Aška Polaka Gringa Thanks for your thoughts Beth! I agreed to perform with Jherek in pdx because I enjoy his artistic vision and then I heard about all the AFP hubbub and nearly felt like a scab, but I realized, that no... as artists we should choose what we want to share and what we value as work and as Weddings/corporates, yes, pay me- an opportunity to see another artist bloom and to help their arrangements be heard, totally into it. There have been times artists have given to my projects and there times when we need to pay it forward.
Kendal Seager That was extremely well-said, and well-written.
Br At oooh, well said beth! i was thinking the same thing. a lot of stuff can't ever get started without this grey area. ...and if you ask in a friendly manner and there's people who want to do it...
Tomo Nakayama-Tran this is kind of an interesting addition to the conversation: http://www.cityartsonline.com/issues/seattle/2012/04/show-me-money
Skerik Sin Carne I think speculating on this is disingenuous. Only she knows exactly how much money she has left after fulfillment costs etc. It just sucks that A. People can't be more forthright about their financial situation. B. that musicians again have to be asked to play for free in an environment where everyone else is getting paid. Viva capitalism :(
Rebecca Legia Thank you for the well thought, well written response. It is very much appreciated.
Beth Fleenor http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amandapalmer/amanda-palmer-the-new-record-art-book-and-tour/posts/232020
Beth Fleenor out of my own curiosity - a question of interest: do you think it is better for an artist to tour with a band who gets paid - or - tour with a band who gets paid with some additional volunteer guest musicians?
Br At Whether you pay them or not, playing with strangers is risky! But it can be worth it... you can get good or bad surprises. I think it works better for some artists. Some personalities and musical styles are more open to this than others. So which is better, unpredictable inclusivity or fine-tuned virtuosity...? Really, I like that both can exist.
Michael Owcharuk Man this is a tough one. Been going back and forth in my head. Beth, I like how well you framed the issue (as usual) and I am tending to agree with Skerik's comment. As a band-leader I have paid musicians fair wage, meager wage, and no wage depending on the situation. BUT, if there is money for a gig, I make sure the other musicians get paid first, oftentimes without taking a cut myself. This is especially the case when folks are playing my original music. Costs for recording et al, taxes, touring, Kickstarter fees, supporter swag/gifts, postage; - all that adds up to a lot in the end, and no, we don't know actual costs. But, Amanda is also selling tickets to the shows. As much as I want to be ecumenical and fair minded in this debate, I am finding it hard to believe that 2-3 thousand bucks from ticket sales (roughly $30-$40 a ticket, she usually sells out a venue) could not be set aside to pay the local musicians something decent. Then again, if I was asked to play, I probably would. Another side to this is that the Musicians Union blew the whistle on this. In my opinion, it's another desperate attempt at staying relevant when they should be spending their time and energy on, I don't know, healthcare benefits and oooh, maybe retirement benefits for musicians.
Skerik Sin Carne There is money everywhere with a successful artist like this!! Kickstarter income, venue ticket sales, venue Merch sales, online Merch sales, and of course we're not allowed to mention successful spouse, I make 1% what artists like this make and I actively LOOK for ways to pay people, not for ways to NOT pay people. My credit card knows quite well that music is the best debt!!! Sharing is good.
Samantha Boshnack Yaah, it's a slippery slope. If a musician who makes that much money claims she can't pay her musicians, than who the fuck can. I kind of think she's doing it because she knows she can get away with it, and obviously doesn't care too much that she is sending a message which says its okay to not pay musicians.
Matthew Richmond I've played with lots of volunteers. Sometimes the band was making money, sometimes we weren't. Sometimes the volunteers were pros, most times they weren't. What every situation had in common was that the volunteers loved it - after all, that's the only reason they were there. Nobody is taking anybody's food off the table here - it's strictly "do this if you want to". I don't understand why anybody thinks they have the right to say that people shouldn't do this I'd they want to. Furthermore, there's a factor that I haven't noticed anybody mentioning: the energy that a show gets from volunteers is entirely different from what pros bring to the table. Not better or worse, but different. If I want players to be precise and refined, I'll hire pros. If I want a crowd of players who are joyously sloppy and giving off that intense vibe that only comes from LOVE of what you're doing, I'll probably ask for volunteers. And that doesn't hurt anybody.
Michael Owcharuk @Richmond: I could not disagree with you more about quality/energy of shows using volunteers vs. pros. I only work with professional musicians and in my opinion what makes them pros more than virtuosity or chops, is the incredible level of energy they bring. Their job is to bring the highest level of energy to the performance. It is something they practice and quite frankly an amateur cannot match.
