So after much preparation and planning and plotting, my friend and occasional co-conspirator Amanda Palmer launched a Kickstarter this week to fund her new album, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. She was asking for $100,000 to do this, press, mixing, promotion, etc. And we all knew that she'd get it. It's Amanda Freaking Palmer for crying out loud, she sold an empty wine bottle for $300 once. This isn't unusual.
There are a few things that are unusual though. One is that she raised half a million dollars in two days and another somewhat unusual thing is that one of the Kickstarter rewards is a book by Neil & myself featuring photos that illustrate one of the songs and that this book costs ... one thousand dollars a copy. That's a one with three zeros and it's not a joke. After this happened my inbox started filling up with mail that is on the cusp between "very angry" and "bewildered" - one person writes "I feel like you have sold out art by catering to people who can spend this kind of money," another says (somewhat cryptically) "artists I used to care about, meh," It's obvious that people feel very strongly about this and I wanted to address some of these questions because it bothers me when people are upset.
Firstly, in the name of full disclosure I should point out a few things: I had little to do with the pricing of the book, apart from saying "I think it will be very expensive to make a book like this" and providing some layouts, I'm not sure if they'll use mine or not; I don't get a cut of the book sales, but I will get paid for whatever photo work I do for the album, and it'll be better than I got paid when I did an album cover when Amanda was on a major label, so it's a general pool sort of thing and I have a vested interest, plus I genuinely do want to see Amanda make mad gobs for money as a reward for her incredible talent. If you ask me, she should be able to bask in luxury for the rest of her life for Delilah alone.
This is probably the biggest thing, so I'll say it first:
1) The album, the music, the thing that this is all about is a dollar I'll say that again you can download the album for a dollar. The goal of this project is to get music to people and people can get it for less than the price of a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts. One of the reasons that you can download the album for a dollar is because the people who are paying $1,000 for a limited edition book are subsidizing the cost of the album download.
2) I don't know if my photos are going to be in the $100 art book -- my guess is probably or at least some of thembut I don't know.
3) The buyers get to set the price of items sometimes. This is the way the free market works. Someone puts out a book for a thousand dollars, nobody buys it, the seller eats the production costs and learns a valuable lesson. Just because you want something priced in a particular way doesn't mean that it will be, or that it should be. Picketing Chevrolet and saying "I want a $3,000 Corvette" won't get you a $3,000 Corvette, though it will convince Pontiac to produce the Firebird. Vote with your wallet.
4) Some people have more money than you, they buy things too. Some people have less money than you; they think it's crazy that you'd spend $2.60 on a cup of coffee.
5) $1,000 isn't as obscene a price as you may think. $1,000 wouldn't get me a print from any of my favorite photographers -- Mary Ellen Mark, Anne Liebovitz, Sally Mann, their photos start at $1,200.
6) Don't you dare dare dare say "her husband is rich, she doesn't need to make money". Do I really need to say this?
7) If you don't want a $1,000 book, don't buy it. If you want to see the photos, they'll be at a number of exhibitions along the way. And on top of that:
8) Someone will probably bootleg this book. If you're dying to see it, you very likely will, the pages might be in the wrong order and the images may look fuzzy, but I suspect it'll get out.
10) This album isn't worth half a million dollars. This kickstarter transaction isn't between you and the amount of money it's raised, it's between you and the reward you've chosen. Do you want the reward the kickstarter is offering? That's it. Kickstarter isn't a charity website where people ask for money to do nothing -- kickstarter provides tangable rewards for people funding art projects. You pay money, you get something back. If people want to pay a dollar and get an album, they do, if they want to pay a thousand dollars and get a limited edition book, they do. It's not an open guitar case on a street corner. Just because someone's made some amount of money doesn't make your reward for backing less valuable. The only question is is this reward worth the money they're asking for it?.
11) Amanda Palmer works harder than almost anyone I know. She keeps a relentless schedule, she's away from her family for months at a time, and she's almost single handedly re-formed the musician/fan relationship in the past eight years. I realized this long ago when I saw her at a concert say to the audience "take out your cell phones, right now, and text your email address to this number. That way I can get in touch with you directly, without the record company in between us." It was a simple thing, but it was extremely important. She's worked hard for your money.
