Emperor’s Clothes Don’t Fit Amanda Palmer
One thing is uncompromisingly clear about Amanda Palmer: she’s an artist, to the deepest marrow. A thrashing live wire of creativity and expression, this sometime Dresden Doll and full-time independent spirit has carved her own path and proven time and time again that giving a double jazz-hands middle finger to the industry’s standard operating methods can do more for her success, her fanbase and her philosophical legacy than her label ever could- or would.
Roadrunner Records, home to such beaming beacons of musical wonder as Nickelback, Killswitch Engage and Hatebreed, has made no effort to promote Palmer’s latest album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? They considered her commercially sterile and ”uncommercially fat,” yet refuse to allow her to take her business elsewhere- despite an outright refusal to provide any of the support a record label exists to provide in the first place.
Never one to mince words, on March 28 in Ft. Lauderdale, Palmer reworked the old Mancini song Moon River as a dedication to Roadrunner Records:
The lyrics seem to have been written out in letter form:
Please drop me, I don’t fit on your roster. I’m tired of this pointless shit, please drop me. What do I have to do? I’m tired of sucking corporate dick. You don’t get me, you won’t let me continue my career in peace, and it’s making me sad. Too late now to fix this fucking mess, so please just let me go. I swear, you won’t miss me. You don’t love me. I’m not making you any money. Plus you’ll still have Slipknot, and Annihilator and Machine Head, and Cradle of Filth and Megadeth, and 3 Inches of Blood and Life of Agony, and Mutiny Within and Hatebreed, and Killswitch Engage and Nickelback.
Before you write off the poor little artsy girl chewing on sour grapes ’cause she couldn’t hang with the big boys, it should be known that Amanda’s much more than an eyebrow-shaving drama queen pissing in the gift-horse’s mouth. When touring behind her solo record, rather than doing it on her own or bringing a backing band, Palmer chose to bring four actors called The Danger Ensemble and a violinist with her- a suicidal business move for a smaller-scale musician, even with label support. For the ensuing six months, she and her vagabond crew lived a literal patchwork existence, relying on the kindness of her fans, defying the cornerstone laws of those who only see in red and black.
No doubt inspired by this, and alienated from the very people that should be supporting her, she put her gripes on paper in an open letter to her label, spelling out her frustrations (in anti-Kanye typing style, no less):
i had to EXPLAIN to the so-called “head of digital media” of roadrunner australia WHAT TWITTER WAS. and his brush-off that “it hasn’t caught on here yet” was ABSURD because the next day i twittered that i was doing an impromptu gathering in a public park and 12 hours later, 150 underage fans - who couldn’t attend the show - showed up to get their records signed.
no manager knew! i didn’t even warn or tell her! no agents! no security! no venue! we were in a fucking public park! life is becoming awesome.
also interesting: i brought a troupe of back-up actors/dancers on the tour (we were only playing 300-1000 seaters) and had no money to pay them, so we passed the hat into the crowd every night. each performer walked from each show with about $200 in cash. the fans TOOK CARE OF THEM. they brought us dinner every night, gave us places to sleep. (i couldn’t afford to put up that many people in hotels).
all sans label, all using email and twitter. the fans followed the adventure. they LOVED HELPING.
the times they are a-changing fucking dramatically, when pong-twittering with trent reznor means way more to your fan-base/business than whether or not the record is in fucking stores (and in my case, it ain’t in fucking stores).
twitter is EVERYTHING that you explain in your rants: it is a MAINLINE insta-connection with the fans. there is ZERO middleman.
my fans hung out with me all day on twitter today while i unpacked weird tour shit, fan art, gifts and paraphernalia that usually just ends up in my closet or in the trash and took pictures of it for them.
Amanda’s right. The concept that Twitter hasn’t “caught on” anywhere at this point is indeed absurd. Having just roared past 14 million users, microblogging mania is sweeping the land- and any label shot-caller with half a mind should be aware of this. Embracing this. On top of this, racing to stay ahead of the curve, encouraging their artists to take part and connect directly with their fans. Because that’s exactly where all this is going. The middleman is an infection, an infestation- and he’s headed the way of the milkman. Reznor’s waving the flag, and the war drums are now within earshot.
But the labels refuse to accept this. Instead, they scoff at these unconventional (new) ideas. Put up the shields. Raise the alarm. Regress and defend their dwindling molehills of industry capital, teeth gnashing, hands over their eyes and ears.
By contrast, examine Amanda’s informal mission statement, in her own words:
i don’t do this to make money. i don’t do this to win approval. i do this to be around people i love. i do this to make art, to feel connected, to make love and not war and art and not pain.
Do yourself a favor and read the entire post. It’s a beautiful send-off to an experience of the truly pure-hearted, for the sake of creation and art. For the love of it all. Her blog is a vast, deep archive of artistic expression, of pure-hearted, unabashed love for creation, performance, for love itself. I’ve traded many hours of sleep to walk around in her blog world over the past year and change, and I feel lucky to have been a part- even vicariously- of such a pure display of expressionistic passion thus far.
Over the next few weeks, Amanda’s upping her own performance-art ante even further. She’s a pivotal participant in a play put on at her old high school in Lexington, MA, but you can shove that Godspell right up your ass; this musical’s based on Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over The Sea. She’s playing Coachella, but is going way beyond the call of bill-filler duty. Hell, she even plays random secret shows for her Twitter followers- a concept that serves as a glaring, real-time example of the Industry’s Fatal Flaw: they have no idea how to play it fast and loose.
Her art, work ethic and industry philosophies ring a hard bell here at Antiquiet, and we’re proud to support such a true defender of the craft.