Dear Amanda Palmer,
I admit, when I heard that you were going on tour and looking to have local musicians play for you for free my first reaction was "sign me up!". You've been an amazing role model for musicians everywhere, giving your time for the Occupy Movement, empowering others to express themselves, and showing musicians everywhere that they can create their own vision and be successful at it.
In fact, you are so successful that your last kickstarter campaign for your new album and tour raised over 1 million dollars. This is fabulous news, and obvious evidence of how your music and stance inspires!
The other night, while spending time with some of my musician friends, I learned that you may recruit volunteer players from resources such as Classical Revolution for your tour. This makes perfect sense, given that we have branches worldwide and our musician base has grown exponentially with individuals that are largely musically educated, in addition to discovering their own voices and aesthetics. We're a perfect match for you and your tour!
Classical Revolution, by its very nature, empowers musicians. We're a fantastic community that inspires and stands up for one another. We have each spent countless years developing very keen skills and wish to share our talents in gratifying ways. These are all things that I'm sure you can appreciate. Not only have we spent years doing this, but we're also paying off student loans, and trying to cover basic bills in order to survive and continue to use these very honed and valuable techniques.
We have unions that stand for us, but they can only do so much. Artists are feeling desperate. I confess, I have found myself giving free performances in order to get ahead and perhaps have something notable to put on my resume. You'd think that this would help, but it doesn't and in fact it's made my position worse. Volunteer opportunities have effectively lead to more volunteer opportunities. Very very seldom have I found it leading to compensating gigs. As a result, my desire to share my craft and my feeling of self-worth have waned, while people around me are mocking, saying "yes, but aren't you happy you get to create music?" Not while I'm starving, stressed and frantic… no! I can only imagine the clever and snarky retorts that you would tell those (insert expletive and plural nouns here) that approached you with that sort of BS. In fact, it makes me blush just thinking about it!
My friends and I are looking to bring back the respect that musicians deserve. As a personnel manager for my branch at Classical Revolution, I've been working towards assuring that my musicians are compensated for their talents and hard work. So, looking back at your ultra successful kickstarter and your request… Here you are, and you've raised over $1 million for your tour and album release. Here we are as musicians on foodstamps, maxing out their credit cards to keep the lights on, are hoping that we have enough money to pay next months rent, and have instruments that are in need of repair, need to be replaced, and even need to be insured. We are looking at you now and your request for musicians to come play with you for free, and most of us have even fallen in love with you and your music, and how do you think we'll respond? We're f*&king perplexed, agitated and disheartened, to put it mildly! What would you say to you if you were in our shoes? I have a pretty good guess...
The naive ones will say "sign me up!" I most certainly had that as my first response. But in looking at the whole picture, this time you're coming across as the 1% looking to exploit us. I'm guessing this is not the impression you were going for. If this is the case, please respect the musicians who are giving you their time and specialized skills. We would love to play for you! Please do the right thing, Amanda. This all seems so contrary to your vision.
The future of music is musicians being compensated for their specialized skills and the beauty and difference that their craft brings to the world! We all know you can certainly afford it…
Your fellow musician,
9-19-12 Addendum: Amanda has just announced that she will be paying all of her guest musicians on her tour in every city! Major kudos to Amanda for making the ethical choice! It takes a lot of guts to admit that her request, though it felt reasonable enough to her at the time, was perhaps not the best call for action. Hopefully, we have all learned a lot from this and can move on in a way that empowers performing artists and everyone alike!