Evan Flory-Barnes This is tough one for me to dear Beth. I really dig how you have framed it. As you, Bri and Mike. I have orchestrated large ensembles and I am always deeply moved when people are moved to take part in my endeavors because they feel my vision. And I dream of dropping fat checks on them one day because I want everybody to come up. I don't think Amanda Palmer is Satan. : ) I do think in simple you can factor in paying folks. Personally, I am growing weary of the feast or famine/grandness on fringes mentality at this level. I dream of matching the enthusiasm people have in taking part of what I do with good compensation. Right now, I am broke, owe folks money and I still dream of it. Amanda Palmer can do what she will and yet I raise eyebrow when there is an opportunity and some means to pay something.
Matthew Richmond Michael - I didn't mean to imply that amateurs have more energy - just that it's different. A mass of excited volunteers has a raw enthusiasm that pros just can't produce. An someone like Amanda Palmer values the rough edges that you get from those types of players.
Chuck Deardorf This subject is perfect for my music career class this semester, thanks for the honest discussion. Just a couple thoughts; We as musicians have the capacity to just say NO if we don't want to work for free for artists that are making money. Just don't do it. If you're a student that needs experience, go for it. If it's just for fun and you have the time, do it. If you have bills to pay and mouths to feed other than yours, and you know that the artist you're working for is making money, you have to consider what your time is worth. We all do our own Art for free most of the time, that's what we do. Is another artist's Art your art? It's good to figure that out. Finally, as someone who came up in a time where musicians actually got paid for playing most of the time and one could make a living, this new dynamic of the 'race to the bottom' for wages (for all American workers) is troubling, and continued intelligent discussion is essential. Peace.
John Lalonde Wow. What a great conversation. As a fan, I've got to say that it's my most fervent wish that the amazingly talented people that I go see are able to pay their bills, so that they're able to continue to share their gift the rest of us. That said, I can't help but agree with the folks saying that this approach Ms. Palmer is taking is making that more difficult. Considering that most of the shows I go see have covers ranging from $0-$15, I'd guess that the artist I see week in and week out are squarely in the wheelhouse for this appeal and I sincerely hope they don't take the bait. As the saying goes, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Regardless of AFP's intentions in this fiasco, she's going to have a hard time escaping the very understandable perception that this is but the latest chapter in the very long, sad history of artists NOT being paid for their work. Of course, if she were simply inviting musicians she knew personally to come sit in with her when she's in town this conversation wouldn't be happening. But that's not what we're talking about here. Regardless of how she or anybody else spins it, it's hard to dispute that the essence of what she's looking to do is save $35K that should be going into the pockets of musicians with the talent and ability to share a stage with her. My bottom line, if you're going to have musicians apply for a place in your band, rehearse your material, and perform with you and you're getting paid, they should get paid too.
Mark Burton As an amateur musician, and I have no problem with the word amateur - I work a day job, have a family to take care of, and am frequently exhausted at the end of the day - for someone like me, having an opportunity to play with professional musicians on a huge stage in front of thousands would be well worth doing for free. Even though I'm an amateur, I practice daily and have loved music all of my life. When I attend open jams, like the one at Electric Tea Garden, and when I attend shows at places like Royal Room, I always put money in the musicians' till, buy a drink or two, tip well, etc. Times, they are a changing, and artists like AFP and Wayne Horvitz are experimenting with new models of how to make money making music. I've been following AFP since I saw her and Neil Gaiman last year, so see her blog posts and what-not. I do think her heart is in the right place, and wish her well. Beth, I am impressed with your eloquent post. Although I can't for the life of me understand why AFP didn't want clarinet. I'm glad I'll see you up there with Jherek.
Samantha Boshnack I believe all musicians are responsible for taking care of each other and sending a message to the world that what we do is valuable. If I was in her position, I would not do what she's doing. It feels like musicians get screwed from all sides, we really don't need it coming from within our own community. It seems to me she sees herself as above this community, and that everyone should just feel honored to play with her. That makes me angry.
Aaron Novik it's like the old joke 'how does a jazz musician end up with a million dollars?' 'they start with 10 million.' except now it applies to all musicians and it isn't funny anymore. my opinions reside closer to the albini side of the argument, which is that she should be able to budget a tour at this stage in her career. it is interesting to note that those that are defending her are people who have worked with her before.
Matthew Richmond I haven't worked with her, and actually don't like most of her music. But I defend her because I feel that people are missing the point. She's not doing this to save money! She's doing it to include her fans who would never get to do something like this otherwise. It's for FUN. Not everybody plays music for money, nor should they.
Skerik Sin Carne I understand Mathew's point, but this is not a situation such as The Flaming Lips when they have 'volunteers' (essentially unskilled labor, ha) wear crazy costumes and jump up and down on the side of the stage, a great idea for the band and the fans, totally fun! This person wants trained musicians to augment her touring band, and she wants a certain result from this. She's not looking for a 'Shags' like result (which could be awesome?!) The fact is she asked for money on Kickstarter but won't give back. Outsourcing sucks, don't be apathetic, don't encourage this behavior by participating. Easy.
