Thursday, October 1, 2009

for there's a shadow of doubt that's not letting me find you too soon

Amanda Palmer is the herald of the new music age.

Why do I say this? For once--and I know, this will shock some people--set the music aside. You don't have to be an Amanda Palmer fan, a Dresden Dolls fan, to get the concept. Though it probably won't hurt.

In one of her blog entries, she mentioned being unafraid to take fans' money. There is no coy turning aside with her. There is now "oh gosh thanks" with the ducked head and the toeing of the foot in the sawdust. There is no record label standing impassively in front of her, financial intercessor, taking their cut and surreptitiously handing back the rest.

There is no pretense. There is just her, singing, and holding her hand out.



artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.

artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.

artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks.
please welcome them. please help them. please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money.
dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don’t fight it.

She's right. In every single way she can be, she is right. This is what's happening. And we're seeing it everywhere.

This ties in to something I've been observing on YouTube. When YouTube was small, and it was really, honestly, just a bunch of geeks and art and film students, trading five minutes of surreality back and forth, nobody cared. Then people started uploading videos they liked. Then shows they liked. People weren't trying to steal, they just wanted to share.

But this got the attention of the labels. And slowly but surely, they figured out--there was a whole web site out there, that wasn't giving them back a dime. So Sony stepped in, restricting content. Then EMI, then BMG, and on down the line. Warner Brothers has been especially vicious in this, stripping the audio track from any unauthorized video containing it on the basis of 'artists' rights'.

It's got nothing to do with protecting the artistry in songcrafting, if the artist then gets their own channel, and uploads their videos. It's just profit-gouging.

But, as this process has evolved, people have figured out--live recordings are exempt. Whether the artist allowed it or not--and that is an ethical grey area--as long as they are not being released for profit (and YouTube is not geared to make profits, just to show videos and garner support from advertising and officially registered accounts), none of the major labels can touch recordings from concerts and performances. Because that's all on the artist.

And surprisingly few artists have stepped forward to have their content removed; nearly to a performer, they see it as free advertising, as a chance for them to get their songs out, their face out there, their values and ideas if interview snippets are uploaded--everything the major labels say they want for their clients.

Now, with this change, YouTube is less about finding the slick marketed videos that are vetted by the labels, and more about finding the raw, real, live-in-person (at the time) performances. Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Chicago, Marseilles, Brighton--wherever the art is performed, wherever the artists travel to be seen. It's more centered on the singers, the songwriters, the performers, less on the images derived by directors.

I'm pretty sure this is a good thing.

in fact, i ENJOY being the slightly crass, outspoken, crazy-(naked?)-chick-on-a-soapbox holding out a ukulele case of crumpled dollars asking for your money so that someone else a few steps behind me, perhaps some artist of shy and understated temperament, can feel better and maybe a little less nervous when they quietly step up and hold out their hat, fully clothed.

i am shameless, and fearless, when it comes to money and art.

I'm fine with Amanda being fearless. I'm perfectly fine with her being shameless. In fact, I'm all for hard-core street training for some of the up-and-coming artists, the scrabble for coins and overfolded dollars, the challenge of coming up with costumes on a shoestring, the endless calculations: what will the audience want today, what did they want yesterday, what will they want tomorrow?

It'd snap some sense into the latest batch of bubblegum popgirls, manufactured within an inch of their lives. Or, put another way--yes, L.A. Reid made P!nk a household name, but stepping away from him and his plans to make her an edgier Britney Aguilera Kelly Lavigne, made her an artist. And she's fought like hell to retain creative control of her songs, and her music, ever since.

Whether you like Amanda Palmer or not is not the issue. The issue is respect for the art, and understanding of the process. This is the new world. And yes, it involves downloading music from the internet, it involves file sharing (which is not content theft), it involves word of mouth--from the artist as well as the fans--and it involves directly handing over your earnings to the artist, on occasion. This is the return of the patron, but in this case, the artistic patron is all of us. And the artists must not fear standing in front of us and saying I'm good. You like what I do. Pay me.

So anyway, I don't have a fabulous tie-up ending for this, it's mostly just a rant. But I'll bring things back around to the grid, at least:

[19:47] Serenity Semple: [19:47] Vanity Hair Greatter: Welcome to Vanity Hair,we support contents creators, so MAKE SURE YOU DON'T WEAR ANY STOLLEN ITEMS in this shop, you risked to be ejected, thank you for your support!! Please enjoy your stay!!

This is the reason many of us are choosing not to shop at Vanity Hair. Not that we support theft, content or otherwise, but that we don't want to be yelled at like we're five year olds.

Their hair is no-mod anyway, now; they've been bitten by the resize-script bug. So they're useless for furs, anyone without the set head size, anyone who may want just one or two prims of the hair in a different position...Hair makers need to realize, hair does not equal prim skirts. Prim skirts can be on consistent resizers; hair by its nature cannot be.