12) Buy something rare and exclusive, it's wonderful. It doesn't have to be a $1,000 art book, it can be a $3 painting. Put it in a corner in your house that people have to stumble upon to see. When you throw a party and see someone standing in front of it tell them the story "I bought this three years ago at an art show in Pawtucket, the artists name was Eugene...." That's exactly what the person with the $1,000 limited edition art book is going to be doing, and it won't be any less wonderful for you when you do it. I promise that.
This is the story of someone doing something right, working hard for years, being clever, inventing a new way in an old world. I'm happy to be a part of it; thousand dollar book and all.
All the artist, writer, photographer friends I have always say "never read the comments" -- because invariably when there's some great article about something you're doing in the New York Times three comments in someone's calling you an idiot. It comes with the territory. For whatever percentage of people think you're doing great things, there's a percentage, fixed in space, who think you should be welded into a barrel and buried in a nuclear waste dump. I wish it wasn't like that, but if you pleased everyone you probably wouldn't be doing things right.
I think what a lot of people fail to comprehend is that this money is not being collected to make her bank account swell. Anyone who has ever done a Kickstarter project, or known someone who has, or has even contributed to one that did well over the goal, knows that even if you go "way over" your intended goal, there are ALWAYS unforeseen expenses that'll push you beyond that. Be they travel, food, postage, packaging supplies, or whatever. All these things add up. And they add up fast. Yeah, that's an amazing amount of money. And the return for that money is going to be equally amazing, and a LOT of work.
And as another self-representing artist who is crowd-funding my next book, I say "hurrah" to anyone and everyone who is stepping up to prove that crowd-funding works. It's working for me.
I believe I remember reading in an email that she felt she'd need about $350-$400k all told, so this simply sounds to me like a fully funded project, with enough left over so that the whole team gets paid and no one has to sweat the next 12 months. I think that people forget (or don't know) that the way we all work in the indy art world is for love; sometimes we get paid very little, sometimes, when a project has the money, we get paid what we're worth. The idea is for it to all even out, and to spend our lives doing what we really enjoy.
I'm sad you had to say this; people are really self-absorbed and I think incredibly entitled to be so upset about the cost of that award. Art isn't always cheap, and it should be that way - the creators are entitled to be paid whatever the market will bear. If I had the $ I'd be buying the book; as it is I'm thrilled that the $1 digital copy is an option - I'm poor.
I applaud this post. The idea that an artist should ALWAYS BE STARVING OMG, or they are selling out, not legit, pick your term, annoys me to no end.
Hell yes, she works her ass off. I went to the "Evening with..." her and Neil, and it is the most amazing thing I have ever seen in 45 years of life. The rapport between audience and artists was like nothing I had ever seen. Ever.
If I had 1,000 bucks, you bet your bum I'd buy that book. Why should artists not be paid for their work? And as you point out, you can still download the album for a buck. Everyone wins!
These people donated because they wanted to. Because they adore her. WHY IS THIS WRONG?
Screw the bitchy, jealous, bastards. Yeah. I feel that strongly about it. I'd rather see it go to her, than a damned corporate label, too.
Forgot to mention, it's not even as if she gets to just roll around in all this money. The product she is producing, costs money. And she is changing the face of art, media...everything!!
Between you and Scalzi, this is the best rebuttal to folks being intolerant about what art should cost. You give me hope. I just had a campaign fail a couple days ago because folks didn't connect that sometimes art costs money to put in a gallery. And that's okay. I loved making the art. The show would have been a lovely thing to do. It didn't happen. Sometimes it works out like that.
Seeing Amanda soar? Makes me get back up on my feet and dust my ass off. Because it takes time and effort and commitment and she has worked her ass off.
I wish I had $1000. I would kill to own that book.
Seriously, screw em. Do I have art worth over $1000? Yes, actually I do. But I only could afford $25 at the moment, so that's what I backed Amanda for. If I had $1000, I'd be there with bells on and show ALL my friends.
