.

Dear Amanda,

I watched your TED video recently while on the road—I’m a jazz/punk pianist, singer and songwriter from New Orleans. I, too, travel about 9 months out of the year, playing 200 gigs a year. Most of them solo. I don’t revere social media the way you do, but I’ve had parallel experiences brought on by your Twitter shout-outs and couch surfing excursions, not originating from my computer screen, but through meeting people on the road at and around gigs. Over the course of the 5 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve almost always crashed with strangers who become fast and lifelong friends. I’ve never had to ask for a place to sleep or food to eat—people offer.

I’ve stayed in punk houses and mansions. I’ve slept in people’s beds while they insisted on sleeping on the couch. I’ve slept in a sleeping bag in the open basement of a farm in North Carolina next to a fireplace that was roasting the next morning’s coffee. I’ve stayed in a condo in Eugene, OR whose owners gave me the key to the joint after stocking the kitchen with food beer and wine, and left a paper bag of snacks for the next day on the road.

I’ve stayed with a woman in west Texas whose 2-year-old granddaughter shared the room with me—when she woke me up in the morning, we played dress-up until her grandmother was awake. When you said in your video you only recently had a couch surfing experience by yourself and thought “is this how stupid people die,” I laughed hysterically.

I’m writing because while I loved the performance you gave for the video—it’s obvious by the structure of your presentation you applied as much care as you do to your musical performances—I think you’re missing the larger point.

As a musician who often performs for tips, I have no problem passing the hat. I’m not self-conscious, embarrassed, feeling guilty about not having a “real job” (which I do, because this doesn’t pay enough.) My problem is that, while it’s a nice sentiment to “let people pay me,” when I get in my car and back on the road, the people who sell me fuel, auto insurance, food, a new tire, and rent to my apartment, do not “let me pay them.”

Sometime in the 90s, listeners decided that recorded music should be free. It’s largely a replicated digital product. I honestly have little problem with that. You can pay me what you want for copying a copy of my records. But for some reason, those listeners also decided that live music should also be free, unless accompanied by a social stamp of approval—be it favorable blog reviews or top 100 radio airplay. And it’s only getting worse. For those of us who aren’t famous, not only is it increasingly hard to be able to afford playing gigs on the road, it’s very near financially impossible. There have been many days I have had to choose between filling my gas tank to get to the next gig and eating a meal. I always choose the gas tank.

Playing a gig is a service. A service like mixing a drink, or preparing a dinner, or fixing an engine, or screening a movie. Those who provide the service should receive financial compensation for the work that they do, just as those who provide a tangible product should receive financial compensation for their tangible goods. Whether you agree with the tenets of capitalism (or understand them truly), our society is built on an equilibrium of goods and services. Would you also recommend that waitresses not take pay while serving at a restaurant, and instead ask their customers to pay what they’d like? Should the service industry as a whole “let people pay them”?

We tend to demand an extra 15-20% from customers for a dining experience. And an automatic extra dollar per drink at a bar. Should a bartender not take hourly pay or expect a tip every time they open a can of PBR and instead walk around the room at the end of a shift with a bucket, asking for money? Some might argue “but I love what I do, and waitresses don’t.” Even when that’s the case (and often times it’s not), no one should ever be punished financially for choosing a profession they don’t hate. Instead they should be rewarded for the patience required to get to that profession.

Furthermore, the service provided in playing a show takes cumulative hours, if not years, of preparation. Being able to play and sing live in a room, in my case, took 13 years of piano lessons, 4 years of music school, decades worth of practice, not to mention thousands of dollars in instruments and gear. And practicing is hard work. An hour’s worth of practicing requires far more brain power than an hour’s worth of pouring coffee or editing a manuscript (both of which I’ve done.) When do I get paid for those hours I’ve logged? Just as we automatically put down an obligatory extra dollar on a shot of whiskey, why can’t we be expected to shovel out an extra $2-$5 at the door of a small venue? It’s less than the cost of a drink in many American cities. Why is that too much to demand?

Another thing you overlooked: you compare your experiences now to working as a street statue. (One of my friends in New Orleans is in this business and loves it, by the way.) I appreciate where you’re coming from about sharing visceral emotional experiences with strangers and relating it to your work in music. After one particularly rough gig at a bar in Pittsburgh (one of those where I sat there with a bottle of liquor afterward thinking, “what the fuck am I doing?”) a man came up to me and told me that my recording of “St. James Infirmary” from my last record was in his ear on repeat for a month and helped him get through his friend’s suicide. That said, you compared working as a statue to working as a musician. You’ve done both. Can you honestly tell me you believe that standing in Jackson Square and holding a flower requires the same amount of resources, focus, energy, talent, and experience as playing a concert? And therefore should be compensated equally?

My concern is that musicians aren’t demanding the financial compensation they deserve. And when a person in your public standing (thanks in large part to your stint with a major label, whether it worked out for you or not) comes out and says the things you said, you make it that much more difficult for those of us who are out here working our asses off without the long arm of fame. Musicians should get paid for doing work. Because it is real work. Simple as that. More people need to hear influential figures say those words.

Just another view. Thanks for the work that you do. It’s wonderful.

Very sincerely,
Stephanie Nilles

Photos: Meg Hannah

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  • guest

    Thank you for saying that Stephanie, I watched Amanda’s TED talk and had a lot of the same thoughts, it’s good to see somebody write something that hits the point.  I think Amanda’s framing the issue in terms of “trust” is a cop out, it’s almost like “you don’t make money as an artist because you don’t trust hard enough.” It’s not to say that money is the primary objective, or that putting yourself in situations where you have to trust other people isn’t part of it, in fact, I think it’s better to err on the side of trust if you are involved in the arts. The problem is Amanda is not looking at it contextually. It’s one thing for a relatively unknown local musician who has very little money to pay their musician friends in beer and hugs, but it’s another for a person with a touring budget to ask strangers (who work as musicians for pay) to play as her backing band. I know she ended up paying those musicians, so I thought she had thought out her opinions a little more since, but the talk, despite being well given, was disappointing in content.

    • Lucika

      “The problem is Amanda is not looking at it contextually.”
      Well, no.  She’s only talking about her own experiences…
      I think it would be weird if she was making statements generally or talking for other people, personally. Seems fairly obvious her approach isn’t going to work for everyone, everywhere.  Nor is it (or I presume intended to be “this is a guide to getting famous and rich”)   it’s just what she’s done, how it’s shaped her approach and how it’s worked for her. 
      The crowd funded musicians bit? I think it’s perfectly in context with what she was saying, as it’s an extension of what she’s always done within her fanbase asking and giving in return – freely.  I never thought of it as exploitation for asking for time, skills, money, or items from her fans because she repays it with free gigs, free downloads etc.  
      Taken out of context, it might look different.

      • stephanienilles

        @LucikaNo, she IS talking about other people–other musicians and people in the music business: “i think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is ‘how do we make people pay for music?’ what if we started asking ‘how do we let people pay for music?’ “

      • guest

        @Lucika Stephanie’s reply got it right, it would be one thing if she said “this worked for me,” but she’s actively insulting people who disagree, who it doesn’t work for, and think it’s a rip-off, really of both the artists and the fans.
        As far as crowd funded, I said nothing against that. I have problems with bands who exaggerate their needs on kickstarter, but it’s natural that crowd funding exists since musicians are increasingly lacking financial support. I receive un-asked for donations as an artist, when necessary I ask for help from our fans without any thought of it being exploitive, though I regularly reach out to fans not asking for help. My music is free to listen to online as much as anyone pleases (and very cheap to download), and I don’t have any expectations of huge fame or fortune, or financial help from anyone. I’m lucky when I’m breaking even, between playing shows and selling music. 
        And guess what? I’m not bitter. I don’t care that I’m stupidly poor, without health insurance, probably won’t be particularly recognized as an artist in life or death. You’d be amazed at how many musicians are just like me, in these regards. I know, I’m sitting online and debating about Amanda Palmer, but I really have no ax to grind, no one to rage against. I just think Amanda’s approach to this is very shallow and simplistic, and it’s unfair of her to put it on other artists. The conversation about how our society and it’s artists interact is an important one, and needs to happen, but it should happen with a little more depth than “I trusted people and got famous!”
        Please don’t read this that I’m defending some old model of the music industry, or that I think everything Amanda has said or done is evil or something, I would just hope that someone can call her out that she’s not being fair to fellow artists. It comes off as strangely passive aggressive, especially the part where she says the criticism made her think of people who would shout “get a job!” Other than that being totally out of context, it’s also demonizing anyone who disagrees as a “non-artist” who “doesn’t get it,” rather than really looking at the issues.

