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Interview: Amanda 'Fucking' Palmer Answers the Critics of Her Success (Part 3)
Kyle Bylin, Associate Editor -- Read Part 1 -- Read Part 2

(Part 3 of 3) Last, but not least, coming straight from the Hypebot comments section, “No major label, no commercial radio play. No commercial radio play, no major tour. No major tour, no wide fan base. No wide fan base, no online yard sales. Without the major label deal, she'd be playing to 100 scenesters at the Middle East Cafe.”

How do you respond to the critics who say you have only been able to build an audience because of the money that your label—the one that you have publically stated you want to be dropped from—has spent on promoting you?

Amanda Palmer: The label absolutely enabled us to grow, until they stopped helping. I need to be very clear about this: Roadrunner Records were incredibly helpful - in 2004. It's 2009. I have not been sitting on my ass in the 5 years in between, picking my ass and waiting for the label to come around...I'm not an idiot. I've been touring non-stop and on the internet for hours and hours every single day. Would I be nowhere without them? Hell no.

The Dresden Dolls had been touring heavily for three years and had made an incredible record - the one that has sold the most copies to date, by far, The Dresden Dolls - all self-financed, before the label came along and signed us. We were well-established and locally, had toured to the Midwest and down to DC and were playing to hundreds of people in Boston and New York. I was really, really sick of emailing publicists and distributors 7 hours a day and I badly wanted a label to come in and save me from all that desk work. I'd even toyed with starting my own label, but I couldn't find a good partner. So I jumped. The label bought that first record from us for a flat fee and put a lot of energy into promoting us...until about 2005.

A few weeks after our second record, Yes, Virginia, came out they decided, sometime during a meeting around a very large desk in New York, that they weren't going to promote the band anymore. And they didn't. Overnight, they pulled promised funding out of our pockets, including cash of our own that I had fronted for an upcoming tour project. They, to put it plainly, fucked us in the ass a few weeks after the record dropped. When I confronted them with the unfairness, one the brass there literally replied, over the phone "Well, Amanda, we're a big bad record label. That's how things go." That enraged me. We'd been doing a lot of things ourselves anyway - paying for our own tours (we never took tour support), paying for our own indie publicist since the label wouldn't cover it, paying for our own internet marketing team (because, again, the label wouldn't cover it), organizing our own street team, making our own home-made videos with our own money....and on and on and on. Instead of applauding and encouraging this, the label just ignored us. The only thing we weren't doing was literally getting our albums into physical stores. (And that is now, as we know, irrelevant.)

When my solo record, Who Killed Amanda Palmer was being made, the label had the option of first refusal to release it. I had paid for the entire production of the album myself out of my own savings, with additional borrowed money from friends and family, to the tune of about $200,000. I was banking everything on the record being a success. When the label heard the album and decided to pick up the option, I assumed that at the very worst, I would get my money paid back and they'd at least get it in stores. I was used to doing all the promoting myself, anyway. I assumed that they would be proud and excited that I'd gotten Ben Folds as the producer (they weren't: most of the guys in the top offices didn't know who he was, I had to tell them.) In the end, it was the nightmare scenario. They paid for a few videos to be made, and that was the extent of their album promotion. They didn't even mail the record to most radio stations. It wasn't in stores. They simply did nothing. I wasn't surprised.

So any critics of my complaints should simply look over the past 8 years of my career. On average, I've done more self-promotion, touring, press and interviews (set up by ME and my team thought the magic of the net, not going through the average label channels) and put in more creative energy into my business in an average month than roadrunner has done in the whole course of my sad tenure there. So I don't disagree with these critics - of course the label has helped me build this empire. But they're only done a small fraction of the promotional work, and that work was done years ago, and that work wasn't any of the heavy lifting. Let's keep the story straight.

It's a really exciting time right now. Every musician has more power. The audience has more power. I come from a street performance background and actually find joy, not shame, in putting my hat down for people to toss money it - literally. I've been doing that. The change is inevitable and I'm happy to be a part of it. I learned to feel safe and taken care of by the culture at large, by the passers-by, by the people who WANTED to stop and connect with me and support me when I was a busker. The other day, I took a handful of one-dollar bills that fans had tossed in my ukulele case at a flash-twitter gig and I bought a sandwich. I loved that sandwich. If only life were always so simple and perfect...but it's getting there, it really is. Soon, that handful of ones will be putting a down payment on a house...and everyone who threw in will be invited to the housewarming. That's the way it rolls.