Aaron Novik sitting in on a song w/o rehearsal is including fans in a fun way. having a rehearsal, with prep expected before hand, with an opening set and the majority of the main set, goes slightly beyond mere fun and games. it is work plain and simple. not paying your opening band isn't even an issue of not having enough money, it is a robbery. you pay your fucking opening band when you play any gig even if it is 50 bucks. there's money from these gigs. from merch. i really don't care how cool she is, or how stoked people are to play with her. read albini's blog. AFP is clueless and it is a direct result of people treating her like it is an honor to play with her all the F-ing time, no disrespect Beth. I totally understand why you've done it and why you don't have an issue playing with her for free. I pay my fucking bands, even when i lose money, which is almost always. I never ask how honored they feel to play with me, and nor do i judge a gig by the money to inner satisfaction ratio, which would invariably work out almst always to feelings of being severely underpaid in both regards. she should do the right thing here. is anyone going to complain that they are being paid too on top of this high honor? let them decide this for themselves, not have the decision forced on them.
Matthew Richmond I thought albini's piece was angry and shortsighted. He seems to think think there's only one way the music business should work and he won't tolerate anyone trying a different approach. That kind of attitude is what's dangerous to musicians, far more than AFP crowd sourcing. Read her response to the criticism on her blog - she points out that she's hiring pros on this tour when she needs a certain result, and using fans for free when she's able to be loose and accept whatever they bring to the table. She also makea the obvious comparisons to the free gigs all of us did on our way up, and the way people bring food for free, and all the other things people do for free that no one complains about. I'll quote something from her that pretty mug sums it up for me: "YOU HAVE TO LET ARTISTS MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS ABOUT HOW THEY SHARE THEIR TALENT AND TIME. especially in this day and age, it’s becoming more and more essential that artists allow each other space to figure out their own systems. the minute YOU make black and white rules about how other artists should value their own art and time, you disempower them."
Aaron Novik who really wants to do this for free if given the choice? who would RATHER do the gig for free? that argument makes no sense. she is making the black and white rules not the musicians. sure you can agree not to do the gig, she has already set the precedent that money for these people is not needed to get what she wants. as long as this continues there will never be any money for musicians. sure everyone does gigs for free: for people who can't afford to pay you it is a token of musician-hood. i don't know any bandleaders i respect that would expect his/her peers to play for free while they were conspicuously making a profit. i would never do this. i've played recently with a big name, and i was treated like he was honored to play with me, and was given an equal percentage of the door. he didn't have to, i would have done it for free. but you know, now i know where he stands as a person. yes, albini was harsh (not everyone can handle touring like Black Flag did), but really, i don't see any other way around the fact that this person is using their fame and notoriety to take advantage of their fan base, for profit.
Matthew Richmond I think one big assumption being made by her critics is that she's making a huge profit on this tour. None of us know the numbers, but she's certainly very far from a household name. Her kick starter sounds huge but we all know how quickly money can go away when you're trying to do big things. I agree that if she's making piles of money then she should be sharing it with these people. But I doubt that she is. I'd bet that she's spending just about everything she's got available, just like most lower- and mid-level musicians do, and going home with little more than a token profit. I guess it comes down to whether you trust that she's being honest about her motivations. Knowing what I know about her, I just can't imagine that she would treat people this way just to make an extra buck. I think she's doing it for exactly the reasons she says she is. Aaron, I don't know you or your experience, but I have to guess that you've had a very different musical life than I have had. I know LOTS of amateurs who would do something like this for free, and who wouldn't accept money if it was offered. In fact, they wouldn't try it if they knew getting paid was the deal because then they'd assume that it was for somebody else, not them. I reiterate - people play music for lots of different reasons, and anyone who thinks there's only one model is just as much part of the problem as old-school record labels who can't adapt to changing times. Music is for EVERYBODY, not just the pros.
Beth Fleenor In an earlier post, Matthew summed up my perspective of the call entirely – as an invitation for some friends to join the party and make it an even bigger party. I volunteered to play not because I thought it was an honor but because if I go to a party I’m happiest playing in the band…and I love parties. And I love Jherek/’s music. Would I have volunteered instantly if Jherek wasn’t the opener? I don’t know – possibly, but probably not, I’m pretty busy around then. Or maybe I would have, rock needs more clarinet. Will I play the gig that Jherek hired me to play in Seattle – most certainly. Would I have done differently if I was the one with a million dollar ks campaign – absolutely (including salaries/benefits for a collection of musicians to do intensive training together beforehand to create the most heightened communication possible for the music/experience…and an outrageously huge media campaign about the true power of the arts and their actual societal function…and creating a network of dialogue amongst artists, audience, and presenters in every city…and an endowment……and…. more on that later….)….now that this important issue has been catapulted into the headlines I hope she uses the support of her audience to crowd-fund for the musicians, generating far more revenue for the players than could have ever been budgeted, and open up a large discussion about changes that need to be made in our industry, creating new models of sustainability for artists. .....now that I have you all here (you are all, by the way, some of my favorite people)….can we talk about paradigm shifts and dreams?......