Friday, March 6, 2015

Who Killed Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer broke my heart. Perhaps it isn't fair to call her out, she is just a person. But to many she was an idea. Our very own underground punk Maxwell Demon, a pixie rock myth who so encapsulated everything I wanted to become, a gritty, unapologetic, indie artist.  She has obtained the ultimate platform to jettison someone from relative obscurity to being exposed to millions of potential fans. She can open worlds for those who only skim popular culture, but are hungry for something deeper, they just don't know where to look.

Amanda has fallen a bit flat in that regard. I don't want to sound mean, or spiteful, it's not really about that. She has a real opportunity to do good and it's getting away from her.   I debated writing about this, not because I fear scorn of angry internet mobs, but because I am a firm believer that in an artist-fan relationship nobody owes anyone anything. Art exists for it's own sake. That said, I believe this is an issue that transcends individuals and I broke the number one rule, and let a person become an idea in my mind. She had impossible shoes to fill so this piece is kind of unfair to her, but this is more about the idea of Amanda Palmer than Amanda herself.

Her rise represented the indie dream,  do what you want and magically it will come. It really isn't magic though, it takes a community. A sea of dreamers, free spirits and outcasts who make up this living, breathing world bubbling just under the skin of popular culture. The art is raw, organic and covered in the blood, sweat and tears of the artist. It takes so much sharing to be an indie creator, time, supplies, pocket change, gas, couch space. You need to accept the things you need to make the art too. We aren't bean counters, nobody has the score one sandwich for a song, a set of markers for the ride...

I love the phrase "We are a community, not a competition", it's true. Most of the people I've known in the last ten years work hard in lifting each other up. Filmmakers, actresses, singers, artists, writers...we collaborate and share because if one of us makes it, the portal has been open for a hand to reach out and bring the others out too. When one of us makes it, we all do.

Surviving is the hardest part about living in this wonderful community that survives on sandwich shares and couch hopping. Sally Mae and the electric company don't accept watercolors as payment. I have the benefit of having a wonderful husband who supports me and a full time day job that is supportive of my work, so I try to pay my artists as much as I can. Amanda has made a career off of bringing people together to make her art, which is wonderful and an amazing feat when you are broke. She isn't broke though, and she has hoards of adoring fans who want to support her and spend lots of resources to produce. She deserves it, she has worked hard and is a wonderful artist, but it puts her in a slightly different spot doesn't it? You're  not appart of the indie economy, even if you are playing the part sleeping on couches. It isn't the same when you can put the whole band up in a four star hotel but choose not to. I've seen this with other 'indie artists' who use that as an excuse to not pay when they can. It goes against the idea of this community.

I haven't broke through yet, so I don't know if you just get lost on the other side. I don't expect artists to give away what they have earned, but when one gets the opportunity to pay back or pay forward to give opportunities to those who have helped them get to where they are, they should take it. It's hard to say because there is no counting debts, there's no single number or act. That's what it means to be a community.

In short, the idea of Amanada Palmer broke my heart because she left the community. I can't really be angry with her, she's just part of this difficult world,  but I can't help but feel that we all lost something in this in a situation where we all should have gained.

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