Suggested Reading: Amanda Palmer's Letter to Morrissey


In March I wrote about Morrissey's ongoing health problems, touring problems and lack of a label. Today, Amanda Palmer herself wrote an open letter to Morrissey in Salon.

I was shocked at how critical people were about it, but then I realized that the fans were largely taking their cues from certain segments of the media. I also realized that those segments of the media are the last place I'd turn to for advice on making money in music in 2013.

Sterogum manages to be whiny and narcissistic while complaining about Palmer's narcissism. They complain about how long the letter is (because reading is hard I suppose) and then post 5 points at the bottom, most of which are out of context and none of which detract anything from what Palmer has to say. Stereogum is primarily from the 'Any artist who makes a living is a sellout' camp and no one who relied on them alone as a source would have any hope of paying the rent. The fact that the hipsters have turned on Amanda Palmer only increases her credibility with me.

The other camp, the one that is actually trying to claim that Palmer is wrong is represented by Gawker:
"Record labels are generally horrible, but there's one thing they're very good at: spending money on promotion and publicity. It's nice to think that "your fans will basically do the work of spreading the existence of your project for you," but you need those fans first. And you can get them by, say, spending years benefitting from the promotional capabilities of Warner Music Group subsidy Roadrunner, as Palmer did. Or by working with the various Warner, Sony and Universal subsidies that Morrissey and his bands have."

This is terribly short sighted and backward looking. There is nothing that a record label does, including promotion, that individuals cannot do for themselves at this point. Granted an artist just starting out now would be unlikely to raise millions, but they would also be unlikely to need millions and unlikely to get millions from a record label. Gawker's Max Read, despite being youngish, seems trapped in the past and/or devoted for some reason to an outmoded business model.

Palmer's letter may be narcissistic, but what on the internet isn't to a degree? It is, in any event, sincere and full of insight:
This was a constant refrain, and it made me very happy: People just want music, and are happy to pay for it to be created, even if it’s just a file they receive.

They want songs. They want to hear, and feel. And this sounds simple, but it’s an important point: They want to help. Help me, and help you. Make music.

The Internet is now at the point where your fans will basically do the work of spreading the existence of your project for you, especially once they’ve hopped on to support it. All you need to do is launch it on a site like Kickstarter or Pledgemusic and let it spread.

You could avoid the agony of physical manufacturing, shipping, traditional distribution and promotion….and have only one option for backers: $5 digital (it’d be tempting to add CDs and vinyl, but this is, indeed, where you start “needing a record label” and where the old-school problems start to tear away at your life and energy).

It may not be addressed to artists at the early stages of their careers, but there are lessons there for them too if they look for them. Obviously there are no lessons here for Stereogum, Max Read or Readers Digest but it's about the future, not the past.
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