Why I am Not Afraid to Take Your Money, by Amanda Fucking Palmer

From Amanda Palmer’s blog:

listen.

artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.

artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.

artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks.
please welcome them. please help them. please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money.
dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don’t fight it.

unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely noticed that artists ALL over the place are reaching out directly to their fans for money.
how you do it is a different matter.
maybe i should be more tasteful.
maybe i should not stop my concerts and auction off art.
i do not claim to have figured out the perfect system, not by a long shot.

BUT … i’d rather get the system right gradually and learn from the mistakes and break new ground (with the help of an incredibly responsive and positive fanbase) for other artists who i assume are going to cautiously follow in our footsteps. we are creating the protocol, people, right here and now.

i don’t care if we fuck up. i care THAT we’re doing it.

in fact, i ENJOY being the slightly crass, outspoken, crazy-(naked?)-chick-on-a-soapbox holding out a ukulele case of crumpled dollars asking for your money so that someone else a few steps behind me, perhaps some artist of shy and understated temperament, can feel better and maybe a little less nervous when they quietly step up and hold out their hat, fully clothed.

i am shameless, and fearless, when it comes to money and art.

i can’t help it: i come from a street performance background.
i stood almost motionless on a box in harvard square, painted white, relinquishing my fate and income to the goodwill and honor of the passers-by.

i spent years gradually building up a tolerance to the inbuilt shame that society puts on laying your hat/tipjar on the ground and asking the public to support your art.

i was harassed, jeered at, mocked, ignored, insulted, spit at, hated.
i was also applauded, appreciated, protected, loved….all by strangers passing me in the street.
people threw shit at me.
people also came up to me and told me that i’d changed their lives, brightened their day, made them cry.

some people used to yell “GET A FUCKING JOB” from their cars when they drove by me.
i, of course, could not yell back. i was a fucking statue, statues do not yell.

17 Comments

  1. Don’t think for a second that your rant will change the world for artists. Artists may be coming more directly now, but they are still – now more than ever – a dime a dozen. I know because I’m one of ’em.

  2. if her “system” worked and people gave money to every artist who extended their hand for it, then every lazy Joe and Jane would proclaim themselves an artist.

    and in fact, almost all of us are artists to some extend. we’re just not good enough to make a living off of it. if you’re good enough, however, you can be be Damien Hirst-rich. otherwise, your art is your hobby, and the telemarketing job you do to fund it should stay a fact of life.

    the nerve of this woman.

  3. The thing of it is there is no fair trade attitude for art. It has been completely devalued in our society – there is no real respect for it or the people who create it (for numerous reasons). Part of the problem is our educational system has dispensed with it so young people have no training to recognize what is art and what is crap, “Modern Art” has ruined that sense even further contributing even more to the apathy and disregard for the time and skill that goes into creating the good stuff. Sorry – shelacking elephant poo to a canvas is NOT ART – it may be a statement but it is still poo on a canvas!
    I suppose I am really referring to the more commercial arts – Graphics, Illustration, Industrial Design and Architecture. There is NO RESPECT whatsoever in these field any longer, computers being part of the problem. All too many people who are in charge of purchasing these services are totally ignorant of what goes into it and what makes it effective. It has become all about making the talented monkey push the button they way THEY want it according to THEIR tastes (remember they are uneducated!).

    That is why I left it. Am I bitter? Oh yes – art is my love. But very few of us can make a dignified living in a country that can’t even tell that the quality of their clothing has dropped to nill, much less buy good art. A country that thinks Walmart is a good thing!

    Ahhh, that you for listening to a well-practiced rant. Soapbox OFF!

  4. Okay (look, I’m using caps! I must be either bravely postmodern or a snob or I fuck the MLA on top of a banana tree every afternoon and save the come [come! not cum!] on a Land’s End catalog in some act of art), she’s got a point. The idea is never to ask for money, and yet, in the end, you must be paid. You MUST be paid. Why? Because you will die without food.

    We’ve all got this idealism in our heads of the starving artist giving his or her life for the presumed failure of his or her art. It worked for Mozart, Bird and Van Gogh. When they were dead. Oh, it’s always okay to worship a dead artist.

    Jesus Christ, what about when they’re alive?

    The middleman has been removed and she herself has got to say, “Listen, I’m worth something. You would pay for this.” The artist is suddenly the accountant. Accountants, remember the last time someone asked you to be an artist.

