The first time I saw the Dresden Dolls was at a dive bar/club in Worcester, MA, circa 2003. Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione raised the roof that night, and I use that phrase because it fits perfectly the argument at hand. They were there to make new fans, please Brechtian punk cabaret diehards, sell some merch, hustle misogynistic frat boys, pimp their record, and drive back home to Boston with enough cash to pay the tolls before the Big Dig. Hustle and flow, baby. Jay-Z would be proud.
Dresden Dolls frontwoman/solo artist Amanda Palmer’s recent blog post, “Why I Am Not Afraid to Take Your Money,” which refers to detractors of her auctioning off of random items to eager fans, has been gaining traction in the blogosphere of late and I feel the need to chime in: she’s completely correct.
Every artist, be it Radiohead, Trent Reznor, or Beyoncé, is looking for ways to make money off their fan base. Now that shilling for plastic, aka the record industry, is dying, the only means for bands to survive is by the patronage of said fans.
“I am shameless, and fearless, when it comes to money and art,” Palmer wrote. “I can’t help it: i come from a street performance background. i stood almost motionless on a box in Harvard Square, painted white, relinquishing my fate and income to the goodwill and honor of the passers-by. i spent years gradually building up a tolerance to the inbuilt shame that society puts on laying your hat/tipjar on the ground and asking the public to support your art.”
Radiohead and Reznor may have built websites with a “tip jar,” but Palmer has lived it and earned every inch of that soapbox. What is it about an auction by a female artist that brings out the self-righteous, torch-wielding, critical mob? Same folks that claim Meg White was bad for Jack, I would imagine.
Sure, the selling of one-off, hand-drawn t-shirts is nothing to write home about, but I don’t recall hearing a peep about these famous rock bros accepting bids on their guitar picks. The best part about us being free from the unfair, sexist, greedy practices of the corporate record industry is that that we can now be fair.
So let’s be fair, kids.