I just wanted you to know that I think this response is incredibly well put together and chock full of salient points. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you have written here.
I will also confess that when I read that one of the kickstarter rewards was a book by you and Mr Gaiman my heart skipped a little beat, and then I read it was $1000, and my heart sank a little. Not because I don't think it's worth it - trust me, if I had a spare $1000 I would have been one of the first signing up for it - no, my heart sank because I don't have a spare $1000. I will be getting Amanda's new album for $1 though, thanks in no small part to the people who are fortunate enough to get the book by Mr Gaiman and yourself. So, to those wealthy fortunate people, and to yourself, Mr Gaiman, and Amanda Fucking Palmer, I am very grateful!
Finally, in support of your 12th point, my absolute favorite piece of art that I own is a delicate and almost ethereal watercolour and ink painting... it's an original, not very big - only about 5 inches by 8 inches... it's painted on a piece of cardboard cut from a discarded box, and cost the princely sum of $10. It could have cost 50 cents, as the artist was asking for "worth donations" ... she was one of a collective of young displaced people who made a variety of artworks and craft goods using mostly things the rest of the world throws away, and selling them from blankets on the footpath, nothing had a price other than what someone was willing to pay for it. I had only $10 on me, so that's what I paid, if I'd had $100 I would have given her that. I framed it and hung it on my wall where it has been for the last 6 years, and everyone who is new to my home comments on how lovely it is, and I get to tell them the story, and I love it :)
So anyhow, sorry for long-windedness... Pffffft to the cranky emailers, and a big fat HUZZAH to you, Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer!
Firstly: wow, I knew the entitlement epidemic was pretty far advanced, but every so often you get a reminder that it's further along than you realise.
Secondly: when I saw mention of the $1000 book, my reactions were - that's going to be one awesome book - I'm really looking forward to having that kind of money to invest in art books (this and the Helmut Newton coffee-table are in my mind right now) - sucks that I don't have that on hand right now, but that's what changing continents does to you - congrats to you for being involved in that kind of project. I'd love to be in your shoes, and it's just raised my ambitions. - this kind of thing is expensive to do. I like this as an interesting incentive for the deep-pocketed to invest in a larger way than those who can't afford (or aren't inclined) to.
Some people (not you) need a reality check. A small business owner who continues to operate as a small business can't be a sell-out. That's... that's the whole idea of selling out. And that's what an independent musician IS: a small business owner.
Anyway, really, well-put. #12 seems to me to be the crux of the thing. It delineates precisely between those who determine their own personal sense of value and those who look to others for one. And it is the former that makes up the part of the world that I want around me.
Haters gonna hate, man. It's hard not to hate them back.
I really don't get the "controversy" here. It's not even, as you say, that if you don't want to spend 1K on a book you don't have to, or that Kickstarter provides tangible rewards--though both are true. It's that the money is being raised to produce an album, and if more money gets raised, well, great--people want to invest in Amanda.
People who invest 1K or more get a thank-you in the form of a book, because hey, that's a lot of money they're putting in! It's worth a thanks! Everyone else doesn't automatically deserve the same thank-you just because they want it.
Maybe Amanda wrote a special song for Neil on his birthday. Maybe I hear that song and decide I really want a song from Amanda on my birthday too. But I'm not her husband, so I don't get one. That's how it is. Maybe I'd really like to be her husband and get a song, but nope, that's not how life worked out.
And I didn't give her a 1K and I don't happen get the book as a thank-you. Even if I really want it, and if I'd have liked to be rich enough to be able to give her the thousand dollars. Again, that's how life worked out. She doesn't owe me a book just because she chose to reward some other people with one.
take out your cell phones, right now, and text your email address to this number. That way I can get in touch with you directly
is possibly one of the best uses of modern technology to connect with fans that I have EVER ENCOUNTERED.
Which is part of why AFP has made half a million damned dollars in three days. She's *good* at this stuff. She's really, really good at it. And I'm totally going to steal that idea, even if I don't do concerts. :)
- I always get surprised and a little depressed when I see posts like this. I don't think you, or anyone, should have had to defend this.