    The other assumption is that someone will be able to float up on talent alone and make a mint without the middleman. Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead have proven it, right? No. NIN and Radiohead were promoted and moved to fame by their A and R men and then acted like it was just them.

    I quote Andy Ihnatko who was quoting Steve Martin:

    This is how you make one million dollars. First: Make 99,999 dollars and then ask to borrow another.

    In other words, there still is no way for someone to just get money for being awesome and anyone who says otherwise is relying on anecdotal evidence from the miracle souls who can be creative types and salesmen. I mean one guy. Johnathan Coulton. That’s it. One guy.

    I’m not saying there won’t be a model. I’m not saying no one will ever be successful without a middleman. What I’m saying is that right now, the transition between artist who gets to never ask for money and the artist who is expected to ask for money is rocky, and until something else comes our way, it’s going to smell icky. It’s going to smell like capitalism.

    We gotta eat.

  5. If everyone leeched by panhandling for cash, it wouldn’t work. There’s a guy in my city who played guitar on a corner, and gave out cds that he made for free. He enjoyed making the music, and had a normal job instead of skimming money off of people. That’s respect.

    Also, 99,999 dollars + 1 doesn’t equal a million. lol

  6. oh, people, please cut the cr-p. every artist in the world extend his hat in one way or another (gallery exhibitions, concerts, books, merchandising, benefit causes, pr, etc). the relation between “art” and “money” exists for two simple and basic reasons: food and validation. ok, most of artists sell their pieces for this reasons. but there are others that receive the contribution of sponsors who put their money in advance for future pieces or just for make a statement of supporting human expression. and i can’t see any difference between this and ms palmer’s proposal. so, if you don’t like her music, just choose another hat to fill. that’s what i’ll do.

  7. Setting the bad grammar and accusatory tone of her rant aside, I think she does raise some good points. The trend in the artistic community is moving away from the middle man (ie. major record labels) to a more direct approach of reaching out to their fans. Through online social networking, DIY grassroots marketing, and other tools that are new to this generation, a hard working artist (that creates content that fans actually want to consume) can make a living. If there is a musical act that I really like, I am going to spend the money to purchase their recordings and buy tickets to their shows. But if your art is crap and no one cares, or if you feel entitled to getting paid without doing the work, you will likely fail.

    There is also the question of what motivates and artist. Is it money? Is it fame? Or is it “art for art’s sake”?

    For me, it’s the girls.

  8. The small business fails or succeeds on self-promotion, first, as well as delivered goods and a market willing to pay what they are asking, and the start-up is managing all aspects, especially accounting. All people who conceive themselves as artists are either putting it out there or they are too shy and who cares what they have to say if they aren’t going to come right out and say it.

    I don’t understand this artist’s whole spiel. She exists not to be paid, but to receive the reaction of the public – some of which might be money. I don’t think assaulting a person is ok, but up to that point, negative reactions to her art are a valid response.

    Art is a business like any other thing. Maybe most people are too moronic to “get” you, and some crap succeeds when that is what the public wants, or a particular sponsor values and promotes as something of a bonus to the artist, and maybe society. Maybe they are not paying you enough because they undervalue art, but just like any other business stays afloat or sinks, if you can’t make money at it, maybe you’re not that interesting. Maybe you are awful. Making art requires no one to accept you or pay you, even if or especially despite your years of training.

    If you hire yourself as an artist, and no one loves you, then maybe you are not an artist. When people fail at their small business ventures, they are financially reasoned into seeking other means of employment.

    The rant made these specific points: that shy artists deserve recognition, that she herself is so brave so that shy artists may seek solidarity with her, you know, “paving the way,” and that her art is to be loved and protected, and a service that is in demand. We as a society are supposed to “embrace” the arts in a way other than has to be filtered through brokering and sponsoring those worthy of our attention.

    While it’s somewhat noble of an artist to take on the task themselves, to personally bypass the politics involved in becoming a recognized artist the conventional way, and beloved (or not) for equally political reasons, this in no way assures the artist of success or compels the average person to give you any money, or enough money to make it in this business. You still have to deliver a good that’s worth money.

