Amanda Palmer Q&A: Why Pay-What-You-Want Is the Way Forward, and More

From Billboard:

We’re talking about the relationship becoming more personal between fan and artist. Some people might say people should want to pay for music if the relationship is more personal. But you’re not saying that?

That’s a perfect way of putting it because you’re right. This is the giant question mark in people’s heads. My theory is that things aren’t going to pick up until people … instead of saying people should want to pay for music, I think people should want to help their artists. I really think it’s a different way of thinking.

Instead of trying of reeducate people and cram the idea into their heads that a song is worth a dollar, I think it should it should really be more about making people understand that while music is free — because no one can f—ing argue that music isn’t free; it just is. I’ve been saying this for years. You can no longer ignore the obvious. Once we can email each other songs and albums, the conversation had to change [and] you weren’t going to put the genie back into the bottle.

I think the question is more now that this is what we’re dealing with, what’s the conversation happening between the artist making the music and the person listening to it? I think this is where my years as a street performer really inform my thinking. If you change the tenor of the exchange, then you can move things to the level where you as the musician aren’t demanding anything, and you’re not complaining about anything, then you’re making it possible for people to help you. If you’re a street performer, the vast majority of people will walk by and not help you, but most people will appreciate what you’re doing and help you that you can make a living — which I did as a street performer. Is it a steady paycheck? Not really, but you can generally predict that you’re going to make “x” number of dollars on a Friday or Saturday night.

That’s probably the way we’re all going to have to think if things are going to work. Because if everyone just throws up their hands and says, ‘OK, well, that’s it, the system sucks, music is just free, artists are going to have to make their living some other way — licensing their music to commercials or touring endlessly or whatever.’ Artists can make money that way, but what if the way the world and the entire audience out there thought a little differently about this? What if they considered their musicians available to them somehow?

This is the sort of thing I’m probably going to talk about at TED. It’s sort of what I’ve been saying from day one from way back in the day with early Dresden Dolls days when I realized people were sharing our music and burning our music onto CDs before things were sharable on peer-to-peer, you could see there was going to be this giant shift and there was nothing to do but embrace it and remind the audience that we’re here and we’re to be helped. And that meant money, help promoting us, a couch to sleep on. Let’s just assume we’re all in this together and you like our music and we need help and anything you’d like to do to help us from going back to our day jobs, you should be doing it. That’s why it never made sense to me to punish our audience for wanting our music. To me, there’s nothing more natural than the idea of people wanting to share music with or without having gone into a store and bought it.

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