I heard that you are single-handedly going to save the music industry. How are you planning to do this?
I’m not gonna save anything. I don’t think the music industry actually needs saving. I think the music industry – as it is – just needs to die. It needs a complete rebuild from the ground up which obviously is already happening.
And it’s not that the music industry as we know it is dying and then a new industry which kind of resembles it is going to spring up in its place. What I see happening is that music as we know it, as we experience it, the way we find it, listen to it and connect with it, has changed completely – and will change for this whole new next generation of people.
It’s “small” – and it’s much more empowering the artists who are making it because they can directly give, make and communicate with their fans. Unlike the old days where everything had to be giant or non-existent.
And everybody is doing it themselves! They’re doing it in different ways but artists are having to just simply do that themselves. Just the way it used to be – way back in the day: you had to have supporters, you had to have patrons, you had to go from town to town with your story and hawk it – and hope that it sold.
What do you think of Radiohead’s idea to offer their album by digital download, allowing fans to pay whatever they think is a fair price? Do you think that might be a business plan for future artists?
I don’t think there’s gonna be ONE way. It’s gonna be infinite possibilities. And it’s gonna be up to the artists in question to decide how they want to exchange their goods for money. There’s gonna be an infinite variety of ways that you can have music, experience, profit, connection… There’s so many things you can do as an artist! There’s so many ways you can choose to do it.
I think some bands are gonna do it the Radiohead-way and for some bands who are at certain points in their careers it’s gonna work…
This is a quote from an article about you: “Amanda Palmer, it turns out, isn’t in the business of selling music so much as she’s in the business of selling the experience of being a fan of Amanda Palmer’s music.” Would you agree?
Well, if that is true, then it’s also true for Radiohead and any other band out there. Because it’s never just about the music. Never ever. I don’t buy that for a second. Because behind the music is always the people. And the emotion and the intention. And when you buy the music, you’re buying everything. Or when you’re downloading it for free. It’s impossible to separate the art from the artists who are making it and the stories behind them. It’s everything, all mixed up together.
Sure I can believe that that’s true – but if it’s true for me it’s pretty much true for every artist out there. I don’t think I’m special that way.
But you spend A LOT of time connecting with your fans online. Do you think it enhances your creativity or does it mean you have less time for your music?
It’s a choice I make and I often regret. But then again every artist has to make that really difficult decision about how to spend their time. And there’s everything from hiding in a cabin in Bali and playing your guitar all alone to living in the middle of New York City and doing flash gigs on Twitter every afternoon, being hyper-connected and not spending a lot of time on your musical craft.
So you got your musical craft on the one end – and on the other end you have what you’ve got to do to actually take your music to people and wave it around.
And EVERY SINGLE ARTIST I KNOW struggles with this question. I don’t know a single fucking person who makes art who doesn’t worry that they’re too much on this side or too much on that side.
The people who I know who spend a lot of time on their music are jealous of me because I’m so disciplined with my blog and I look at them and I am jealous because they are so disciplined with their playing and I feel sometimes they are so much more passionate about the making and the writing. But we’re all looking at each other going “Well, YOU’ve got it figured out.”
Yesterday you said, you never would have learned to play the piano had there been internet when you were a child.
I may have learned… I don’t know if I would have written songs. That’s a really good question.
You argued that boredom was part of creativity…
I think so. I think boredom is very important for imagination. But everything changes, right? And so I wouldn’t wanna sit here and be like this grumpy old person judging the teenagers nowadays for sitting around on the internet all day for all I know their minds are developing creatively in a new way that I never could have imagined. Because of the constant input and the constant sharing and the constant stimulus and the inspiration.
I didn’t have all that because it was just me and and the records and my thoughts. And maybe really rudimentary pac-man on my parents’ computer. That was it. No internet, no international connections, no finding fans of the bands that I loved. But I don’t think one is good or bad. You get really really fucked if you look at the world that way. I could sit here and judge and say: “These kids are all gonna be fucked and they’re not gonna make good music.” But actually that’s bullshit. I know a lot of sixteen-year-olds who are great songwriters, they practise their instruments, they’re passionate about making music, about writing, about making art. So as long as I see it existing I can’t sit here and preach that there’s some sort of artistic death going on in the next generation. It’s just not true.
Amanda Palmer might not be THE FUTCHA OF MUSIC but she's asked a lot of questions like this and closer than most to answering them (or at least hinting at the sentiment of the answers) by being the canary down the mine.