Amanda Palmer Didn't Do Anything Wrong
Art and life co-habitate, informing, imitating, and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship
Amanda Palmer is having a rough week. Her situation (abridged) is as follows: Palmer developed a cult following as singer of The Dresden Dolls, made 1.2 million dollars via a Kickstarter campaign, and then got firestormed this week for an open request for horn and string players to play for free on tour. She has since been painted as a wasteful, disrespectful exploiter, but maybe her only crime is too much transparency.
In the idealist's mind, art and money are unrelated. This is untrue, even during the most basic stages of the creative process; somebody's got to pay for the piano. The strangest aspect of Kickstarter is how it makes fans aware of an artist's financial budget. Of course, it also gives haters - who, regardless of context or logic, are gonna hate - more fuel.
When Amanda Palmer started to get some heat for her seven figure Kickstarter sum, she became noticeably self-conscious. She posted a lengthy outline of how she was going to spend the money, which had some disturbing but common inefficiencies. Palmer's openness is her way of being punk rock, of bucking the major label system that went out of its way to portray relatively low-rung artists like her as struggling martyrs while pumping untold thousands into their careers. But by breaking down these walls, she made herself vulnerable.
Palmer thought it would be fun to invite auxiliary musicians from her fanbase to play with her in the (unfortunately titled) Grand Theft Orchestra in exchange for beer and hanging out, but the conflict wrote itself: how does a millionaire justify not paying musicians? This question has been posed by intelligent people who approach the subject with as much subtlety as a political attack ad.