So, everyone at this point knows about the meteoric success of the KickStarter Amanda Palmer launched in the spring to back Theatre is Evil, her latest album, her subsequent tour and the gallery shows featuring the artists who contributed their work to the record’s collateral. Instead of meeting its $100k goal, it met it 10 times over in the 30-day time-frame, raking in nearly $1.2 million and catapulting Amanda Palmer to the top of every outlet’s agenda for causing a major shift in social media and the music industry at large. After the launch, which cleared the goal within hours of its announcement, I spoke with Palmer for Paste about this. The tone of the interview and the whole campaign? “WE WON! WE GOT THIS! GOOD TRIUMPHS OVER EVIL! LET’S MAKE ART, GUYS!”
After crowd-funding made Theatre is Evil a reality without the boundaries (financial and otherwise) stipulated by a label contract, Palmer’s now saying that she needs additional musicians to join her merry band on their gifted tour and that the cost of bringing professionals on the road amounts to $35k. To refresh, her KickStarter project, which cleared $1.2 million, the one she advertised as the primary vehicle propelling the growth and success of the album and the tour behind it, isn’t contributing a dime to the musicians who she’s calling upon to flesh out the sound of Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. She’s saying she’s gonna pay people in beer instead of kicking them a couple of bucks to get up onstage and contribute to her show.
“We need enough strings to make up QUARTET (pre-made quartets WELCOME) to join us for a couple tunes….and to act at the string quartet for jherek bischoff’s beautiful music (basically, you get to BE the opening ACT!).”
Yeeeeah. Amanda? The opener gets paid, not played. Especially when they’re playing with an artist at your level.
For someone who claimed that the realistic budget for the record was $500k between recording, mixing, mastering, manufacturing and promotion, it seems kind of bullshit that she’s now trying to spin this call for artists as an “opportunity” for them, as if the violinists and trumpet players who’d apply would suddenly glean a lick of attention or recognition beyond that one date they’d play with her. THIS IS AMANDA PALMER WE’RE TALKING ABOUT. Gal’s a spectacle, and hey, her devoted (de-vo-ted) fan-base loves her for it, but for anyone to assume that they’d get anything beyond saying they played a gig with her—as more or less a performance intern—they’d be seriously delusional.
To add insult to injury, from the KickStarter’s video:
“I’d rather stand here with Jim [the camera man] holding up signs to ask you for the money to run my business, and this way I will actually see a profit from my music.”
Oh, she totally will. And has. What’s troublesome is that, in turn, she’s banking on the enthusiasm of her fans, in the same way she did her backers, to sanction this employment of free labor while exploiting artists and causing TweetaBlogaBookaTumblApocalypse over it. Exploitation: Isn’t that what she was trying to avoid by leaving her label?
AND ALSO: What about everyone else who’s hoping to make their album/project/venture/pursuit/dream a reality via KickStarter or another crowd-funding site? A slap in the face like this puts a bad taste in the mouth of anyone on the fence about donating. This could jeopardize how the projects of other artists are viewed, and “pulling an Amanda Palmer” no longer means “making a miracle happen via KickStarter”—it means making a miracle happen on KickStarter and maxing out on the donations you received, falling short on the grandiose expectations you set in order to get that cash.
I’d rather you hold up signs and ask for me for the money to run your business, too, Amanda Palmer. It’d just be a hell of a lot easier to support your project if you weren’t turning on your heel, pocketing my investment and taking advantage of those who believed in the album instead of the monstrous hype it created in order to watch that stack of dollar signs continue to grow.