        • sdoifusdofi

          @guest

  • ChristinaHorn

    My favorite part of all of this is that we are talking about the issue. I will not take sides. I believe both sides have valid arguments. We will never be able to demand $5 at the door of a shitty venue if our patrons do not begin to realize that 90% of what we do we actually don’t like—like driving through Kansas___like not taking showers_____like eating shit for food…..to get to the part that we do like====which actually only occupies a fraction of our time: PERFORMING. 

    And, on the other hand, it’s OK to like what you do. 

    Wake up. 

    thanks for writing this Stephanie. You have thought through the issue and you article is well-written.

  • ben

    maybe you’re just a shit musician

    • JonQ

      @ben don’t be an ass

    • stephanienilles

      @ben Are you a musician? I’d love to hear your stuff if you are… Also I admire the courage it took you to post such a provocative comment anonymously.

  • guest

    Did you actually listen to the talk?
    Where in there did she say that Musicians and Statues should be paid equally?
    And where do you hear anything about people in jobs that take tips… should not take tips and instead use a bucket later to ask for tips?
    What?

    • stephanienilles

      @guest”I had no idea how perfect an education I was getting for the music business on this box.”
      “i decided i’m gonna give away my music for free whenever possible but i’m gonna ask for help because I saw it work on the street (points to box on stage thus indicating 8-foot bride shtick).” I’m not saying I think she thinks musicians and statues should be paid literally the same amount of money, but that they should be compensated in the same manner–by trusting people to pay them. If you’re trusting someone to pay you, you have to give them a way to pay you. Be it kickstarter or a tip bucket. How did you think she got paid as a street statue? Paypal? She got paid from people putting dollars in a tip bucket. She also mentions having her opening band “pass the hat.” That hat is the same concept as a tip bucket.

      • TravisHartnett

        stephanienilles If you’re gigging in your home town, probably within walking or bus distance of your home, you might be able to play for tips….if you could play music for three to five hours at a time.  But even local gigs don’t work that way–you have a very small period of time to make your money, and when you’re on the road you have significant overhead to even make it to the gig.

  • stee

    ‘fuel, auto insurance, food, a new tire, and rent to my apartment, do not “let me pay them.”’ That’s probably because they are essentials… where as paying for music isn’t. you only pay for it if you really like it. We don’t go to a shop and go ‘this only cost this much? I WANT TO PAY MORE!!’ so why would we do it at a venue?
    If we thought that the price was a pitance we would give the extra straight to the artist… because we want to. 

    If you have fans that want to help, then that’s a sign that you’ve hit a chord.

    • stephanienilles

      steeMusic is not essential? Would you be happy in a world with no music? I don’t think I believe you…. And I don’t understand the point you were trying to make about paying more for something. (?) I would also mention that there is a connection between progress of a society and progress in the
      Arts. The age of
      Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also
      the age of
      Leonardo Da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare. And all those dudes got paid. As did their less accomplished contemporaries.

      • stee

        stephanienilles Some people can’t AFFORD to pay for music, do you want to stop spending the money you make on rent etc and start buying someone else’s music at today’s prices?
        I think this talk makes sense for people with big fan bases.
        When you are doing well enough that you can afford to give your music to those that can’t afford it but want to hear it, it might make more sense to you.

        • stephanienilles

          stee Yeah obviously some people can’t afford to pay for music. My thoughts aren’t directed at them. They’re directed at the people who can afford to but feel that musicians shouldn’t get paid because playing music live is not a real job. And I agree giving away your music for free when you’re bigger is an amazing idea. Saul Williams does it, Radiohead, etc.

        • stee

          stephanienilles so because she mentions that she felt people would think she wasn’t doing a real job… that is why you write a lecture against the idea….

          Then it’s fine then, if she has stated that in her personal experience she can give away music for free. She’s a big artist, I don’t remember her going ‘are you just starting out? … give away all your stuff.’

        • http://johnandjana.com/ JohnSeven

          stee stephanienilles There was a time in history when music was just as essential as it is now, but was not based solely in going and seeing someone else perform it. People performed music themselves at their own gatherings. Often. Which is to say, the essential quality of music can manifest itself in many more ways than paying for someone at a bar to play it while you are there.

        • sdoifusdofi

          JohnSeven stee stephanienilles 
          john- yes, there was a time in our collective tribal past when ALL commodities, not just music, were produced locally, for use, not for profit. But guess what, John- that time is not now., and, missappropriations of Gift Society theory notwithstanding, we are not going back to our prelapsarian communal past anytime soon. What is happening now is that some people are using this type of rhetoric to rationalize the theft of musicians’ labor, and to deny the entirely legitimate demand of musicians to be paid for the products of our labor, and to get a fair share of the profits we create.

  • mark

    Thank you Stephanie! I absolutely agree with you. I studied and practiced music very, very hard for many years. It’s my sweat, toil and passion – yes passion. The idea that this life blood should be “free” is ridiculous and absurd. It’s a highly worked for skill and people should start getting used to paying for it. Life without music and musicians would be intolerable.
    Thank you for stating (what should be) the obvious.
    Mark

  • ctchrisf

    Not catching the point of this “Open Letter”
    Are you opposed to people paying what they think its worth? If I’m making good money I’d pay a lot more then if i’m scrapping for food that week. If that person is really having that bad a week and they can only afford a couple bucks are you going to say they don’t deserve to listen to your music? Kinda against the spirit isn’t it. 
    The Objection most people have is when everyone realized a CD cost much less then tapes to produce and distribute yet where twice as expensive. Then when everything went MP3 there is literally near zero distribution costs. yet Prices didn’t drop. That’s when we took the issue in our own hands and Napster took over. 
    I have no problem having the money go to the artist. Many artist got lazy, just pumping out records and sitting on their ass. Musicians should be paid by performing. Yes writing and recording is difficult and should be compensated but they are R&D and Marketing. The product is the performance.

    • stephanienilles

      ctchrisfSuspect grammar aside…. I absolutely agree musicians should make a living via performing live, not releasing records. In fact the entire article above applies to live music. Not albums. That’s as clear as I could possibly  make it. As I said, “You can pay me what you want for copying a copy of my records.” i.e. I don’t care about how much you pay me for my records when you download them, you can pay me nothing if you want. (That said, have you ever recorded an album? A studio can be pretty pricey. Low end $40 an hour. Mixing a bit more an hour, mastering $100 per song low end. If you record at home, you still have to acquire the appropriate recording equipment, which isn’t free unless you’re super hooked up with other recording artists or steal it.)  The letter is about the fact that live musicians are not being paid ANY money most of the time. They often play for tips. What’s the job that earns you your hard-earned money? Would you do that job for tips only?