    Maybe they are morons, who don’t know “true” art when they see it, but I think a lot of artists might no longer know how to make “true” art, as they are part of the same society, and have overestimated their worth. Diluted and deluded. Maybe they don’t “get” you, maybe they will after you’re dead, and they’ll be sorry they missed you, but that’s not the consumers’ problem here. You’re not what they want to spend money on, they don’t agree with how you spend time, and if you are an artist, you aren’t owed love. You deserve and call for almost all of the hate you get, or do you not get that what you do is not so much a money-maker as an attention-getter?

    The public is reacting to your art as a dialog at your very suggestion, by putting yourself out there, not to make money, but to see what they say. If somehow, you make enough money to live this way, you have proven yourself in the market, the way the rest of the economy works.

    I love art, by the way. I just think a lot of it is horse manure. Being pretentious only works if you have sponsorship. Working on your own, it’s off-putting and unrealistic.

  9. Some super-great points here:

    1) An artist has to offer something people want
    2) Art is really like any other business and PR and advertising is a part of that
    3) We do have that option now of potentially millions seeing our work without a middle man – but the middle man is really still the best shortcut.
    4) @ Kodie

    The public is reacting to your art as a dialog at your very suggestion, by putting yourself out there, not to make money, but to see what they say. If somehow, you make enough money to live this way, you have proven yourself in the market, the way the rest of the economy works.

    could not have said it better.

    It is so frustrating to be in the arts – again, I am more of a “commercial” artist, but the spillover from the freaky part of the artworld makes me feel like a social pariah half the time. Everyone thinks it’s so cool that you’re an artist but if you ask to be paid for the amount you value your time for – Oh Noes! I asked for $125 for a beautifully beaded necklace and earring set – with sterling silver findings no less – and I got this look of horror. Yet the same yahoos will go to Macy’s and spend $45 on a pair of sterling silver earrings I could get out of a wholesale catalogue for $15. ARGGGGHHHHH!!!
    Now keep in mind they kept drooling over that necklace, but for some reason they think because they know me and that I made it it should be $15!!!!

    They bought them after I explained (at length) that each one took me two days to make, it took me YEARS to learn how to do it, they were my own design AND the materials have a cost as well! They are rugged, and unique. Christ it hurts my head thinking about it. Still no respect for the fact that I made 1/4 the amount of money for my time than I did sitting in that office staring at a computer screen! They thought I just did this crap for fun!

    Art is not fun. It IS torture. You can’t sleep because you have ideas flying through your head all night, you can’t concentrate at work because you’re trying out color schemes, you bust your ass figuring it all out, you lose sleep staying up to make the shit and the stupid biddies you work with are all pissed off because you didn’t sell it to them at a bargain price after they gushed all over it how amazing it was.

    Or even better – “Can you make the Little Mermaid for me”

    Arghhhhh!!!! I WISH I had been an ACCOUNTANT!!!!

  10. Well.

    I didn’t know her & checked her website. The music is totally crap – grow up, Amanda. And I hate ‘statue’ street artists. You don’t get a dime from me, and that’s the way it should be. Be glad you have some retarded fans, Amanda Fucking Palmer.

  11. This is what I know:

    1.
    people collect art like baseball cards, much of that art will may not be seen by several generations, so regardless of it’s value, it’s archived in some personal stash

    2.
    people steal art even if it’s far from complete, I don’t know why they wouldn’t wait for it to be done but it happens

    3.
    people don’t know what art is and will always think it’s art if you present anything as such, therefore shitting on a napkin can be considered art if you fool somebody into agreeing

    4.
    art is not any easier to present today due to simple saturation – yes the internet makes it easy for more artist to show off work – and yes that’s more display space than they had 10-20 years ago – but now it’s lost in the usual saturation

    5.
    art can make people cry and hate you, that same art can make people laugh and love you, either way you can’t please everybody and you never should

    6.
    business and art mix like milk and orange juice, by themselves they are great but in the same cup or gut they counter produce

    7.
    art is about as subjective as sound, taste, touch, and smell and thus makes 3. an easier topic to mislead with

    8.
    art is not a craft and a nor does it come easy

    There was one thing I read above that I can agree with:

    “You can’t sleep because you have ideas flying through your head all night, you can’t concentrate at work because you’re trying out color schemes, you bust your ass figuring it all out, you lose sleep staying up to make the shit”

    However, sounds to me like the usual commercial artist syndrome. You need to do some art for yourself girl! Fuck the world around you.

    And as for palmer, if ya don’t like her crap move on and don’t worry about it. Thats what I did.

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