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In defense of Expensive Things - if you can't be witty, then at least be bombastic [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
kyle cassidy

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In defense of Expensive Things [May. 4th, 2012|12:46 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |molly robison: delilah]

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.

9) I've got a ton of photos that you can buy for $10 and you probably haven't.

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.

Sure she's got half a million dollars, but you can still get the album for a dollar, I'm going to.

If you have thoughts -- angry or not, I'd like to hear them; I am, despite the best advice of my friends, reading comments.

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[User Picture]From: sheilagh
2012-05-04 05:00 am (UTC)
These are wonderful, well articulated thoughts.

And HELL YES to not letting the middleman vampires suck it all out before she sees any of it!
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2012-05-04 05:06 am (UTC)
dang, you read fast. i think i wasn't finished hitting "post" yet.

record companies, while they put money into a project, bill the artist for doing it. courtney love has a good essay on it somewhere.
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[User Picture]From: zxhrue
2012-05-04 05:06 am (UTC)


well stated sir.
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[User Picture]From: humglum
2012-05-04 05:07 am (UTC)

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.
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[User Picture]From: katemckinnon
2012-05-04 05:21 am (UTC)
Personally, I'm really pleased for her.

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.
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[User Picture]From: alumiere
2012-05-04 05:25 am (UTC)
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.
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[User Picture]From: theniwokesoftly
2012-05-04 05:43 am (UTC)
This is what I came to say, as well.
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[User Picture]From: t_c_da
2012-05-04 05:26 am (UTC)
One thing that a lot of folk seem to have forgotten: Kickstarter and Amazon between them take 10% off the top, before Amanda gets to spend a single dime of that...

So they've collected upwards of $50k for the marginal cost of a bit of bandwidth.

I'm personally wondering about getting some friends & acquaintances together to raise enough dosh for a personal party down here in Wellington.nz...
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[User Picture]From: raven_
2012-05-04 05:46 am (UTC)
Lol, I thought about doing it in Oz :)
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[User Picture]From: raven_calder
2012-05-04 05:30 am (UTC)
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!!

(Btw, this is S. Roit. I have returned.)

Edited at 2012-05-04 05:33 am (UTC)
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From: angela_n_hunt
2012-05-04 05:34 am (UTC)
I, quite sincerely, absolutely love you, Kyle.

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.

Bless you. You keep me moving forward too.

*blows you a kiss*
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[User Picture]From: tau
2012-05-04 05:39 am (UTC)
Art is a singular, fragile, and special relationship between the viewer and the piece. Its worth the investment if one can afford it, and will bring joy and feeling for generations.

There is so much amazing art out there, at prices anyone can afford. We need to find the right relationships for our resources and rejoice in them.

It was kind of you to address your detractors, but anyone who cannot understand, won't get it anyway.
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[User Picture]From: raven_
2012-05-04 05:45 am (UTC)
All of the above.</p>

Don't want to spend $1000 on a book? Don't.

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.

Good on you for standing up for artists.

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From: quiregrrl
2012-05-04 05:53 am (UTC)

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!
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[User Picture]From: dragonmagelet
2012-05-04 06:07 am (UTC)

can I get an amen?

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.

Edited at 2012-05-04 06:12 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: pigshitpoet
2012-05-04 06:48 am (UTC)

scales of economy

did you ever wanna buy someone you love something but you couldn't afford it? And you went and bought it anyway? raphael saadiq

; )
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[User Picture]From: katranna
2012-05-04 07:11 am (UTC)
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.
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[User Picture]From: primless
2012-05-04 07:35 am (UTC)
This, exactly.

The whole debacle is absurd, honestly, but Kyle, hopefully your well articulated thoughts on the matter will quell the concern of the endlessly entitled public.
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[User Picture]From: small_chicken
2012-05-04 07:16 am (UTC)
Kyle, I love you.

Keep on rocking.
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