  • Guy Guyerson

    It is a shame that performers don’t always get a fair shake monetarily for their talent and performance. I would hesitate to compare musical performance with that of being in the waiting/bar-tending when you are not the service being sought out. When you go to purchase a drink you are actively pursuing that bar-tending service. The same goes for dining/waiting. And the same can be said for those who headline events, top bill a concert, etc… in the music industry. Those outside of a fan base large enough to support a headliner or tour can’t expect their services to be actively pursued by everyone who benefits from the service.
    I’ve been to plenty of bars, clubs, and venues where I wasn’t there for the music (on some occasions not aware there would be live music that evening). Sometimes happy to pay a cover and/or add to the bucket and other times I didn’t (I went to another bar/venue or was on the other side of the bar away from the music). Most of the time not actively seeking out the musical performance as these “exchanges” occur at bars, clubs, and venues that serve purposes other than a headlining show.
    I’m sure you have a loyal fan base and I’m sure it grows with each performance you do. Those individuals are actively seeking your performance out and I’m willing to wager that they have no issues adding to the bucket and/or paying a cover charge. That is your audience. In Amanda’s case, that is the audience of near 25,000 that pushed her kickstarter and filled the tour stops. That audience didn’t appear over night and I don’t think there is any doubt that being on a major label helped grow the initial audience she had from her performances at bars, clubs, and other venues; but there was a beginning before the label.
    I don’t want to speak for Amanda as I’m far from qualified to be able to. My take-away from her TED talk was in that approaching a mindset of “letting people pay” for music was how she chose to expand her audience. Those that actively pursued her service. While also expanding that audience by bringing down the barriers of entry for those who weren’t actively pursuing her service. 
    Have you ever declined additional toppings to your sundae, hamburger, etc…? Have you ever spun in a circle at a record store and purchased whatever you were pointing to when you opened your eyes? You know what toppings you want on your food and what music you want to pay for (you can make certain of this by bringing the album to a listening station prior to purchase). But I’m sure you also know the experience of being the beneficiary of a musical performance that brought you to purchase (those listening stations at record stores are there for a reason).
    By giving what you can away for free you make room for those who want to support you; those who want to pay for your service. It is easy to look at the success Amanda has had in the last year within a vacuum and point out how she has benefited from the agency she had and currently has. But please don’t fall into that trap. There was a day when no one knew who Amanda was and now more than no one is aware of her and her music.
    Please don’t focus on the money (and, unfortunately, lack there of) but instead focus on your audience. They will hold you up, help keep you going, provide places for you to crash, and they will keep spreading your talent, your music. That is what I took from Amanda’s talk. Not that there is a correct take-away but I thought I’d provide a different perspective as a consumer of the service you provide. Good luck to you in bringing your talent to a wider audience.

    • stephanienilles

      @Guy Guyerson  Excellent points for sure. I would point out, though, that more and
      more stuff–from recorded music to merch–is expected to be free–donated–by musicians. Much moreso than was expected, say, 20 years ago
      (when Amanda was getting started). For example, I play with many older
      musicians who have stories about playing in New Orleans clubs in 1990.
      They’d get a guarantee and were able to pay out each band member about
      $100 for a 2 hour gig. Now they make a percentage of the same bar’s
      sales, plus tips. Tends to add up to $30 a gig. When you consider
      inflation it makes life difficult, especially when they play gigs every
      night and practice during the day, thus making music their full time
      jobs. We can give some stuff away in the spirit of the old adage “you
      gotta lose some money to make some money,” but at what point do we stop
      giving most things (recorded music and shows) if not everything away for
      free?  As much as I’d like not to focus on money, everything I need to
      survive requires that I have money. The issue is not “how can I make a
      killing at this?” but “how can I make enough to get to the next gig?” (I should point out I’m not operating from the standpoint of wanting to
      be a famous singer/songwriter someday. I’m a jazz musician. My heroes
      are Jelly Roll Morton and Ma Rainey, who worked in whorehouses and were
      largely unknown until their deaths).
      I’d also mention that those gigs where the pesky young band you didn’t ask for in the corner hurting your ears
      are CRUCIAL gigs to that band that may very well one day be the next Amanda Palmer. Any skill
      requires practice–in the case of music, musicians have to both
      practice their instruments and practice the act of performing. If you,
      Guy, want to be able to hear more musicians like Amanda Palmer in the
      future, you have to be willing to take a chance on the less-good bands,
      and maybe even throw them some dough, so that they can carry on to the
      next town, play the next gig, figure out what works and what doesn’t,
      and keep getting better and better. (Some are helpless, yes, but some just need time….)

      • sdoifusdofi

        stephanienilles
        stephanie: thanks for writing this- you must have the patience of a saint to keep you even tone. 
        i can verify what the older cats told you about the decline in our rates of pay: i’ve been working out of nyc for the last 35 years- and i’ve watched rates for entry level bands go from decent guarantees, to high door fees, to low door fees, to passing the hat- and now people are even questioning THAT!
        to the people on this site who can’t quite accept that music is work: the 35th consecutive one night stand on a 3 month tour is WORK. And we do it because that’s what we need to do to come home with enough to pay the rent.  This doesn’t mean we don’t love our work, or didn’t choose it. But anyone who tries to tell us we don’t deserve pay for it can take a hike. 
        but ultimately, our fight isn’t with consumers- its with people and corporations which profit off music without paying the musicians.  There’s a rough consensus among musicians that new bands playing at tiny  non-funded venues  sometimes have to bite the bullet. But there’s also a consensus that when the bandleader, clubowner, label owner, or whoever has a million dollars in funding, or is profiting off our work,  we want to be paid. 
        the tricky thing is that much of today’s music business profit is indirect- in the distributor, rather than the label, from the sales of advertising on youtube videos, etc etc. This presents legal barriers that inhibit traditional union organizing. But sister stephanie, we are creative people- and we have overcome bigger obstacles in the past. meanwhile, keep on speaking truth to amanda palmer, and to the corporate agenda she represents.

  • VincentMcCallum

    The problem is that some people get a ridicules amount
    of money and others do not.
    Even
    the greatest of fools amongst us know that our world leaders, politicians,
    judges, lawyers, businessmen, bureaucrats, have failed us miserably year after
    year, for centuries. there incompetence, blinding greed, corruption and egos
    have destroyed millions
    of lives by treating the average human being as if we were something that
    actually belonged to them.
    We
    are tired and stressed, we are desperately searching for work, we can´t feed
    our children, our kids see no future, there is a world crises we are paying for
    what was caused by others. why should we pay for the debts of others? why can´t
    we live on this planet in peace? I don´t want to do what they F….. tell me,
    give me one good reason why I should?
    According
    to somebody we are the most intelligent of life form on this planet
    (congratulations for murdering your brothers and sisters), we have created the
    most advanced work tool ever (computers), for years and years we have
    complained that we work too hard, morning until night, that we don´t have the time
    to do the things that we really want to in life. Well, now is our chance, we
    don´t have to any more 

    If
    we get rid of the idiots that are making all these ridicules decisions for us,
    (while lining their own pockets), maybe we can start to live in a more peaceful
    and less stressful way. I suggest that we look at this like a business, that we
    put the right person for each specific job and position, make our decisions by
    holding referendums, abolish all political parties. After all, I don´t belong
    to anybody, how about you? we can be our own leaders, finally the human race
    can be free from tyrants.
    We
    have a population that is large enough, So that each person only needs to work
    three days a week, allowing four days to spend with family, do whatever, nobody
    needs to earn more than 1.000€ per month or work all the time anyway.
    To
    put this into practice we need to freeze all current currencies and make them
    non valid, create a new world currency and start from zero. A new system where
    nobody is more f……. important than anybody else.
    All
    we need to do is make it happen.
    PS:
    In the mean time we might as well legalize marijuana, seeing that it has been
    proven time and time again that it causes no harm consumed in moderation.
    Vincent McCallum

  • http://www.restlessspiritshop.com/ 1barefootgirl

    Nicely said.

