In one of the most surprising and unusual stories I’ve read today, the American Federation of Musicians of U.S. and Canada (Eh? An American Federation for Canadians? How does that work exactly?) has launched a scathing attack on Amanda Palmer’s recent Kickstarter campaign. They accuse her of being mean-spirited for having raised $1.2 million and then not paying her backing musicians $35,000 in restitution.
I’m all for guilds and unions in the creative industries, but this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read in ages.
They all accuse her of exploiting musicians by not paying them. A couple of facts: those that participated are volunteers, have been made fully aware they are volunteers, and that they would not be paid. Professional or otherwise, these people donated their own time and money in the name of art. It’s not all about money all the time, you know.
I have yet to see a single complaint from any of the volunteers who participated on the tour about payment.
For the love of all things, if Raindance put me down for all 9 days of their film festival, I’ll be paying something like £150 for the two weeks travel to get there in addition to my holiday entitlement which I could have been using to lounge about on a beach somewhere hot. I’m not being paid (other than perhaps the odd beer and free film). I am aware of this. I want to do it because I love film and want to encourage independent film and filmmakers. I am volunteering. They want volunteers.
The people that play alongside Amanda see it as a privilege (I certainly would – even if the extent of my musical talent is dinging a triangle). Maybe even something they can put on their CVs when getting professional paid gigs. Amanda has, as far as I’ve seen from her blogs, updates and twitter stream, always been up front as to what’s going on and where the money is being spent. I don’t think she could have been more transparent.
I spent $25 on her Kickstarter campaign and I’m delighted with the electronic album (PDF + all tracks as a download) and think I have got exceptional value for money.
To those whinging about her “exploitation of musicians” should perhaps look at their failings and try to figure out why they’re not getting the same level of adulation and respect that Amanda Palmer has achieved. The $1.2 million speaks volumes as to just how much she is loved and respected. You want to get paid – get a paid gig. Do not confuse volunteering as a paid job. In the same way that if you start an internship you can expect not to be paid, or not be paid well.
You set the value of whatever work you put in, and you alone.
The whole thing reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music in which Imp Y Celyn, having just arrived in Ankh Morpork, is told to join the Musicians’ Guild otherwise he’ll find himself in deep trouble. At the guild (that has the sign: “Please do not play your instruments here” on the waiting room wall), Imp and his new band mates are told they cannot play any instrument until they fork out $75 – which they don’t have.
Art imitating life (or vice versa), it seems.