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On Amanda Palmer & Artist Volunteers

On tuesday night, I attended the Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra album release show in New York.
It was a historic show for the ages. A brilliant display of light and joy and sorrow and love and creation. I do feel touched and changed having been there, and grateful for the experience. However, there has been some controversy that I feel I need to address. It's come up that the string and brass sections of the show were comprised of volunteers who were requested on her website. Amanda addressed this on stage, saying that there has always been a tradition of artists helping artists if they believe in the cause. I knew where she was coming from, but this still made me uneasy.
Amanda has built a career via her dedicated fan-base and with their help (my own included) raised over a million dollars to fund this album and tour. And I think that's great. Remarkable, even. Such things are expensive, and even if she may be well off in her own right, she would probably have gone bankrupt trying to do this with money out of her own pocket. The project has also sent a message to record companies that consumers are done following the old model. "We are the media" now. Amanda has worked as an artist in various forms, including a street performing/living statue. She knows the meaning of hard work and how difficult it is to make it doing what you love. This all leaves me more conflicted than anything.
Yes, it is totally fine for creatives to volunteer for projects that inspire them. Many times, nonprofitable endeavors lead to actually profitable ones, like a domino effect. Yes, we all have to pay our dues. Yes, we all have the right to make our own decisions. However, we, as artists, already live in a world that undervalues us. That wants us to work "on spec" or enter "design contests" for logos, or illustrate graphic novels in promise of a split "if it sells", or done work that's "great for our portfolio" or "our reel". And while we all have the drive to make things and will do so whether someone pays us or not, the fact that so many of us WILL, diminishes and hurts the rest of us. Why would anyone pay me, so long as someone else will do it for free?
The answer is that they won't. And they don't. And they'll continue to mistreat us, unless we all get together and demand change.
Maybe the need for volunteers was a budgeting error. Maybe the need for more musicians was a last minute idea, after all funds had already been spent. I'm sure everyone who worked on the show had an amazing time doing so, and will carry it in their hearts with as much joy, if not more, than I for having seen it.
My point is that just because someone says "Yes" doesn't always mean it was OK to ask in the first place.
Amanda, dear, I love you. Your music makes me want to be a better artist. As such, my respect for my craft is of the utmost importance. It's not just my art, it is myself. You teach us that. I don't expect you to be perfect (this is why I don't believe in having heroes), but I expect you to practice what you preach.
I forgive you, but you should know better.

Read more: http://www.blogdoctor.me/2007/02/expandable-post-summaries.html#ixzz1Ygp5vxLJ

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