  • Lucika

    “And when a person in your public standing (thanks in large part to your stint with a major label, whether it worked out for you or not) comes out and says the things you said, you make it that much more difficult for those of us who are out here working our asses off without the long arm of fame. Musicians should get paid for doing work. Because it is real work. Simple as that”

    Hm. She wasn’t famous to begin with though, no? At one point she was also working her ass off without the long arm of fame: this is how she got there. (yes, in large part to a major label in some regards, but also in large part to her relationship to her fanbase – which happily exists sans the major label)
    I don’t think she’s saying music should be free in the sense that it should be worthless and musicians shouldn’t get paid, or that it isn’t ‘real’ work.  If musicians shouldn’t get paid, she wouldn’t have made it this far.  If she didn’t believe it wasn’t real work, she wouldn’t have got here.
    My interpretation of what she’s saying, is there’s an alternative to a record label and the old model – for those who want it.  And that it’s viable.  Yep, there are a stack of things that make her circumstances ‘special’ but that doesn’t mean a lot of it isn’t transferable or that other people couldn’t make it work.
    It seems to me like she’s saying, rather than trust in the support of a label (and trusting in people who are only interested in the amount of money they can make out of you seems…flawed) it’s better to trust in the support of your fanbase. Let them pay you directly; cut out the middle man entirely. 
    She’s in control of her music.  She has marketing people and people who help her organise stuff – but she pays them, not the other way around, and she makes all the creative decisions. To me, that makes sense and is how it should be – and seems somewhat empowering to musicians rather than disrespectful…it’s more telling them they should be in charge than they shouldn’t be compensated.

    • stephanienilles

      @LucikaGreat thoughts. But I don’t agree this is about major labels vs. self-releasing. If that’s what she meant, she would have just come out and said it. Instead she said, “i think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is ‘how do we make people pay for music?’ what if we started asking ‘how do we let people pay for music?’ ” She’s saying don’t put a sticker price on music, but trust that your fans will provide an appropriate price.

      • MrNullDevice

        She wasn’t famous at first, and oen could argue that even after her label deal she wasn’t “label famous.”
        BUT.
        Said label still did put in resources into selling those 25000 copies, which got her name out to 25000 people.  They may have been total bastards about it, but nonetheless, it started her grand adventure in crowdsourcing with an actual crowd.  It may never have been quit-your-dayjob scenarios, and she may not have had control of the music, but it was a pretty big step up from “local niche artist/street performer.”
        Most musicians?  We don’t get that leap forward.  We start with a crowd of a few dozen in our hometown, gig relentlessly and get to the point where we sell 2000 records.  2000 fans are great for crowdsourcing your next disc, but they won’t get you $1.2million.
        Asking “how can we let our fans pay us” is a question a lot of us never get to ask.  “How can I let anyone know my art even exists” comes long beforehand.

  • Greg_Z_LV

    Out here in Vegas we have a semi-famous punk club called The Double Down Saloon. Most nights of the week 3 to 4 bands get to play for 30 to 40 minutes and sell merch. The Double Down never charges a cover and regularly draws punk acts from across the country (I’ve even seen groups from Japan play on borrowed gear). Why on earth would bands play at a festering slunk hole (pretty sure the Double Downs owners would take this as a complement) like this, because the bands who blow the place out of the water get instant support and instant loyal fans who will tell people about this “mind blowing group from _____” they saw last weekend and those people will buy cds and T-Shirt, they will pay a cover to a good band another weekend at a different club.. Unfortunately when a band gets on stage and sucks the air out the room the opposite happens, people take their drinks and head-out the front door to mingle until the four UNLV freshmen who think they are being edgy by playing Green Day covers finally wrap up and starting clearing their gear from the stage. As a music fan it can literally by painful to listen to groups getting their first chances, and the ones who are committed hopefully get better and understand that yes they are providing a service and that service is entertaining the crowd.  
    The music industry and every other industry has changed. Plain and simple people with Law Degrees work at Starbucks (didn’t they spend years working hard, don’t they deserve better for their hardwork?) but our economy says we don’t need as many lawyers as their are people with law degrees, its not fair but it is the way it is. But on the flip side todays economy lets people do things that have never been done before. Louis C.K. can self produce a comedy special and make millions of dollars in a weekend while completely going around the traditional gatekeepers. A couple of Harvard kids with programming skills can make Facebook and become billionaires by thirty. On lesser scales a mid-tire comedian like Marc Maron can start giving away a podcast. with in a year he”s selling out shows and WTF is one of the most talked about podcasts on the internet. Right now is literally the best it has ever been for independents EVER.
    The old record industry gave artists an advance upfront to create a product and then executives made the artistic choices based on marketing demographics, etc. Then after selling your soul on the back end you still made almost nothing. (The other day I heard David Lee Roth on a podcast and he said when someone buys a Van Halen album he gets a whole nickel, the producers and executives make more money than the artist.) Even “independent” artists of the 90’s like REM still ended up needing to sign major label contracts to get any real distribution, and most “indie” acts were just marketing.
    Most artists throughout the history of art have toiled unappreciated only one band gets to be “The Who” only one band gets to be “The Beatles” everyone else gets to earn as much money as the market will pay them. At least today the tools are there to create a living off of your art but the rules have not only changed they have disappeared, so if you love what you do keep doing it, keep getting better at it. When I first heard about Amanda Palmer it was for free, a link on Boing Boing, then I started checking her out on Spotify (again she didn’t make money on that), I kept playing Theater Is Evil over and over because it did the same thing for me that the best bands at The Double Down did for me, and when I got a chance I paid her for it but in the mean time I told everyone I knew about her. This seems to have been the point of her TED talk, the old music industry is dead and musicians cannot be afraid of the new reality because the old one wasn’t that good and its not coming back. Who really wants to be the Justin Beiber or Fun anyway.

    • stephanienilles

      Greg_Z_LV Love these points. However I’m going farther back than the brief record-making boom of the 1970s and 80s and early 90s and am not concerned with pop stardom. I’m a jazz musician. I’m never going to be famous. Even my musical heroes were only famous posthumously. My point is working musicians should get paid about the same amount for playing a live gig as they did in the 1920s, but with inflation factored in… They should make enough to eat the next day and get to the next gig. I don’t think most music listeners realize that’s not happening now.

      • Greg_Z_LV

        stephanienilles Greg_Z_LV But in the 1920’s live entertainment didn’t need to compete for entertainment dollars and clubs really only had the option of live Music (a club couldn’t hire a guy with a ipod).  People wanted to dance while they drank bootleg liquor. I’m from Kansas City and all the Jazz legends started out playing through speakeasies but many of those guys still only made enough money to support their junk habits (Charlie Parker was notorious for pawning his Saxophones and even played on plastic saxophones at certain points). Once the Jukebox came along those days ended, and you went from touring Big Bands to small jazz quartets. Artistically what happened was amazing but it was defiantly driven by a changing market place that didn’t support 20 piece outfits anymore. 
        Now I think what both you and Amanda Palmer are saying is once again the economic landscape is changing. And one of the interesting points she made in her talk was the Desden Doll’s album that was a failure sold 25,000 copies, and her Kickstarter that was very successful had less than 25,000 supporters. But she was basically forced to discover a new model in order to survive. 
        Douglas Rushkoff put out a book a couple of years ago called “Life, Inc.” where he looked at the history of money as a form of exchange, where banks sold people money at interest and then expected to be paid back over time and everybody just says “hey, I’ll work my self to death doing 80 hour work weeks so I can pay for my car to get to work, the babysitter to watch my kids while I’m at work, etc…” but nobody really looks at the sacrifices that come with that. Rushkoff then points out cases almost exactly like Amanda’s kickstarter as ways that old system can be subverted and hacked.

  • revsean

    I think you kinda missed her point. It’s not that artists (or servers or bartenders) should beg–it’s that we should all value the art and artists in our lives to listen to their needs and help meet them. Sometimes that’s cold hard cash so you can function in the car-insurance-and-gasoline-world. Sometimes it’s the couch or a meal or me adding my talent to your world in a way that truly helps. She wasn’t saying “Don’t pay artists.” She was saying, “Get close to each other, artist and patrons, and don’t let the corporate music industry continue to interfere. Go direct. Look each other in the eyes. Ask for what you need without shame. Give what you have to give. Don’t let the people who ONLY want to profit get between the artist and the audience.”

