Amanda Palmer

There are no words, really. Are there? The headline says it all. The subtext? I, Amanda Palmer, am trolling the fuck out of you, Stereogum. But let’s put aside our own narcissism for a moment! Because in that department, we are mere mortals in the blinding light of a great and terrible sun god. Yes, Amanda Palmer is offering to Morrissey (unsolicited) advice on crowdsourcing to fund a new album. Publicly, of course — in the form of an open letter published on Salon, because that’s got to be the easiest way for two musicians to communicate (and hey, maybe she even made a buck or two on the deal!). I won’t republish the whole letter below, just selected snippets, because I don’t want to crash our server under the weight of Palmer’s verbosity. Go here to read Palmer’s piece in full. (FWIW Palmer’s advice doesn’t apply only to Morrissey — pretty much any out-of-contract internationally renowned recording star with a hugely devoted fanbase could learn a thing or two here!) Here are the highlights (with some comments from me below):

Dear Morrissey,

I will tell you: I am a passionate admirer of your songwriting, your singing and your recordings.

[snip]

I am really sorry to hear that you are ill; I just read about your tour cancellation in the paper. I hope that you get better soon, and I hope you’re kind to yourself. I have been sick on the road, I’ve had vocal surgery, I’ve canceled tours…it blows for so many reasons.

There was something else that I read in the article that made me stop and think. The article said you’ve been told by doctors not to tour, and you were quoted saying that you wanted to make music, but you cannot find a label.

I thought about that, and then I did an experiment.

I know you don’t use Twitter, but I’m sure you probably understand the basics of how it works. I tweeted a link to the article about your canceled tour, and then asked this simple question of my followers (I have about 850,000 of them): “How many people out there would pay $5 to crowdfund/pre-order a digital-only Morrissey album?”

There were many, many answers. You were discussed, anecdotes were shared….and I said very little. People, not surprisingly, said both super-worshipful and super-critical things about you, as you’d expect.

But the point is, after a few hours, somewhere upwards of 1,400 tweets came in saying that they’d gladly pay $5 to fund a digital album.

So 1,400 of the Amanda Palmer fans who were looking at my Twitter feed over those few hours said they’d be happy to fund a digital recording. That would only yield you about $7,000.

But you…you’re actually Morrissey. You have some of the most fanatical fans in the world; caring and devoted people from countries far and wide who would be really, really happy to support you at levels far beyond $5 just to have the songs in their ears.

[snip]

So: what if you simply went into a studio, cut a record, and uploaded it to the Internet to those who backed it? And didn’t tour? And didn’t do any traditional promo? And didn’t release it commercially? And didn’t do anything else?

Just…emailed the songs out to the people who love you and paid for them?

What would happen? I’m not sure. But, dear Morrissey, I wish you could have read my Twitter feed.

The most inspirational responses were along these lines, again and again: “The simple fact is I would like to hear new Morrissey songs. For that privilege I would easily pay $5 for digital only.”

This was a constant refrain, and it made me very happy: People just want music, and are happy to pay for it to be created, even if it’s just a file they receive.

They want songs. They want to hear, and feel. And this sounds simple, but it’s an important point: They want to help. Help me, and help you. Make music.

The Internet is now at the point where your fans will basically do the work of spreading the existence of your project for you, especially once they’ve hopped on to support it. All you need to do is launch it on a site like Kickstarter or Pledgemusic and let it spread.

[snip]

Since I know you almost definitely won’t do this and that you may well think I’m a bothersome asshole for writing you this open letter, I’d just like to say this: You may be the end of a family line, but you have spawned a lot of singing, songwriting children, whether you like it or not, and I proudly count myself as one of them.

The Buddha once said that “if you were to carry your parents around with you for their whole lives — your father on one shoulder and your mother on the other — even to the point where they were losing their faculties and their excrement was running down your back, this would not repay your debt of gratitude to them.”

As your devoted songwriting-spawn, I must say: I cannot get on board to quite this gruesome extent. But I’d be totally keen to help you crowdfund.

I love you.

And I hope you get what you want.

Yes, yes, I know that seems like the entire letter, but I assure you, the real thing is like three times as long. Now some notes:

1. I love that Amanda Palmer read about Morrissey’s canceled tour dates “in the paper.” Really? She spends every waking minute online and somehow that unending drama escaped her till she saw mention of it in USA Today?

2. I love this line: But, dear Morrissey, I wish you could have read my Twitter feed. I just picture her at a writing desk — at Downton Abbey, maybe, or on the set of a Merchant Ivory film — with a quill and a British-accented voiceover.

3. I love this line: The Internet is now at the point where your fans will basically do the work of spreading the existence of your project for you …. I know she meant it innocuously, but it still manages to sound hideously opportunistic.

4. I love that she manages to equate Morrissey with her (hypothetical) parents “losing their faculties and their excrement running down [her] back.” Flattery will get you nowhere, Ms. Palmer!

5. I love that she ends the thing with a Smiths reference. You know what? You want a new Morrissey record so bad? How about closing this thing with a nod to Years Of Refusal? Like: “You were good in your time, dear Morrissey … and I believe you can be great once more.” Or: “One day goodbye will be farewell, dear Morrissey … I simply hope today is not that day.” Or, perhaps most likely: “All you need is me, dear Morrissey … all you need is me.”

