April 21, 2013

Sunday Songs ~ Amanda Palmer


On Friday, I scored tickets to a Q&A session at NYU with Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman.

amanda palmer and neil gaiman
Front row seats!!!

I've had mixed feelings about this artist. If you don't know Amanda Palmer, let's basically leave it at this- former frontwoman of the Dresden Dolls, she is an independent musician who raised 1.2 million dollars on kickstarter last year. She's reached unprecedented success as an indie artist, and posesses a stubborn will to keep growing in an industry that won't.

But despite all these things, and every music blog I read demanding that I worship at her alter because of these things, I just couldn't.

She's obviously a genius marketer. Not to mention talented. And her whole "artists need to make money too" ethos is completely in line with my beliefs. Still, something always rubbed me the wrong way. I guess my opinion was cemented when it came out that she asked musicians to volunteer their services for one of her recent world tours in return for "beer and hugs."

There was a huge backlash. She obviously has a very special relationship with her fans, and many of them were happy to oblige what she asked. And as a "starving artist", I totally understand the struggle that comes with the costs of putting your art out there. But I just think... if you have the money, and she clearly did, you should pay people for their time. If you don't, then you're setting a precedent of devaluing others' work, and undermining future generations' ability to seek artistic and financial freedom. It's just what's fair.


So I went to the talk with an open mind, hoping to learn something new. And I did :) First of all, she opened with a line that was something like "What do I do? I used to be a musician, and now I spend most of my life on the internet." I instantly related, seeing as I've been spending more time blogging than songwriting for awhile now :P She also actually admitted that in the past two years, she's written only two songs. I really respected her honesty, and could very much relate. The creative process can be a daunting one when your energy is constantly being redirected elsewhere.

She's an incredible, engaging speaker. And while my mind wasn't completely changed about the volunteer musicians thing, I can see where she was coming from. She struck me as someone who is level-headed, examines herself and her decisions, and that I desperately, desperately want to to have a beer with. I also left the talk feeling a profound sense of renewed inspiration.


Well... this is Sunday SONGS afterall, not Sunday Artist Critique, so I thought I'd leave you with this video (WATCH IT.) They played it at the talk. I was riveted for the whole seven minutes... but the tears were streaming down my face within thirty seconds. I quietly died inside, as I thanked god it was dark inside that theater.






chantilly


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8 comments

  1. Sounds like a great evening! I love Amanda Palmer to be honest, I've loved her since the Dresden Dolls and she has always been a huge part of my life, for about 12 years. (I also wrote my dissertation on Neil Gaiman's Sandman - I can't really get enough of either of them).

    I think her music is something that not everyone is going to love, it's a pretty unique style so I understand when people don't like it.

    I don't really want to start an argument about the musicans pay thing - I just want to add my 2 cents. I think the backlash missed out understanding who Amanda Palmer was and how the band was indeed called 'The Grand Theft Orchestra'. She had always been picking up new players in new towns, creating a new band everywhere. Even in the days of the Dresden Dolls they had a crazy mix of performers and artists in and out for different shows. I don't think that she ever under-appreciated artists. There was very much a community there. And she was looking for members of the community not professionals to play with her, and to make them part of the fun, not to rip them off. Yet a lot of the people critiquing her recently were people who had missed the years she had invited buskers to play for the queues at her shows, and who weren't the kind of people who would have wanted to be in the band for its own sake. I dunno. She changed her mind in the end though - but I just really don't think she was damaging the value of music. She's done so many other things to support new musicians.

    Hope you don't mind me putting my bit out there! :)

    Also - I prefer the Killing Type to the Bed Song. The Bed Song makes me too sad. :(

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    1. thanks for your comment :) i get that amanda has lots of fans willing to help her out, and that's awesome. but she did actually ask specifically for "professional-ish" people. she needed them to be able to sight-read charts. that takes schooling and training.

      if you're a string or horn player (which is what she needed), generally, you've taken years out of your life and spent tens of thousands of dollars on school and lessons to see yourself to a level of even "professional-ish." all i'm saying is that it sucks to have millionaires turn around and imply that those people in essence, don't deserve paychecks. it goes against the base principles she claims to be all about as an artist.

      again- that said, i do like her. and i said i came out of the discussion seeing her in a much more positive light, and actually a fan of her and her music. and when it comes down to it, consenting adults can spend their time helping whoever they want.

      but i disagree, and i worry the devaluation of musicians and music as a whole. little things like this set precedents that set the stage for the future.

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  2. I do like her, but specially in the Dresden Dolls!
    xx

    nancywilde.blogspot.com

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    1. i dont' know much of her work with the dresden dolls.... my roommate in college really liked them :)

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  3. Thanks for sharing.great post

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  4. I have never been a fan, though I know many who are, even some who have done work for her. I just think... You know... If you raised $12m maybe paying people would be fair. When I lived in London, internships were a huge problem, I imagine it's similar in new York. The exoectation that people will work for free because they are working for a 'name' - for periods in excess of an entire year!! Boggles my mind. There's always someone willing (and able) to work for free and it sets a precedent for the industry. I think it does devalue the work and removed a whole group of people from being able to participate in the industry. No matter how 'fun' the work is, if it has some value, I feel people should be remunerated accordingly. It's obvious Amanda isn't doing it for free...

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    1. Sorry for any typos - writing on my phone! Most obvious is the 12 instead of 1.2!!

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    2. that's sort of how i feel about it. i get that she has a community, and lots of people more than willing to help her out. more power to her! but the "struggling musician" isn't exactly a new concept. it's a group of people who haven't historically been known to be rolling in cash. she should know... she is one. a very talented and hardworking one, but also a lucky one. you would think maybe she might pay it forward a little.

      but anywayyy, i think i've hit my threshold of complaining about a.p. today :P thanks for your input, shell. xoxo

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