  • ictus75

    Well,  different models work for different people. Both Amanda & Stephanie live different lives, live different stories. Neither one is ‘wrong.’ Your life may be completely different than either of theirs. The music industry is changing, shifting, evolving right now, and it’s up to each of us musicians to find where we fit in this new paradigm.

  • CarlBadgley

    i think the message is pretty clear. you do great work, your a really good musician, thanks for all you do and oh btw: check your privilege.

  • Incredible Jesus

    “An hour’s worth of practicing requires far more brain power than an
    hour’s worth of pouring coffee or editing a manuscript (both of which
    I’ve done.)” go fuck yourself

  • Moira_Rarrr

    I think that Stephanie missed the point.  To me, Amanda is saying that making that human connection with another person is what cultivates that relationship where they WANT to pay you because they appreciate you and your art.  At this point you can’t MAKE people pay.  Just like she couldn’t MAKE people pay her for standing on a box.  But people still payed her… possibly because of that connection she made with them.
    You know what sucks?  Going to your favorite bar/coffee house and having to pay extra money to listen to music that you didn’t even go there to hear.  It sucks the most when they MAKE you pay it.  However, if you like the music, and you pay because you WANT to, it feels really good to pay because you’re supporting something you like.
    So, I guess I’m saying that if you’ve been doing this for a long time and no one WANTs to pay you… then maybe you should invest more time in this day job.

    • guest

      Moira_Rarrr I think you’re right that at this point in time musicians need to focus on being good enough that people will want to pay them. With how easy it’s gotten for people to make music, a lot of people have gotten lazy creatively and focus more on their self-marketing than anything else. Maybe I’m a grumpy old man and not with the times, but there’s a lot of crap, and there’s a lot of hype. People should be discerning with the music they support.
      The problem is that no one wants to pay for anything regarding music. That particularly extends to venues. Venues don’t pay musicians what they used to, they now expect to tack on money to people coming in the door (at bars and coffee houses), to put out tip jars, bands to pre-sell tickets through bizarre “promotion” company pyramid schemes, and basically go through a lot of crap. Venues are perfectly capable of paying musicians more, and if they aren’t it’s their fault, not the musicians’. 
      I’m not saying that just to complain, but to show that the situation now is one that musicians are being forced into, and by far getting the raw end of the deal. Anyone who isn’t a touring musician is free to say “deal with it,” or “why don’t you just get really good and famous,” because they know people are always going to make music anyway. But do you think this is a healthy or sustainable relationship in the long run for anyone involved? 
      I don’t think Stephanie or anyone is arguing that anyone who makes music should be guaranteed to make money just because they make music. Of course this is subjective, but some of the best music I’ve heard is by people who are terrible at marketing themselves and basically unknown, even though their music I think would have quite an appeal to a larger audience. I don’t think they have had something denied them that they “deserve” like renown or money or anything.
       I wrote a reply to someone further down on the page where I explained what I personally think the problem with Amanda’s talk is, if you’re interested in another musician’s interpretation of this.

  • http://johnandjana.com/ JohnSeven

    After reading so many takes on this topic not only from musicians but those in other creative fields, particularly recently writers, I’m calling bullshit on the whole thing. I’ve never know anyone in a creative field to not do work for free at some point or other, and many consistently throughout their careers. I’ve not known anyone in a creative field who hasn’t had to supplement their creative income with a day or side job of some sort. Making a living in creative fields is hard. The world does not owe us a living simply because we create. The question being posed, whether creative people should be compensated for all their work, is a bogus one.

    • sdoifusdofi

      JohnSeven 
      you;re correct: the real question is whether the people who create commodities that generate wealth are entitled to a part of that wealth. I think we are. And the question beyond that is: what can we do to get it. Amanda Palmer can be seen as making a virtue of necessity by acknowledging the difficulty of getting paid for our digitally circulated records. But in fact, she- and the tech industry bread that is behind the promotion of all this bullshit- are attempting to impose neccessity where none exists: there are many just solutions to the problem of the impoverishment of artists through digital theft that don’t impose draconian restrictions on internet freedoms, or attack consumers.  Amanda’s discourse is an attempt to stop that discussion before it starts with fake  mystical jive about ‘trust’- a rhetoric she has no intention of putting into play in her live gigs- where very real bouncers enforce very real hard ticket prices.

  • James GraveDigger

    To truly feel that connection to your audience… there is no money, no amount of income that can pay for that… just a flower being handed out to share.

    • sdoifusdofi

      James GraveDigger James GraveDigger
      hi james- guess what: if you visit amanda palmer’s website, you will see that, contrary to the impression given in her TED speech that people should not be coerced into paying for music, ALL the live tour dates on her itinerary have ticket prices- often as high as 45 dollars. If you try to enter through the side door for free, a great big hairy security guy will kick your ass and throw you and your beautiful sharing flower on the sidewalk. 
      amanda says:
      ” a lot of people are confused by the idea of no hrd sticker price- they see it as an unpredictable risk… I see this as trust”
      But If trust is a virtue in her cd sales, a beautiful, non coercive way for her to relate to her audience- why does she not trust her live audience by allowing an open door policy and passing the hat: “letting people pay”, as she puts it?
      well james, i’ll tell you why amanda charges for live gigs: :because she can.  But James- we can do things to: 
      for one, we can insist that whenever and wherever profit is being made off our labor as musicians, WE get a piece of it.  We all do gigs for whatever when our bands are starting out. But when bandleaders or promoters or corporations with a million in their pocket  rip off musicians, we can picket, we can boycott, we can chain our bodies to the door, or take whatever steps are necessary until the greedy bastards pay up. 
      The question of digital recording rights and royalties is more complex- but collective legal, economic, and political action is possible: in the 70’s, for example, cassette manufacturers paid into a fund to compensate composers and musicians for royalties lost when cassettes were used to illegally copy music. today, owners of sites on which music is streamed and downloaded for free make millions selling advertising, and while today’s equivalents of the cassette manufacturers- those who produce the hard and software which make digital theft possible, grow rich off our content. 
      Collective action is possible, but will never be taken if we are immobilized by bullshit tech industry ideology which attempts to stigmatize our right to be paid.  

      And that’s the context in which Amanda’s TED video needs to be seen.  We need to look not just at the content of Amanda’s speech: the media which brings it to us  is, as always ‘the message’. And very slick, well funded, and expertly diffused media it is. TED’s funders are heavily slanted towards the tech industry: at least 10 of whose corporate insiders are in its ‘braintrust’, with many others connected through tech industry linked university (stanford MIT, harvard business school) and press (wired) connections. underlying TED’s “Ideas Worth Spreading” is a single idea worth rebutting: that all social and political problems are reducible to technological questions and solutions. There are no historians, political scientists, sociologists, semioticians, or people from a labor background in the directorship- or anyone else with the critical tools to critique TED’s own agenda- which is, precisely, to immobilize collective action. 
      This org is funded by people- including the largest US corporations- who stand directly to profit from  the availability of free ‘content’, and they are wiling to spend a lot of bread to keep it that way. 
      Well, amanda palmer has chosen her allies well.  hooray. 
      screw them all. John Oconnor is right: organize. If the people running your AFM local are unresponsive- take it over.  Or join an alternative union like the IWW. or DIY. Other wise, james, we’re digging our own graves.