Comments (23)
  1. Why does Stereogum give so much attention to Morrissey and Amanda Palmer? Pretty sick of both of them

  2. the whole kickstarter argument is a little messy so i’m not really going to get into that. but like, why don’t we start raising money to create a sort of health care alliance for musicians, referring to the recent stereogum article? or some sort of compensation for up and coming artists. i love morrissey, but like, we could put the money to way better use. like fuck, she just throws out 2.5 million like it’s so goddamn easy. and shame on amanda palmer for definitely knowing she could do that, but choosing to offer advice on funding another fucking album by this deteriorating old man

  3. Hate this “open letter”/”look at me” bullshit. Dingus.

  4. This is the most Stereogum thing in the history Stereogum. Now if only it came in the form of a list…

    • Ten most annoying ways Amanda Palmer has reminded us that she’s a lot better at self-promotion than music. NTTAWWT.

      Also, wtf with the tranny eyebrows?

      Also, I lived in Harvard Sq around the time she was whoring for attention as a living statue. I always ignored those retards, so I like to think I did my small part for cosmic justice by ignoring her, specifically. Except everybody else, even tourists, ignored them too. So it’s nothing to brag about.

      • PSA: You wouldn’t use the n-word if you weren’t black, right? Cool. So, “tranny” is kind of the same. Just sayin’.

        But as far as her content – while it’s entirely probable that Morrissey doesn’t have a half-decent album left in him, that’s… kind of the point. It’s breaking down the barriers between fan and artist, producer and consumer, and just like capitalism, that isn’t always a “good” thing, per se, but it’s obviously good for the participating parties, or else they wouldn’t participate in the transaction (and hey, maybe everyone knows will know he’s done and he WON’T raise the money if he tried – now THAT’S what informed consumerism looks like).

        And if you think that money SHOULD be going to small bands – sure, local buzzbands can have all the kickstarters they want, but the economies of scale are working against them. Demand doesn’t get created out of thin air, and that’s why record labels (hopefully) aren’t going away any time soon. AFP is proposing an alternative mode, not a new standard. The model won’t work for everyone, but it will empower certain fans/artists in a way that’s mutually beneficial.

  5. “Morrissey Pitching a Fit: Worst to Best.”

  6. She’s is pioneering a new way for musicians to get music out to fans. No, she’s not the first to do it. No, she didn’t create the method all on her own. No, she doesn’t deserve credit for everything. Yes, she is helping to change the “horizon” (reference to previous comment) and is one of many who are very vocal about it. Lot’s of folks want to give her shit for talking about how she makes money because it’s seen as taboo. People seem to want their artistst starving. Or, at the very least not outspoken woman who make their own way. She’s screwed some shit up, no doubt. But she tries to own it when that happens. PS – her Boston poem was indeed cringeworthy but I still respect her work ethic and drive to be on the forefront of change. Plust, she sure as hell doesn’t have a problem wiht putting herself out there so you all can give her shit. Mad props to her.

    • 1. For some personality types, “putting yourself out there” is a difficult thing to do. For her it’s 24/7 obsession; so she gets no props there.

      2. Pioneering is quite literally defined as being first.

      3. She does not own up to anything.

      4. Your copious spelling/grammar mistakes make it hard to take you seriously.

  7. If you love what you’re doing you’ll find a way to make it. Fuck this shit.

  8. Someone should start a Kickstarter that will award money to 12 different musicians/bands who write a song mocking Amanda Palmer.

  9. If 2011 Lana Del Rey somehow timewarps into this conversation, I will immediately regret my decision to not join that doomsday cult that slid a pamphlet underneath my door earlier this week.

  10. Amanda Palmer is such an annoying shit that I refuse to take anything she says seriously!

  11. “Hated for loving”…If Amanda Palmer knew anything about Morrissey she would have privately faxed him. Cringe.

  12. My tension with this whole thing has always been that I would totally agree with her sentiment if it was preached towards small-scale up-and-comers that are doing really challenging, interesting work. You know, people that aren’t Amanda Palmer or Morrissey. It’s like she sees Kickstarter as a megaphone for the already loud. Now I get it — Amanda is at a point in her career where she needs a certain degree of scale in order for it to be consistent with expectations. And she ran into a barricade in achieving that scale with the traditional industry setup. So what? I’d much rather see her do something small and interesting than continue steamrolling herself into shiny pop oblivion. Existing franchises + scale – industry norms != purpose of Kickstarter. I just wish there was some way of enforcing that.

  13. I read this headline at least 6 times before I actually read the article (in my facebook feed) and I could have sworn it said, “Read Amanda Palmer’s Open Letter To Morrissey Offering CrowdSURFING Help” Needless to say I thought this would be a much funnier article.

  14. You would think she learned her lesson the first time from someone who actually knows the business.

  15. Really interesting Michael, thanks!

    ​Given your interest, I think that you (and the other readers here) would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across that theorizes about crowds and such similar phenomena.​ ​

    It’s called “The Theory of Crowd Capital” and you can download it here if you’re interested: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2193115

    In my view it provides a powerful, yet simple model, getting to the heart of the matter. Enjoy!

  16. You want a new record, Amanda Palmer?

    You just haven’t earned it yet, baby.

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