Recently, Amanda Palmer made an open call-out to any musicians who would like to be part of a string quartet for her upcoming live shows – without any payment.
Palmer described the offer as a ‘gift’ to her fans, which caught the ire of some people,
considering punters around the world had chipped in a total of $1.2 million on Palmer’s KickStarter account to fund her new album.
The most prominent complainer was famed producer and musician Steve Albini, who labelled Palmer “an idiot” for what he believes is taking advantage of the musicians’ generosity.
Further to this, classical musician Amy Vaillancourt-Sals – a fan of Palmer – said she and other musicians were “f*&king perplexed, agitated and disheartened” by her request.
So, Palmer has written a 2,800-word open letter in reply to Vaillancourt-Sals’ claims – indicating that she originally came up with the idea of the volunteer musician orchestra as a special concept. Here’s a few extracts from her letter, which you can read in full here:
Anyone is allowed to crowdfund a record. and anyone is allowed to crowdsource a musician. or a pair of socks. or a place to crash. or a meal. anyone. the band at the local pub can do it, i can do it, tom waits can do it, and justin bieber can do it (his fans would FLIP to be up on that stage making music with him. i’m imagining a crowdsourced belieber playing violin on “boyfriend” right now and loving the image, truly. it’s also fun to think of tom waits wearing fan-knit-socks.)
You see, with this tour, i originally fantasized that we’d write super-easy-to-learn parts, and then musician volunteers – of varying backgrounds and skill level – would join us to play them, in every city. as an experiment, as the concept behind the grand theft orchestra. we are the media. we are the orchestra. it sounded like a really FUN way of doing a tour, and so far, it really has been. it has worked out great for all involved. it’s pretty much worked out the way we envisioned, with some changes here and there (using paid pros in some markets, using our openers, etc).
The volunteer musicians have been the same. we’ve been doing this for over a year now. sometimes we get seasoned pros, sometimes we get people who barely play at a high school level. sometimes it’s a lot of work. and every night, we work with who and what we’ve got.
And honestly: i’d take a less experienced horn player who was overjoyed to be on stage for the fun and experience over the pro who’s clocking in to get paid and doesn’t care about me or my band any night of the week.
The reality of the players and the feeling in the room is more important to me than anything.