  • Kira_H

    Here are two statements that, for the purpose of my argument, we will take to be absolutely true (I also think they’re true outside of my argument, but that’s irrelevant here):
    1) Musicians should be (in fact, in most cases NEED to be) paid for the service they’re providing to their audience.
    2) People don’t think they should have to pay for anything related to music.
    OK, that’s the situation. Two facts, mutually irreconcilable. The musician needs the money, the audience doesn’t want to give it. The question is not whether either fact should change (because remember, they’re absolutely true — whether they “should” be true is irrelevant. Kinda like asking whether water “should” make things wet. Doesn’t matter what you think, that’s what it does. End of story.). The only question is, what does the musician do about it? Complain about #2? OK, knock yourself out. Does complaining result in the musician actually getting paid more? I doubt it. So, musician, WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET YOURSELF PAID?
    Complaining about the way things are does not get you paid. Wanting things to be different does not get you paid. IMO, THAT is the question that Palmer is addressing, not whether the musician deserves to get paid. You are facing an audience that doesn’t want to pay you for your service. WHAT DO YOU DO? One option is to stop making music, at least professionally, and get a career wherein people are willing to pay you, but let’s assume that that is absolutely the last resort. OK, can you MAKE your audience pay you? Yes, if you’re famous enough, people will realize that the only way they have of hearing your music live and getting to be in your physical presence is to pay you. If you’re famous enough, you wield a great deal of power in the exchange. But what if you’re not famous? You have much less power, you can’t MAKE anyone pay you. They don’t know you or your music, so they don’t know why they should want to hear you live and be in your presence. So WHAT DO YOU DO? Palmer’s answer is, change your audience’s mind. Convince them that they WANT to pay you. Her method of getting her fans to want to pay her is to make as personal a connection with each one as possible. How does she do this? By making herself as available to them as possible. By constantly interacting with them, even if it’s “just” through Twitter or her blog. By asking them for favors.
    Palmer has discovered the fact that as long as you don’t try to make people feel guilty for not doing so, people LIKE to do other people favors. They LIKE the feeling of helping someone, of being generous. What they don’t like is feeling like they HAVE to help that person. But if they’re asked, and they feel like nobody will judge them for saying no (or even know that they said no), they WANT to do the favor (not every single person, of course, but Palmer’s point is that far more than you expect will want to). The favor can be allowing you to crash on their sofa, it can be paying you for a recording of your music, and it can be paying admission to one of your shows. It can even be bringing some food to your show for you because someone read on your blog or Twitter feed that you had to choose between buying gas and eating today.
    By making that personal connection, Palmer creates a win-win situation. She makes a living doing what she loves. Her audience feels good because they’re helping someone they like (and they’re getting music to enjoy, of course). But making that personal connection can be terrifying for some people. Palmer isn’t just giving her audience her music, she’s giving them herself. She has chosen to live her life very publicly, and that works for her. It may or may not work for you. If it doesn’t, if you don’t feel that you can take Palmer’s model and apply it in toto to your career, you just come back to The Question: WHAT DO YOU DO? If Palmer’s model doesn’t work for you, you need to come up with one that does (and remember, complaining doesn’t work. At all.). Coming up with a completely new model is hard work, but it’s OK to incorporate parts of other people’s models, or even to make a model that is nothing but a patchwork of those parts (a quilt is no less admirable just because the quilter didn’t weave the cloth herself). 
    Yes, you’re going to have to make an effort to figure out what works for you, you can’t just rely on other people to do that for you. Whether you like it or not, figuring out HOW you can make money by making music is now just as much a part of the field as actually playing the instrument or knowing the words to the songs. And the process of figuring it out is difficult and risky, it involves experimenting with methods and approaches, and some of them will definitely fail. But, again, that is now part of the music business. If you can’t or won’t make that effort, you’re better off working in a bank and playing your music for yourself. Forget the word “should”, it’s a distraction and it’s irrelevant. Focus on finding out what DOES get you paid.

  • Tom

    You have some good points to make, but I can’t help but feel the attack on street performers was unnecessary and ill-informed. I am a professional circus performer; I juggle, stiltwalk, unicycle, perform stage comedy, and yes, sometimes I work as a living statue. Training and technique goes into what we do, and if you think it’s as simple as standing in Jackson’s Square holding a flower, then maybe you should try it sometime.

  • JohnOC

    You can argue until you are blue in the face. Musicians won’t get paid until they demand it. Don’t mourn. Organize!

    • TravisHartnett

      JohnOC Musicians did organize, as the market and technology evolved it made unionizing unfeasible for musicians.   Unions lost control of the access to labor and access to venues, and then it was all done.

      • sdoifusdofi

        TravisHartnett JohnOC 
        interesting: travis- are you aware that the AFM not only exists, and has a US membership somewhere above 30,000, but that they successfully intervened to get the musicians Amanda Palmer ripped off paid full union scale?
        so- exactly how is that unfeasible?
        m

  • mikeyhawker

    Try and see your recorded music as advertising for live performances, Advertising shouldn’t cost someone much ( time maybe) but be enough to make you want to hear more, that requires enough skill to be able to do what you recorded twice, sort of the same way, I’ll pay for the live version if I like what I’ve already heard for free! Ok, so there’s some compromise required, and you’re playing averages (as is EVERY other business out there) but that means every unit sold/downloaded/given out, increases the potential of you filling a hall/stadium, etc.

    • CaseyDinkin

      mikeyhawker Recording music does cost money!

      • Eddy

        CaseyDinkin mikeyhawker recording music can be done simply, cheaply and quickly. Get the right lead in a store, you could take a track off the sound desk at one of your shows and record it to your smartphone. THere’s probably even an app for that. You do the gig, make your money, sell the show online after or give it away free to generate interest. There’s too much in the box and not enough out of the box in the music industry these days. (I speak, probably foolishly, as a person who studied for to years to become a recording sound engineer.)

        • CaseyDinkin

          @Eddy CaseyDinkin mikeyhawker Agreed, it can be done simply, cheaply, and quickly. But if you want “broadcast quality” then not everyone can do it on their own.

        • BrianKnight

          @Eddy CaseyDinkin mikeyhawker …and it can sound exactly as professional as you are a professional recording engineer.
          There is a reason there are professional recording studios and professional engineers. It’s not to get paid, it’s to make the very best recordings for the fans that are possible.

        • The Bitch is Bored

          BrianKnight CaseyDinkin mikeyhawker 
          What? Seriously? Not to get paid? Yeah, right. So, are you doing it for what an artist can afford or do you have set fees. Because there are probably a lot of serious artists out there who don’t have the $ it takes to hire a pro record studio or pro engineer and they’d be thrilled to find out you’re not doing it for the money and you’d be willing to do it for free (that’s no pay) or for whatever they can afford. Hey everyone, Brian Knight will give you a professional studio and professional engineers who are not doing what they do for money (so, I guess that means free) – give him a shout out and book your session(s)!

        • BrianKnight

          @The Bitch is Bored BrianKnight CaseyDinkin mikeyhawker I think you’re a troll and you can go fuck yourself.

        • The Bitch is Bored

          BrianKnight CaseyDinkin mikeyhawker Seriously? Grow up. God, I hope you are sterile.

    • guest

      mikeyhawker It can be done cheap, true, but as pointed out, not at broadcast quality. Some musicians choose to view it as an advertisement for the live show, in which case, they may not mind if the recording doesn’t sound crystal clear or sounds exactly how they want it, but there are musicians who place a higher artistic value on the recordings. That’s not to say one is objectively more important than the other, just that people view it differently, and to someone who’s main artistic objective is to make great albums with great sound quality, their options and approach is going to be different, and would probably be more concerned with getting money for their recordings.

      • mikeyhawker

        @guest mikeyhawker These days, with professional recordings, the only people who make the money on them is the production/distributing companies, been that way since we were buying vinyl (ask your parents!) the only money the bands/performers make was from touring and live gigs, (as well as selling t-shirts and other merchandise) Royalties rely on other people playing your stuff, and these days, not likely, The only reason for a recording has been either to line the pockets of the record producer (not the artist) and to promote a tour

        • guest

          mikeyhawker Of course that’s how it is, but I’m just pointing out the assumption in the original post that recordings don’t have artistic merit on their own, or that artists would even care to devalue their work by approaching it as just an advertisement. A lot of this discussion is about money, but does anyone, artist/producer or listener/consumer really want to put money and self-promotion above the art itself by saying that the art is just a way to promote yourself?

