Musician Amanda Palmer has been a favorite of fantasy fans since her days with the Dresden Dolls. Her first solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (a loose homage to “Who Killed Laura Palmer?”, the famous line from cult TV show Twin Peaks), generated a companion photo book with text by Neil Gaiman and pictures by SF photographer Kyle Cassidy. I first heard about it from Kyle when he came to Chicago to add to his “Where I Write” project, photographing SF and fantasy writers in their writing caves (and taking a pic of me in my big green chair.)
Palmer’s 2011 wedding to Gaiman cemented her status as genre royalty. But true fame had to wait until May of this year, and it arrived in the form of a legendary Kickstarter campaign. Seeking $100,000 to fund her new album and tour, Palmer raised closer to $1.2 million, winning the title Queen of Kickstarter from MTV and numerous news outlets in the process.
Palmer’s new album, Theatre of Evil, arrived a few weeks ago. But its success has been overshadowed by a growing controversy surrounding hiring opening acts for her tour. Here’s what The New Yorker said yesterday, under the headline “AMANDA PALMER’S ACCIDENTAL EXPERIMENT WITH REAL COMMUNISM”:
Amanda Palmer, the singer who raised a spectacular sum on Kickstarter to fund her new album and then neglected to pay the musicians who toured with her, is the Internet’s villain of the month… Album in hand, Palmer prepared to tour. She advertised for local horn and string players to help out at each stop along the way: “join us for a couple tunes,” as the post on her Web site had it. Even better, “basically, you get to BE the opening ACT!”
Just one thing, local musicians. There would be none of this million-plus dollars available for you. Supposedly, Palmer had spent it all on producing her album… She promised instead to “feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily.” This is a compensation package which, honestly, might be worse than nothing. Depends on the beer.
Cue furor, via the usual music, snark, and music-and-snark Web sites. Palmer has since renounced her hornsploitation scheme and will pay the band, but the outrage remains.
The story has been picked up by The New York Times (“Rockers Playing for Beer: Fair Play?”), Digital Trends (“Kickstarter queen Amanda Palmer, meet your Internet backlash”), Gawker, (“Amanda Palmer’s Million-Dollar Music Project and Kickstarter’s Accountability Problem,” accompanied by a graphic showing Palmer grabbing bags of money), and other news outlets. She’s been called out on Twitter multiple times by musicians unions, and American Federation of Musicians President Raymond M. Hair Jr. told the New York Times, “If there’s a need for the musician to be on the stage, then there ought to be compensation for it.” As The New Yorker noted, Palmer has since relented and agreed to pay the opening acts, but so far the furor shows no sign of dying down.