- Kickstarter always has expensive options, and they're often wonderful if you have the money AND value what is being offered. No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to buy it. And very few people can buy everything they want.
- I've bought Expensive Limited Edition things from artists I love, and I love what I've received.
- The artists I love, I frankly hope they get to swim in great piles of money. I wish success on people whose work I value and it makes me sad that other people don't do that for people who make art that they value. I hope Amanda keeps getting all the money she needs to make the art she does.
- I have not bought the $1000 book because this came at a bad time for us - we're taking a very expensive holiday this month, otherwise I might have. I'm sad I won't have it, but I'm not bitter about it. We all can't have everything we want!
Very nicely put. There's a different between what art costs and what art is worth, and sometimes the latter can be subjective and controversial with all the things that can be tied to it such as name, reputation, fame, actual quality of the work itself, and ignorance, which I find to be the main reason for controversy. With how easy it is to get EVERYTHING these days, people have lost the notion that things actually cost money, labor and dedication to make, more so when the work itself is done with a lot of love which often puts in more effort and more quality, not just in presentation but the actual work.
I had a reply all worked out in my head on the way home from work, but eh, I've lost most of it.
But I will mention this point, because I think it's worth mentioning: Amanda never does anything half-assed, as far as I've seen. If you participate in her Kickstarter? You get something cool. In fact, you get something -really- cool, and maybe even something that no one else but your category of contributors gets. You'll probably get it somewhere close to on time, but if you don't, it's because it's only getting more and more awesome before it gets to you.
I can't say this about some of the other Kickstarters I've participated in. In fact, one of them that I did a lot of fundraising for last year still has yet to send rewards to the final remaining 30 or so people that contributed, me being one of them. I'm a bit dismayed as to how that turned out, to be honest.
When my Kickstarter package arrived a week or so ago from Amanda's team (from the Neil & Amanda tour I helped fund last fall), it had goodies, extras, and a special card inside only for our group (Firefly level contributors) because the shipping team flubbed it up along the line somehow. Then I got an email yesterday that they are going to go above and beyond to continue making the shipping flub better, by sending us something else in a few weeks. How many people can you say that you know have gone above and beyond to keep their contributors/investors/fans happy? It's rare. Every extra dollar that Amanda's current Kickstarter campaign that is actually charged (because you can change your pledge at any time before it's funded) will not only get something awesome, but the more money pledged, the more awesome things she'll do, I am sure of it.
This is why I am comfortable pledging $1000 for an amazingly unique book that I will be thrilled to own, given that I am a fan of all parties involved. FWIW, I am backer #3 or 4 at this level (I don't recall). My pledge is not even 1% of this campaign, either - it's roughly 0.2% of its current projected funding. This is how crowdsourcing has its impact - every donation helps a bit more, on any level, and yes: higher level donors help to subsidize lower levels of funding, to make it all-around awesome for everyone.
It means I'm going to have to set aside money from my next few paychecks to make it happen, but I won't be charged until the end of May, anyway, so I've got time. This will probably be the most expensive piece of art that I will own. But the dollar cost doesn't mean much beyond insurance value. Whatever price you choose to pay is whatever it's worth to you. I could be a contributor at the $10,000 level and opt for the $1 download if I really wanted to, if I even wanted a reward at all.
What's important to me is that I am a part of the making of this album, and I get a pretty nifty book as a thank you, to put in my collectibles case. :) It's a win plus a bonus, as far as I am concerned.
Anyway, it's getting late, I'm probably babbling or on the verge of repeating myself. Just wanted to toss in my thoughts.
Love this, too. What record label EVER gives these types of rewards? But here you have amazing things being offered by AFP. Coming to your house to perform? WOW. Just reading all the things she does wears me out, and people want to act like she's begging for handouts.
My opinion is incredibly biased. Because I love Amanda Palmer. I ADORE her, and I adore this concept and so many artists that I love...I wish they would DO this.