I, and many, many others, refuse to buy no-mod hair. And Vanity Hair is now off my personal list for hair options.

B'sides, they can't spell.

Low Prim & Grim

And this is a picture from Low Prim & Grim's satellite location in Jumanji. Why am I not surprised?

When you're standing in front of it, the tentacle waves, the floor undulates, and the eye twitches like a mad thing at its window. Hee!


Rhianon Jameson said...

Yes, that was a good post of Miss Palmer's, for all the reasons you described. What I found appalling was the need for the post, that (she clearly felt) so many people were giving her grief about trying to make a living. (And is it crass to say how much she made from an on-line auction? Yeah, probably. But, really, folks, she revels in being called "Amanda F**king Palmer," for God's sake. And you're surprised by a little crassness? Get a grip!)

I'm still skeptical that her business model works, but there's no harm in trying. And, skeptical or not, I'm rooting for her.

As something of an aside, I'm eternally grateful to you, Miss Orr. After seeing perhaps the 20th reference to Miss P on your blog and elsewhere, I listened to - or watched, really - "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?" on her Aetherweb site, and fell in love. (Platonically, I might add. Mustn't get Mr. Gaiman jealous.) (I had known the Dresden Dolls only for "Coin Operated Boy.") So thank you.

Emilly Orr said...

Amanda Palmer, like Tori Amos before her, has a gift for confessional songs. She is absolutely fearless in that, too--and in "Girl Anachronism", "Half Jack" and "Guitar Hero", among others, she tackles social and personal issues that would dwarf a lesser artist.

Which is why I say, fan or foe, the one thing anyone cannot fail to do is laud her courage. When she--on a drunken whim--started LOFNOTC on Twitter (the acronym stands for "Losers of Friday Night On Their Computers"), she went from drinking alone and worrying about rent that month on her one-bedroom apartment to having rent in full, discounted only by the cost to ship things she picked up that night and sold.

I still have pictures on this computer from the Friday following, where she took it one step further--and asked people to write in questions, on their skin, that she would answer in the same fashion.

Another two bottles of wine, and I have a picture of her, figleafed, but otherwise absolutely nude, save for all the answers to all the questions scrawled on her skin. Her only retort? "The ladies at yoga tomorrow are gonna stare at me."

Ego? Likely. At this point she knows she can blithely offer a t-shirt, a signed CD, a knickknack that's been collecting dust, and her fans will find a way to put up cash for it. But she also knows that that comes with a price, and she is fully committed to paying that price--remaining that accessible, and touring out as often as she can, and reinventing herself when she needs to.

Passionate, committed heart. And she remains her own. Too many artists forget that their art is still them, at the base of it, and not just something they pluck out of moving air.

Magdalena Kamenev said...

I do wonder where the grief is coming from with Miss AFP. Hopefully not her fans.

Because from my corner of the world (the IP/legal/state of the entertainment industry), she got on a LOT of people's radar with what she's accomplished so far. There was that one week where nearly every tech policy blog I read mentioned her - she is now, whether she likes it or not, a new role model for the "new" business model of music. And boy do I wish her well, not only because of the implications at large, but because she's talented and brazen and rather kooky.

I hope hers isn't the only model to emerge, however, because I'd hate for the shy and reclusive and diffident artists to get completely left behind.

And thanks for warning about Vanity Hair. Although my current peeve has to do with multiple mods for outfits: bought a coat recently where the prims were mod (yay!) but the system jacket wasn't. And the vendor listed the item as mod ... to me, no, it's not mod. I guess I'm going to have to look at each piece separately if I get the "Buy" box ... or examine the vendor Contents for each purchase. Arggh.

Emilly Orr said...

I think she's got the drive to make a go of it. You don't spend five years as a street performer, any variety of street performer, and not develop endurance and an iron will--if you're any good at all, you learn as much about yourself as about your fans--and your detractors. "AFGO" is chiseled in stone in these cases.

As far as mod rights--and Vanity Hair--are concerned, I think some people are perfectly fine with no-mod items. They buy or don't, it works or doesn't, and they go on with their lives.

People like me, it has to fit a variety of head sizes, styles, with and without human ears--or I won't even touch it at this point. And I don't spend full time furry, so that's a whole other complication--Miss Semple, f'rinstance, wants hair that looks good, that she can also attach permanently to her fur head--so she can then wear hats, flowers, adornments, whatever.

I am starting to be humbly grateful to those designers who tell me, upfront, what's mod and what's not of their clothing, hair, furniture, prefab houses...whatever. It's good to know.

I, too, tire profoundly of having to pull up each vendor under Edit to see what's really going on with the perms.

Gabrielle Riel said...

Thanks Em -

You just helped me make a decision.

As of now, I am on leave from Second Life.

Emilly Orr said...

That wasn't precisely the *point*, but if you need the time, take the time. You have to shore up your own soul to give so much back to the community, and you've been pushing for a long time now.

Rest. Recover. Come back when you can. We'll keep the lamps lit while you're gone.