The Amanda Palmer “Play for Free” Controversy

Back around the beginning of summer, I posted on Facebook commending Amanda Palmer for breaking down her budget of costs from her record-setting Kickstarter campaign. I praised her for her honesty in cutting through the hype surrounding this story. What most people think $1.1 million in Kickstarter treasure doesn’t really work out like winning the lotto (though a lot of that gets eaten by taxes too.) My sentiment was that it was very refreshing to hear someone say, “Yes, I raised a lot of money but the reality is that it will actually cost that much to do what was funded.”

A lot of people have dreams of crowdfunding their next art project and it would have been easy for Amanda Palmer to have perpetuated the myth that success in the music biz means wealthy artists with fat stacks. It doesn’t – that $1.1 million was pretty much eaten up by the prizes, tour and production costs.

Now I’m guessing a lot of people either missed the breakdown or didn’t read past the headlines about “artist sets record-breaking Kickstarter music project.” They assumed that Palmer pocketed a healthy chunk and went on her merry way. So when she invited people to come to her shows on her tour and play on stage with her – unpaid – people got really angry. They felt like she had turned on her fellow musicians. Why couldn’t she just pay them? Did she already forget where she came from?

So Amy Vaillancourt-Sals wrote a letter on her blog echoing the many, many musicians who joined in near-universal outrage that Palmer was being stingy with her Kickstarter green. In true BAMF style, Palmer again showed her honesty and taste of reality, echoing her transparency in disclosing how she spent her Kickstarter bucks. The whole thing is an entertaining read, so I’ve collected all 4 chapters together in chronological order:

Click here to open the “Play for Free” Flipbook 
Here are the pages in the Flipbook:
1) The Kickstarter Campaign
2) Amanda’s Budget
3) Amy’s response to the free musicians call
4) Amanda’s amazing response to Amy

My take on the whole thing is that there is good reason that Amanda Palmer is successful – she lives in the real world and understands what it really takes to be a musician in 2012. It’s hard, the pay sucks, and without the help of others you’re pretty much screwed. I encourage musicians to see this as an opportunity rather than exploitation – if nothing else, you’ll get to play a memorable set by Kickstarter’s reigning queen of music and the unquestionable hype surrounding the controversy.


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