The Amanda Palmer Problem — Vulture

So, how does a cult musician like that become a figure of popular sport? A lot of circumstances conspired to introduce her to the larger public, from a heavy online presence to her relationship with popular writer Neil Gaiman. But the turning point came when she broke from her label, took to Kickstarter to crowd-source funding for her next project, and raised — remarkably, unexpectedly — more than a million dollars. This constituted an actual general-interest news story, in which Palmer’s accomplishment could be touted as proving something important concerning “the future of music.” (That claim’s a questionable one: It’s been clear for a while now that artists with major-label histories and established audiences can gather fans around independent projects, at least the first time out. So?) And negative reactions to that press were merely warm-up for the main hating-Palmer event, which arrived when she, in the course of assembling a tour, asked fans to volunteer at various stops to play strings and horns as part of her band, unpaid. This was, technically, just another facet of that intimate connection with the audience — letting them participate in the music-making, a daydream-come-true for plenty of fans. But when you’ve just raised more than a million dollars from fans and sold them tickets to your show, it’s evidently poor PR to ask them to perform for free — and even more unseemly to claim, when criticized, that you literally can’t afford to do otherwise. It’s also an open invitation for curious parties to investigate your finances, and when other musicians did so, they tended to be baffled. Palmer suggested she was returning her Kickstarter windfall to fans in the forms of lavish gifts for donors; others saw her rough budget breakdowns as a festival of profligacy and unnecessary costs. There were also, as a matter of routine, those strangers who didn’t much care either way but found Palmer’s entire manner of being vaguely off-putting.

via The Amanda Palmer Problem — Vulture.

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