After ‘crowd-sourcing’ controversy, Amanda Palmer to pay musicians

Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic

After an unexpected outcry from musicians, Amanda Palmer has backed off on her plan to get free musical help for her Kickstarter-sourced upcoming tour.

Palmer, a Bay area-based singer and composer whose work has attracted a devoted following, seemed interested in doing something kind of cool for her musicianly fans a few weeks ago when she wrote a post looking to employ ramshackle orchestras in each city. Her pitch:

“We’re looking for professional-ish horns and strings for EVERY CITY to hop up on stage with us for a couple of tunes,” she wrote. “We need a COUPLE of horns (trumpet! bari! sax! trombone! all need apply!!!) to join in the blasting with Ronald Reagan, our sax duo who’ll be joining the Grand Theft Orchestra every night.”


Playing along with such a talent sounds like a fun night, especially considering her promised payment: “We will feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make.”

The problem? When professional musicians got wind of the plan, many, including the Seattle local of the musicians’ union, called her out for her unwillingness to pay a proper wage in an economy that has devastated the wallets of creative types, and the resulting outcry ended up eclipsing what seemed to be an innocent gesture on her part.

The back-and-forth became more troubling to musicians because Palmer had raised more than $1 million on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to fund the tour -- more than enough, it would seem, to pay pick-up bandmates.

Producer-musician Steve Albini was typically direct in his criticism, calling it “just plain rude to ask for further indulgences from your audience.”

After a week of online conversation, Palmer on Wednesday acknowledged what she referred to as a “kerfuffle” and its consequences, writing of her critics:

“A few of them (the cowards, the trolls) threw some pretty nasty stones. but most of you brought well-articulated views, along with your personal stories and experiences. steve albini called me an idiot, then apologized for calling me an idiot, then called me an idiot anyway.”

She then acknowledged the concerns, and arrived at a solution.

“For better or for worse, this whole kerfuffle has meant i’ve spent the past week thinking hard about this, listening to what everyone was saying and discussing. i hear you. i see your points. me and my band have discussed it at length. and we have decided we should pay all of our guest musicians. we have the power to do it, and we’re going to do it. (in fact, we started doing it three shows ago.)”

She noted that the musicians would still be entitled to their free beer, hugs and merch.


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Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit