“Amanda F**kin’ Palmer.” So true. There’s so much to admire about the woman and the way she’s conducted her indie career.
Palmer is one of the must-see presenters at TED2013, which is coming up in Long Beach, California, late next month. Ahead of that, though, she has this Q&A in Billboard.
Have your thoughts on the value of music changed since your Kickstarter campaign?
Actually, in some ways, no, fundamentally. In some way my fundamental feeling about music is that it’s impossible to put a price tag on it. Human beings made music before they made a lot of other things, including tools. When you think about that and you think that music’s fundamental purpose is for human beings to share an experience with another human being, it gets really sticky to talk about the changing value of music because it’s so subjective and it’s so messy.
I grew up in that era where a new CD costs $15 and a used CD cost about $6.99 or less if you were lucky — or more if you weren’t — and we were raised to think that music has a solid, tangible price tag. And we didn’t do a whole of thinking — at least I didn’t when I was 15 years old — about the relationship between the $6.99 you’re spending on the CD and the person in there who’s writing the song and singing them. Who knows if this money is getting to [the Cure’s] Robert Smith and Simon Gallup? It doesn’t matter to me. I just want my CD and they’re rich, famous rock stars, of course, because everyone is buying their CDs. No one was even having a conversation about the pathway of the money you’re spending at your local record store and Robert Smith and his ability to go on tour and pay his rent. You just assumed it was being done in the shady backgrounds and somehow the system worked it out.
That whole system, year by year the curtain is gradually being torn away and the system is crumbling. Now the whole culture is being forced to face the artist. Oh my god, these are people with real lives and people with needs. It’s kind of a pain in the ass. You get the feeling that on a lot of days the audience for most music would kind of rather not be faced with the artist, especially because we’ve been educated to think that the artist are these special creatures are otherwordly and aren’t like us. That’s bullshit. An artist is not all that special. You are still — hopefully — living a life and doing a job and facing the same struggles that pretty much every other working person is facing.
One of the best things about Kickstarter and crowdfunding and the collapse of the music business is a lot of artists like me have been forced to face our own weird mess about ourselves and what we thought it meant to become musicians. That’s a conversation everyone’s having: all of my artist friends, all of my musician friends.