        • mikeyhawker

          @guest mikeyhawker There’s my point, is your work, performance, or recording? I’m only offering an option, the answer to that question will differ depending on each artist, but you do need to decide where (or what) the value of what you do is

        • guest

          mikeyhawker If it’s your point, it’s not what you said… It’s true, for every artist there’s a different way to be economically viable, there are options, but there are also reality. One reality is that people don’t want to pay for music, particularly recordings, so if you’re a recording artist, you’re in a particularly tough spot. The other reality is that Amanda Palmer and others are getting up on a soapbox and lecturing musicians that they are too concerned with money and should live on donations, which I suspect most people like to hear as validation that they don’t have to give anything. I can decide the value of my work, whether it’s 50 cents or $50, but those two facts working against me. I can let other people decide what it’s worth, but they’ve already been told all recorded music is worthless. I don’t think anyone expects at this point to do more than break even when it comes to recordings (not to say it’s impossible to make a profit, but it’s hard to make much of one), that if you want money you have to play live, the problem is that too, is becoming more and more difficult to make money from.

    • NoBodyInParticular

      mikeyhawker And, per lots of other advice on the net, try to see your performance as advertising for your recorded music. That way you can spin in circles until you starve.

    • BrianKnight

      mikeyhawker That is a very bad policy that will absolutely destroy your career in music in short order.
      Do not think of your recordings as advertising, they are and should be a physical product as well as your art.  Value it, if you don’t, no one else will.
      Passable has never been “good enough” (a term with no meaning in a successful career in music) for the music business.

  • SteveKerr1

    It’s just economics; supply and demand. They don’t pay you because they don’t have to. If people were willing to pour coffee for free, they wouldn’t pay baristas. People are willing to perform for small venues for free, or even at a loss, which brings down labour costs. It’s unfair that you might take a loss on such hard work, but who would pay you? If there’s a market for it, you’ll be paid for it. If not, you won’t.
    If  you don’t think you’re being paid enough, demand more money. The market will decide your value and attendances to your gigs and the number of bookings you get will determine this. You want to be paid for your time – understandable. But who pays you?

  • lollerskates

    One thing she fails to address is the initial start of the Dresden Dolls. She glosses over it and simply says the band started to make enough money for her to stop doing her street performance. What this tells me is that they were in an environment that they were getting paid gigs. An issue today is that many venues are not paying local bands anything anymore and expecting free shows as this blog mentions. How to get to this point with the fact that venues are unwilling to pay is untenable for most musicians now. A lot of local bands do facebook, twitter, and even kickstarter, as well as couch surf and hang out with fans, but can’t even remotely get to the point of doing this as their day job because they simply aren’t making enough money.
    Asking musicians to be willing to just let someone pay them what they want would work if bands were playing out of their own homes or spaces, but they aren’t. They’re getting booked in venues that now suddenly have no obligation to pay the musician since people like Amanda Palmer are giving them a free pass.
    Ultimately, we the musicians shouldn’t be enemies of the venues and their workers nor of each other. The venue workers and owners often are also victims of the vast wealth disparity in the world today too. It’s a divide and conquer tactic that AP is conveniently and unwittingly falling for. At the end of the day, a musician needs to eat and pay rent. In this current society this means money and in turn means that they have to be getting paid somehow. Live shows with covers were the way to do it. Now the venues are just pocketing the money. So what are we to do? Just rely on t-shirt sells and tip buckets?
    Also her retelling of the issues with her kickstarter are dishonest at best.

  • http://johnandjana.com/ JohnSeven

    This piece has similar points, but puts it all much better and doesn’t come off as whiny, suggesting that the solution must come from the artist, as it alway has been …
    http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/feature/everything-popular-is-wrong-making-it-in-electronic-music-despite-democratization/#.UUHJZ1vEoVj

  • BrianKnight

    This is what our unions were about, they failed us as musicians, attacked us as prey, then abandoned us wholesale…and we did the same to them.
    Time to get back into the unions and make them what we need. Most of the work is already done.
     What Palmer posted on Ted is antithetical to “musician community” and fair pay.

  • JosephJamesTownsend

    Why have none of you yet mentioned that singers have no need for musicians anymore? Listen to today’s music. Do you actually think there are real musicians on those tracks? Those are computers making that “music”, and people of today don’t know the difference or care. I know that makes me sound like an old man, but I’m 28. Whenever I’m in a friend’s car and they have the radio on, all I’m hearing are a bunch of computerized beats with some hot chick pretending to sing perfectly over it. You can DEMAND all you want…but very few people still value flesh and blood musicians who play instruments (like myself). They’re out there sure, but how many real musicians are on the top Billboard charts now? Almost zero. We can’t expect miracles…we just gotta cling to whatever scraps are left for career musicians, and the bands that still use them, who some people still pay money to see.

    • BrianKnight

      JosephJamesTownsend 
      Oh, please, my three teenagers (15 − 17) and their friends won’t buy the crap like that out there. They buy Ozzy and Bad Company, they say it’s better than all the Beeber crap.
      Cheap ass labels, there’s your problem. They don’t want to pay better than a rap for recording funds.

      • JosephJamesTownsend

        BrianKnight JosephJamesTownsend Ozzy and Bad Company made their bones years and years ago. When’s the last time a band of real musicians came on the scene in recent times and people gave a damn? I’m not talking a band from back in the day that already established themselves when people gave a damn, I’m talking about a rock band that broke through in the last 5 years.

        • BrianKnight

          JosephJamesTownsend BrianKnight Right they did and my kids and their friends are teens TODAY and SEEK their music out instead of BEEBER.
           Howz that for a state of the union?

        • BrianKnight

          JosephJamesTownsend BrianKnight There’s been a rock band that broke in the last 5 years???
          That’s either in he myth or oxymoron category isn’t it?
          The kids are seeking bands that are gone or breaking up, haha!
           It’s awful, i know, but, at least the kids have taste.

  • JosephJamesTownsend

    …and one more thing I failed to mention…it’s become WAY too easy for musicians to legitimize themselves these days. All you gotta do is learn to push a few buttons and take some pictures and BAM, you’ve got an album, an internet store, a website, the whole deal. Not only that, but nobody has to audition to play small venues anymore. Give the right answer to the “how many people can you bring” question and you’ll get to play there even if your act is an old man hitting a triangle. There’s absolutely no quality control. The market has become completely and utterly oversaturated because EVERYONE wants to be a musician, and because it’s become so effortless nowadays, everyone THINKS they can be one. There’s no more blood or sweat…just a bunch of tears that not enough people are paying attention to you when there’s a SEA of crap for everyone to dig through before they’ll find you. Being a great musician is simply not enough anymore. You gotta find another way inside.

    • BrianKnight

      JosephJamesTownsend Also a VERY GOOD POINT!
      Glut of product for a protracted period destabilizes any market anywhere.
       It’s an economic warfare tactic.

