Amanda Palmer Vs Steve Albini:Is this the future of music?
Tue 18th Sep, 2012 in Local News
“Fuck’s sake a million dollars is a shitload of money. How can you possibly not have a bunch laying around after people just gave you a million dollars?”
That’s the question outspoken audio engineer/’producer’ Steve Albini (Nirvana, The Stooges, Pixies) has asked Amanda Palmer and everyone wants to know after the singer sought out musicians willing to play on her tour for payment of beer, hugs and high-fives.
Palmer recently raised $1.2 million from her fans via Kickstarter for her new album Theater Is Evil, and Albini – the music industry’s leading cranky uncle – isn’t at all impressed with her vision of the future of music. The pair have traded so many barbs over the past week that it’s getting hard to keep up. So here’s a pocket, blow-by-blow account to tide you over – until the next round, at least…
She said: “I’ll pay you with beer, hugs, high-fives and thanks.”
Palmer put out a call on her blog asking for “professional-ish horns and strings” to join her band, the Grand Theft Orchestra, on stage for a couple of tunes. The musicians would need to show up for “a quickie rehearsal” and then play the shows for the promise of that Palmer and co. would “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”.
She said: “I can’t afford to pay the extra musicians”
Palmer told the New York Times that she “could not afford to pay the extra musicians” she needed for the tour and explained that any arguments about the lack of payment were invalid as all the musicians “fundamentally believe it’s worth their time and energy to show up at this gig.” She noted that the three other band members in her Grand Theft Orchestra are paid salaries, but that the string quartet and three or four sax and brass players she sought would set her back around $35,000 for all the tour dates.
He said: “You are an idiot.”
Responding to the controversy on the Electrical Audio forum Albini declared that while he wouldn’t do it himself he has “no fundamental problem with either asking your fans to pay you to make your record or go on tour or play for free in your band or gather at a mud pit downstate and sell meth and blowjobs to each other”. However, he also implied that by pleading for donations Palmer was publicly admitting that she was an idiot, and demonstrably not as good at your profession as Jandek, Moondog, GG Allin or “the kids who play on buckets downtown.”
He said: “Fuck’s sake a million dollars is a shitload of money.”
Noting that “there are probably going to be a hundred or so stories on the web with headlines like “Steve Albini calls Amanda Palmer an Idiot”” Albini later clarified his comments to say that he has no problem with bands using participant financing schemes like Kickstarter and noted that the resource can be an amazing way for artists to connect with fans.
However, Albini then suggested that by asking for further assistance Palmer’s is abusing the genorisity of her fans. “It should be obvious also that having gotten over a million dollars from such an effort that it is just plain rude to ask for further indulgences from your audience,” he wrote. “Fuck’s sake a million dollars is a shitload of money. How can you possibly not have a bunch laying around after people just gave you a million dollars?”
She said: “I’ve built my life as a musician playing for free….a LOT”
In a lengthy blog post Palmer again defended her position claiming that her experiences as a street performer taught her not to be too proud to beg. She says It’s literally an opposite strategy from someone deciding that they, on principle, won’t gig for free. “I’ve built my life as a musician, like many many people in rock and roll, playing for free….a LOT.”
She said: “I won’t feed the trolls”
Two days later Palmer returned to her blog to call for calm and for the argument to attack the issues rather than the individuals. Palmer acknowledged that she has hit a “deep, painful cultural nerve” and claims that she has been on the receiving end of a tirade of attacks from trolls who have flooded her email and social media with abuse.
He said: “It’s cheapness repainted as generosity and it’s gross”
Albini continued his argument during an interview with The Stool Pigeon noting that while he understands why fans want to join Palmer on stage he feels that there’s still a problem with a millionaire asking people to do things for free. “It’s cheapness repainted as generosity and it’s gross,” Albini explained. “Using people in this way, exploiting their good nature for one’s own benefit, is a cancer that taints many enterprises and it always reflects poorly on the exploiter.”