“Let them eat high fives!”
Let me start by saying that I know very little about Amanda “Fucking” Palmer, other than that she’s some kind of performance-arty singer who belts out torch songs, wears more eyeliner than a Cure fan, and is married to celebrated writer Neil Gaiman. Like her husband, she has an army of rabidly foaming fans that gobble up everything she puts out, and has garnered a fair amount of critical acclaim and cred over the years.
I’m in no way an aficionado of Ms. Fucking Palmer; I honestly can’t name one of her Fucking songs. This isn’t out of any sort of hate for her music, but rather admitted ignorance. My finger has been well off the pulse for some years now. These days, as far as music goes, I’m more likely to be caught listening to one of my old Screaming Trees CD’s than plumbing the depths for the new, interesting, or challenging. I got old. What can I say?
But I’m not here to rant about her music. I couldn’t give a flake off my ball bag. I’m here to add my coinage to the recent brouhaha.
What’s up, you may ask?
Ms. Fucking Palmer recently raised 1.2 million dollars on Kickstarter to finance her new album, “Theater is Evil.” I guess that’s how it works these days. You just ask your fans for money and they cough up in bucketloads. Awesome. Then you sell them the record that they financed. Then you tour and charge them for the tickets.
Fair enough. If her fans want to just give her free money that’s their own affair. It’s worth noting, however, that Ms. Fucking Palmer only asked for $200,000, but just so happened to get the extra million as some sort of golden Fucking cherry on top. Doesn’t suck to be her.
She recorded the album and is now in the process of touring, but here’s where things get ridonkulous: She recently put a call for fans, “professional-ish musicians,” as she calls them, to come join her as part of her back up band on the road. That’s right, on each city she goes to, she will hold an audition to assemble the band (a string quartet and a 3-4 brass and saxophone players), who will then have the privilege of sitting in with her at the gig. As for payment? Well, she can’t give them any cash, but instead has promised “beer, high-fives, and good times.”
Sigh. Face on keyboard. Fist through wall.
What’s the problem here? A lot of people ask. Surely her musician fans would be more than happy to leap at such a golden opportunity, just for the EXPOSURE alone! They don’t need to be paid!
Really? Her backup band shouldn’t be paid? This woman took in 1.2 million Fucking dollars to fund her project and then charges 30-60 bucks a head for her shows, yet her some of her band–the musicians who back her–should be somehow exempt from compensation? What brand of paint are you huffing again?
When pressed about it, Ms. Fuck Palmer claimed that there is no way she would be able to afford the 35,000 dollars it would take to pay these musicians. 35,000 out of 1.2 million is unaffordable? Not counting ticket sales? And this isn’t for some crazy, extraneous cost–it’s for the Fucking musicians to play in the Fucking musical concert.
Are you sure she’s not a Republican?
The Seattle Musicians Union Local 76-493 was the first to raise a fuss, sending out a tweet condemning Ms. Fucking Palmer’s actions. This made me proud to not only be from Seattle, but to have spent so much time at their headquarters some years back, when a buddy of mine actually lived there. Go get ’em you old cats!
Since then people have come out of the woodwork to rightly take her to the woodshed both at her own website and all over the internets. Her incredibly loyal fans have circled the wagons, put their fingers in their ears and tried to hum the controversy away, but their idol is just dead wrong on this, and so are they for defending her.
Okay. Let’s boil this down: This isn’t about music, but rather about art and entertainment as a whole. These days, unless you are a big name, everyone wants you to work for free. Just exercising your talent is now seen as a privilege. Anytime you speak up, you’re given the same old line:
Oh, but think of the exposure!
Fuck exposure. Take your exposure, light it on fire, and ram the flaming ball up your vice of an asshole. Then shit it out and do it all over again. Fuck your Fucking exposure. Exposure doesn’t pay bills. Exposure doesn’t cover taxi fare or new strings or or the cost of whatever materials you require as an artist. As a semi-established writer I get this all the time. I have no shortage of article and content requests these days, but very few will even consider payment, feeding me a shovelful of exposure horseshit instead. With the internet and blog age, “everyone’s a writer” these days and the websites and small magazines know it, quality be damned. Sure, they appreciate good writing, but usually not enough to actually spend money on it. That’s usually reserved for everyone else on the project…
Again, the artist is the LAST person to get paid. We’re at the very bottom of the list. Really. This is a fact. How has this come to be?
And no one is more guilty of this than Ms. Fucking Palmer, who, after a 1.2 million Kickstarter mega-take “can’t afford” to pay her musicians. Oh, but she can afford to pay designers, secretaries, PR, promotions, lawyers, drivers, assistants, engineers… and the list goes on and on.
Yeah, I have a personal beef with this as a writer. But I’m also a performer. I produce shows now and have for years, and the deal I’ve always had is this: If any money is made, EVERYONE gets paid.
And of course you may say: If you are a truly great artist like Ms. Fucking Palmer, you will be paid what you’re worth. Fair enough, I’m not a full-time professional artist, but I have friends who are–friends who have careers and good names–and even they are fighting day to day to get their fare share.
Here’s the deal: If you create show or project of any kind and charge good money for it: Every Fucking Performer deserves a taste. End of. There are no loopholes, there is no kvetching, no equivocating, no excuses.
No Fucking excuses.
To quote Bunk from The Wire: “That’s some shameful shit.”