Why Amanda Palmer is Wrong

I am a big fan of Amanda Palmer. I contributed to her Kickstarter campaign (which broke records at $1.2 million) and think she is leading the way of the future of the indie artist. That is why it is so upsetting to me that she is using her fame and influence to damage that future by exploiting her fellow musicians.

Beer, hugs, and merch. Oh, and a “thank you”. That is what Amanda Palmer, champion of the working artist, has offered to pay trained orchestra members to play for her Theater is Evil tour. When I went to her website to see if it was true, her blog post was reminiscent of a Craigslist ad.

Don’t we all hope for a big break? For the chance to play for someone huge, because that’s where the money is? Amanda Palmer is now just like that bar manager that says “Play for free. It’s good exposure.” We expect it from club owners that don’t understand that some of us go to school for music. We get degrees in this stuff. We’ve invested many thousands of dollars in lessons, gear, and R&D. We expect these people to be ignorant and not respect the years and money we’ve put into this so that we can make music a career.

We don’t expect it from one of us.

We don’t expect that someone with a background in busking and asking for tips would be stingy the other way around. In 2009, Palmer wrote a blog called “Why I am Not Afraid to Take Your Money”. In it, she says, “artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.” We thought this meant she supported artists like herself. Now it’s clear that she only supports herself.

And if Amanda Palmer is the top, what is there to look forward to as a career musician? Soon, other successful artists and bands will be crowdsourcing their tour musicians as well as their tracks, and the “viable career” that so many of us hope to attain will be laughably impossible.

We gave Amanda Palmer $1.2 million. She is now the 1%, and acting like it.

EDIT: Here is AP's response to the flak she's been getting: http://www.amandapalmer.net/blog/20120913/. Apparently some people are paid, others volunteer, but there's something of a scale. I'll accept that she has the choice to do it this way, but I won't recant that her way of asking for volunteers is damaging to the future of the industry. It's hard enough getting paid work as a musician without it being broadcast that volunteering is now acceptable for big names.