What I’ve Learned From Amanda Palmer’s Critics.

4 min read

You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from the scratch once again. – Bikram Choudhury

Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon posted (yet another) negative article about AFP, and it led me to realize something else.

First, the article demonstrates several of the mistakes and misunderstandings I talked about earlier this week:

  1. The article freely admits AFP’ll only take home $100k from the Kickstarter (and only alludes to sarcasm quotes while doing so). They neglect to mention that’s not a per-annum income. AFP would have to pull off an epic Kickstarter like the last one every two years – with equivalent amounts of success – to make as much as the average US wage at a day job. And keep in mind that making a record usually can’t happen at the same time as touring.

  2. Despite explicitly saying that AFP will only take home $100k from the Kickstarter (net income), it immediately turns around and repeatedly, even though they just finished saying it’s not a relevant number. The sub-head even says “Kickstarter millionaire”, even though she isn’t a millionaire. The confusion of net and gross income so many times throughout the article indicates either near-incompetent amounts of sloppiness… or malice.

  3. Participating in the Kickstarter was (at most) an investment in the creation of the music. It doesn’t give me (or any other person who contributed to the Kickstarter) any say in any part of her tour. For that matter, it didn’t give us any say in the music, either. (In fact, Kickstarter has re-committed to the idea that being a backer doesn’t even give you this.)

  4. Buried in the end of the eighth paragraph is the statement that AFP has, herself, done exactly what she asked of others throughout her career. This makes charges of exploitation and hypocrisy a little harder to take seriously.

There seems to be a tone in these articles and rants1… not just the ones about AFP, but about any public person who encourages self-actualization, idealism, and art. They seem to take a kind of glee as they expose how that generous person, that kind person, that artistic person, that inspired or inspiring person isn’t any of those idealized things. And if someone succeeds, but others haven’t, then their message must be fundamentally flawed.

At first, I feel annoyed. Then, after I have a chance to think about it, I feel pity.

Because they seem to have completely, utterly, fucking missed the point.

Let’s pretend they’re 100% right, and Amanda Palmer did not actually live up to the ideals she espouses. I don’t think that’s true, but let’s go with that for a moment.

So what? It doesn’t mean the ideals are wrong.

People screw up. They don’t always live up to their ideals. They fail.

That’s not just okay… that’s the whole point.2 By the time we’re old and experienced enough to realize that we might be fucked up, we are completely fucked. We have so much baggage that we can’t even see it all. We have so many concerns and worries that we lose track of the things that bring us joy and happiness.

We have failed more times than we can count. We have betrayed others. We have betrayed ourselves. We doubt ourselves, our intentions, our hopes, our dreams. We have compromised our dreams into the treadmill of the rat race. We have given up happiness for stability… or worse, the illusion of stability.

But we never stop having a choice to find a different way.

So, thank you, Amanda’s critics. Thank you for helping change her mind about paying the backup musicians, even when there were people who would do it for free.

More important to me: Thank you for reminding me what frightens me. Thank you for giving me the context for “Ukulele Anthem”.

How can I slit my wrists when I can’t stop dancing?

1 Particularly now that AFP is paying musicians. Before, sure, critique to get her to change what you’re viewing as an injustice. Got it. Now, though? Was Salon just that late to the party, or is there something else motivating the continued existence of articles like these?
2 You’ve heard me talk about this before here – I get to it about halfway through the post.

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