Should musicians play for a big act for free beer only? Steve Albini versus Amanda Palmer

This could only happen in these modern times of the Internet and crowd sourcing.


The latest controversy has been sparked by some American singer called Amanda Palmer who asked, on her website, for a brass section to play for hr at each gig on her upcoming Americam tour. On paper, that should not be a problem but she is playing pretty large venues and she was asking for the prospective players to play for ‘free Merch’ and ‘free beer’.


Steve Abini has weighed into the debate and pointed out some flaws in her concept?Whilst supporting crowd sourcing and asking fans to support th making of musicians albums as an alternative way to create music, Steve was not happy with  the fact that she should be in a position to pay her musicians…and not crowd sourcing free ones . he says on his message board that “It should be obvious that having gotten over a million dollars from such an effort that it is just rude to ask for further indulgences from your audience.”


What do you think? should the players be happy for this break or should the singer shell out some of her big bucks to the players?


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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. It’s not exactly an intelligent piece of PR from AP.

    I doubt that she’s rolling in cash – yes, she raised a stratospheric amount via Kickstarter, but as she said herself, that wasn’t free money, poured directly into her own pocket for her own personal indulgence. That was the tour support – financial backing which, normally, a record label would stump up. I dare say it’s pretty much all been spent now – or, at least, it’s earmarked for various costs along the way.

    But, nevertheless, it looks bad. What most people will take away from this situation is simply this –

    ‘Amanda Palmer makes a million from her fans – makes musicians play for free’.

    You don’t have to be Max Clifford to realise that’s a spectacular own goal in terms of PR.

    Even if she can’t pay her musos much (or anything), the smart thing to do would be to keep the deal private, so it doesn’t blow up into a big argy-bargy – as it may now do.

    I mean, she hasn’t revealed the pay rate of the other musicians in her band, or even what kind of money she’s taking out of the tour herself. She makes sure to keep the money side of things confidential where there *is* money involved!

    But the *really* smart thing to do would, of course, to keep within the tour budget in the first place.

    If the budget won’t stretch to a brass section – don’t use a brass section.

    You can have that bit of common bloody sense for free, Amanda, I will waive my consultancy fee on this occasion!

  2. Although if I was a musician I’d be happy to play for free to get a break, it’s not right. I used to often DJ for free because I loved it and knew the promoter was probably making a loss but that’s different. Amanda Palmer just seems to be exploiting people. I’m pretty sure she’ll be inundated with offers too because so many musicians will be desperate.

  3. Hi there when is the new goldblade album released? I can’t find info anywhere saw them at Rebellion and nearly shat me pants! this is probably the wrong place to ask but I don’t care cos I can’t wait any longer. Please let me know thanx

  4. Since it seems to be Palmer’s business model to get funds from other people, she should do all she can to support paying people for their work (i.e. her brass section). Look at it from a broader perspective: If people’s attitude was that it’s okay to not pay others, then were do they think the money is coming from that others donate to them?
    Maybe I’m over-intellectualising, but it’s the same thing as the damn economy. Companies cut staff or pay minimum wages and then they all wonder why people don’t buy things. Well, if you don’t pay them decently, what do you think why are they not spending money to get the economy flowing? I mean, Palmer was funded by the money people earned by working, so paying others for their work would be fair enough, wouldn’t it? Everything-for-free-for-me mentality sucks – it doesn’t lead anywhere.


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