It's so honest. That's what makes it really special. That's why she's already made half a million dollars, because she tells people the TRUTH of the matter. I have plenty of friends who want to email their favorite artists and ask them, "WHEN ARE YOU PUTTING OUT A NEW RECORD?" "WHEN ARE YOU TOURING?" "COME TO MY STATE/COUNTRY" as if it's the simplest thing in the world.
People don't really know how hard it is for indie musicians/companies to produce albums and go off on tours. And sometimes I think people don't WANT to know, because then if they actually knew what they were asking, what it implied, the costs that factor into it, they'd realize just how utterly expensive/difficult it can be.
I can't find one thing wrong with what Amanda is doing. The best part about this is that we KNOW where the money is going. This isn't like going into any given wal-mart and buying a CD and hoping a few cents of that goes to the artist. This is direct. I might as well be putting that dollar amount right into her hand and that feels so very gratifying.
So next time Amanda posts a picture of herself eating sushi or having a drink somewhere, I can look at it and say to myself; "I helped pay for that. Thanks to us (the fanbase) my favorite artist who has done SO MUCH FOR ME, can eat, can pay her rent, can come do tours or ninja gigs, buy ukulele's and be able to get through life without having to constantly struggle."
It's the best feeling ever. It's one of the many things that makes being a fan of Amanda Fucking Palmer so very beautiful. <3
My ex is in a band, and one thing people don't generally know about the tour thing, and "come to my city", is that even if said band gets a cool gig opening for a bigger band? THEY PAID for the privilege of opening for that band. (My ex's band got to open for Candle Box on their comeback tour a while back. They PAID CB. But I don't begrudge that, because CB had expenses to pay as well, and being the more famous...And it was their management that demanded it, anyway. Labels...)
Just to add to your points on costs that people never think about.
As much as I'm envious of those who can afford the book that you and Neil are doing, I am happy knowing that I've been able to help Amanda out in whatever way I can. I have been planning for a long time to contribute more than just a 20 or 30 dollars to a campaign, and I chose this one to drop a bit more cash on. I'm very pleased to know that I'll be getting a bunch of exclusive things, including the less expensive book with quite a bit of art by various people inside.
I wish I could afford to drop a thousand dollars, not only for something like the book, but also to help Amanda even further. Sadly it's just not possible. I'm still very pleased that I can help this amazing project, and I hope that the book gets into the hands of people who truly appreciate it.
As someone who often finds themselves coveting rare wonderful works of art, I wasn't surprised that an extremely limited edition book featuring the work of Multiple Professionals in their fields was set at a price point that was beyond my means. (though believe me I was going, "is ramen for breakfast lunch and dinner worth it?")
The arts have always needed a Patron/ess, almost none of the "classic" art work would exist if some rich guy/institution hadn't laid down cold hard cash for the artist to not die while working on it. In exchange they get a one of a kind artwork. Seems fair to me.
Some things cost more to make because there are so few of them, this is basic economics. If this book was being made by a massive publisher with a print run of 6 million instead of 666, it would still probably be a $50-100+ book, and yeah, I'd probably drop that in a heart beat. But it wouldn't be unique, it wouldn't be a one of a kind work of art.
It'd be something sitting on 5.999999999999(etc) million other coffee tables.
Thank you for doing cool things Kyle, some day I hope to be involved in one of your top sekret projects.
awesome, awesome post. i think the whole project, including the pricing structure, is an awesome idea. there will always be people who want everything for next to nothing, and raise a ruckus if they can't. up until last year my fiance and i made hula hoops, really gorgeous handmade ones that were time-consuming and used pricy materials. at least weekly we'd get e-mails from people complaining that they really wanted one, but only wanted to pay $5 like the made-in-china ones in walmart. sigh.
I'm not sure what I'd be able to add that hasn't already been stated more eloquently by someone above, so instead I will just restate my admiration for you, your work and your support of fellow artists. I'm with others in wishing that I had the means to own the book, but understand the value given to a limited edition of what I'm certain will be of extraordinary quality. Cheers to Amanda's success -- I'm grateful that I am able to support projects from the artists I love via Kickstarter.
Sorry that you had to defend this project -- your thoughts were well-written and should silence any that raised objections in the first place.