  • The Bitch is Bored

    I saw AFP’s TED Talk, I read Stephanie’s take on it, I read Jordan Corey’s take on Stephanie’s take on it, I read Stephanie’s take on Jordan Corey’s take on her take on it…  Jesus!  I have to admit that Stephanie’s takes (all of them) should have been double takes because she comes across as a bully and an ignorant one at that. To assume that because she plays live shows, she’s superior (read the response to Jordan Corey – Stephanie has a very sleazy way of putting others down in order to make herself feel better or, worse yet, in order to try to make us think she is better), to assume because she too slept on a couch in someone’s home that AFP’s experience wasn’t meaningful – it was meaningful to Amanda bitch and, after all, what the FUCK is the matter with that?  Is Stephanie so insecure that she has to ride on the experiences of everyone else and feel the need to tell us “hey, look at me, look at me, I did that too, I did it too, I did it better, didn’t I, didn’t I, I’m better aren’t I”.  So bitch (Stephanie), two or three comments down on your Facebook page you’re begging people to come out and contribute at some show you’ll be putting on with, ooooooooooooh vintage porn. How is you saying hey please support me and I’ll show you some porn any different than Jordan or Amanda saying hey please support me in my efforts to continue to do what I love and I’ll be able to share some great music with you! I guess maybe it’s because you’ve got to give away porn in order to get anyone to listen to your music and they simply have to ask people to support the work that they do.
    For the rest of you ignorant fucks. Pay What you Want is a business model, a well researched and very defined business model and it doesn’t work for every type of business, but there again, Stephanie, and others from the land of I…it seems to be working for Panera and, oh by the way Stephanie, they’re a restaurant chain. It’s also working quite well for many successful people (http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/pay-what-you-want-hybrid-athlete/).
    To say that Hyatt could never have a pay what you want weekend because Hilton would never do it is ridiculous. Your argument(s) bear no weight.
    One question everyone has totally, just fucking ignored is not “is it okay to ask for help?” rather, why don’t you pompous asses stop and ask yourself why, those of us who give, give?
    Imagine if every charity out there had to do what they do exactly the same way because some bully charity said that’s the only way anyone gets to do it! And don’t feed me any bullshit about how your’re not a charity…we’re all charities, well those of us with souls are, we do anything and everything we can to survive so we can stick around and do more good.
    I’ll close with this. If something works for someone and you don’t want to do it, what the fuck? If you’ve done something that someone else did and you did it before they did it and they tell us about how they did it, it doesn’t mean you DIDN’T do it and we think they’re the ONLY ONE who ever did it – what the fuck? 
    Get your heads out of your asses. You all sound fucking special ed.
    Okay, I take that back because, actually we’re all special ed, it’s just some of us have disabilities that are easier to see than others…like fucking arrogance and ignorance!

    • BrianKnight

      @The Bitch is Bored 
      You have plenty of arrogance and ignorance. That much is obvious.
       If she does succeed at doing it more than once, then I’d be impressed. So far, no one has, not even Palmer.
      So stuff it.

      • The Bitch is Bored

        BrianKnight That’s it, that’s all you got? It’s not arrogant to believe that people have the right to try and to try something that maybe someone else doesn’t prescribe to and it’s not ignorant to believe that something can work, to take the time to find out if it is working, and to discover that, in fact, it does work for many successful entrepreneurs. Maybe, just maybe, if you took the time to actually see if it can work you’d find out that many have had successful crowdfunding experiences and many have had multiple, successful crowdfunding experiences. The power is not in the asking, the power is in the hands of those who give and give freely if only you ask and it is people like you, selfish/clouded minds like yours that stand in the way of a better world, that make people question whether or not they should give.

        • BrianKnight

          @The Bitch is Bored BrianKnight I’ve never heard any artist worth their salt or not have two successful crowdsourcing campaigns. Maybe you know of some, but, I’ve never seen it happen.

        • The Bitch is Bored

          BrianKnight Actually, it’s happened for quite a few artists, musicians, and bands. If you take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowd_funding and scroll down to History, you’ll see that crowd funding has been around, in one form or another, for a very long time and it is possible to realize multiple, successful campaigns.
          And, no, I am not a musician, but I am an artist and photographer and have many close friends who are musicians…I don’t think it would matter anyway because in just looking at Kickstarter, band/musician projects are some of the most successful at over 54% realizing funding which means they come in second only to theatre and dance.

        • BrianKnight

          @The Bitch is Bored BrianKnight I know what crowd funding is and I’m familiar with how long it’s been around. 
           That stat of 54% realizing funding doesn’t even count when you take into consideration that most of them aren’t asking for enough funding in the first place. The campaigns that do hardly work more than once.
           I’m not saying it’s bad, or, that it’s a bad idea, or anything like that. I’m not saying people shouldn’t do it. That’s up to them.
          I’m ONLY saying that it works well once for some people and not at all for others. 
          There are reasons for that.
          I figured you weren’t in a band or a musical artist because you don’t seem to know what’s involved in successful music career or production and post production stuff. It’s important to know all that stuff before ranting as you did to people who do. You’re out of your field and your depth in that manner. You field has no where near the overhead that a successful multiyear musical career does, not even close. With RARE exception, a musical career costs $1 milion in year one of launch and $1 million there after.

        • The Bitch is Bored

          BrianKnight So sad, truly sad, if we could all just MEASURE up and meet your standards wouldn’t life be grand? Your a waste of time, actually a complete waste of skin. I feel sorry for anyone who believes your bandwagon (no pun intended) is going anywhere. Good luck to all who are working at it rather than just sitting around whining about it. You know, if you let music fans see too much of your true colors you’re right, they probably won’t be there for you once let alone twice. I’m going to take a really long shower and try to wash all the shit off.

        • BrianKnight

          @The Bitch is Bored BrianKnight 
           You’ll never wash it off, you carried it here and it’s all inside you. What the hell kind of person even says the garbage you say? 
          You’re a great example of a frustrated something, but, I don’t know what.
           You attack people whenever they point out the flaw in your schtick = classic psychopath behavior.
           Your first post, belittling everyone you’ve never met who doesn’t agree with you = classic psychopathic behavior.
          If you can’t measure up to any standard, that’s YOUR problem, not mine.

        • The Bitch is Bored

          BrianKnight Great, now you’re a psychiatrist – too funny. As far as attacking people, you need a mirror pal. I have no idea who or what you are either and nor do I care to know. You present yourself as someone who knows everything and, quite frankly, all I’ve seen from you is YOUR OPINION backed by no sense of fact checking and no attempt to broaden your mind or question, perhaps, if YOU FULLY UNDERSTAND what you’re even ranting about. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll have something UGLY to say so, we’ll all just sit back and wait anxiously for what Brian wants to ram down our throats next.

        • BrianKnight

          @The Bitch is Bored BrianKnight
           I own a studio and work with musicians, which I have done for decades. I work with Major label, Indie label, and 100% independent musical artists.
          You are a photographer with a “fanboy-esque love” towards a performance artist.
           and you BOTH want to dictate
           to musicians, bands , and musical artists 
          what “they should do” according to YOU,
          because you’re willing to be destructive in total ignorance of facts,
          then you say “Brian doesn’t know what he’s talking about”
          and “Brian is trying to ram something down everyone’s throat”????
          Just breaking rules doesn’t make one an artist, knowing them masterfully first does, this is simple destruction by an ignorant few.
          YOU ARE SICK. … GO GET HELP.

        • JosephJamesTownsend

          BrianKnight Will you two shut the fuck up and get married already? Jesus Christ….

        • BrianKnight

          JosephJamesTownsend BrianKnight I have 3 kids. They’re great.

    • douglasjayboyd

      @The Bitch is Bored Are you a musician? Just curious.

  • me

    This is wonderfully and articulately stated. Your point about understanding the realities of capitalist system are particularly pertinent. Adam Smith pointed out long ago that for better or worse capitalism works for everyone only when each one of us is paid for our specialized skills.  

    Amanda Palmer’s statements are morally bereft because they’re really just marketing gimmicks. Her income depends on her fans believing that she can live on “trust” and “love” alone. In realty, her live shows generate ticket sales of $50 a pop & up plus merchandise sales, and there’s no “asking” involved in those sales. She only “asks” for money when fans download her music or read her blog, content which no one necessarily pays for anymore anyway. 

    Personally, I think Amanda Palmer functions more as a cult leader than as a musician, but that’s a whole other conversation. She is arguably a working musician who is making a living using social media and digital crowdsourcing. I just don’t think it’s advisable or appropriate for every musician to use her techniques. I’d hate to see a whole world of musicians who behave like Amanda Palmer.

  • DistanceLeft

    Bravo, also, Palmer is weirdly over-rated IMHO. Crowdsourcing is a stupid funding model, end of, it’s stupidier than the old industry models and they were speculative venture capital crazy.

    A brilliantly argued piece, that nails it for musicians today.

  • JustSayNo2AFP

    Fuck Amanda Palmer, her so called music, that beyond stupid wedding dress/statue whatever it is, and TED which wastes time on BS like this.  Bitch raised a shitload of money on Kickstarter, and proceeded to ASK musicians to play for FREE?!! Go to wedding dress statue whoring hell Amanda Palmer!

  • Chats

    right on the mark.

  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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