Amanda Palmer – Should You Play for Free?
A few weeks back Amanda Palmer put out a call for horn and string players to join her on stage on her current tour. Here’s an excerpt from the post:
“you’d need to show up for a quickie rehearsal (the parts are pretty simple) in the afternoon, then come back around for the show! 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.”
What followed was a firestorm of epic proportions. Here are some excerpts from the comments:
“…her publicity scheme seems to run counter to the interest of musicians in this country, and, I believe, sets a very bad precedent for national touring artists.”
“I’m having a house concert at my place. You should bring your tour to my house and play for free. It’ll be great exposure for you.”
“Look anywhere and you see the same thing. Our society is teaching us to underpay and undervalue musicians.”
“Being a musician is hard enough without being exploited by other musicians.”
“Really, Amanda, you can be appallingly, frustratingly, head-deskingly tone deaf and stupid.”
So here’s what I have to say:
Being a musician is a struggle for most of us. Finding band members, learning how to write great music, learning how to play an instrument well, paying for recordings, paying band members – the list goes on and on. I understand the frustration. I’m not out on the road kicking ass right now, yet I wish I was. It’s not a cakewalk. So when people come out throwing flames at Amanda Palmer for offering for them to play for her without paying them, I understand where the emotion is coming from.
As with anything in life though, you have the choice as to which offers you accept. If an offer isn’t worth it for you then you simply don’t have to take it. If an offer is worth it for you then by definition you should do it.
If you’re not getting the offers you’d like then you have two constructive choices: You can either create something yourself or you can do what it takes to get better offers from other people.
This is harder than most people realize. We have concepts in our heads of what this means to become better and we may think we can make them a reality, but when it comes time to put the rubber to the road we’re faced with our personal demons, our bad habits and our limiting beliefs. It takes much less effort to disown the part of us that doesn’t want to face the dark side and do the work and instead to turn that energy towards the external. Amanda Palmer is not the problem.
The market will dictate whether or not what Amanda is offering is a success. If it’s not worth it for enough people then it won’t work. If it is then it will.
Being a professional musician doesn’t mean much if you’re not getting good paying gigs that you’re happy with. If you are then the gig playing for Amanda isn’t worth it for you and you probably aren’t too worried about it – You’ve got good things going on. If not, then you have work to do. For those who take her up on it – be happy for them. They’re not your problem either. Wish them the time of their lives.
When you pour your emotion into something outside yourself as though it’s the determinant of your own success or failure, you re-enforce your limiting beliefs and build the walls of your own prison. Take that emotion and channel it into excitement for what you can really do when you commit to doing the hard work to create your own success.