By Amanda Palmer, from Salon:
I will tell you: I am a passionate admirer of your songwriting, your singing and your recordings.
I’ve bought tickets to see you lots of times. You shaped my head and my heart as a teenager, and to this day continue to impact my various artistic forays.
You helped open me, you taught me that I could be brutally honest in my songs and that I didn’t need to wait for anyone’s permission.
You helped teach me that I could sing about anything I wanted to. So, no matter what you are, what you do or what you become, I’ll feel forever indebted to you for your gifts to me.
I once had the chance to meet you. My band, The Dresden Dolls, were playing at a festival in Germany about eight years ago and you were in the dressing room next to us. Your keyboardist sat next to me and we started chatting over the very terrible backstage sandwich buffet. I told him how much I loved you, and he offered to take me back to your dressing room so that we could say hello to each other.
This is how much you mean to me: I couldn’t stomach the idea of Morrissey meeting me and not liking me, even if the chances were small. In a move that shocked myself, I shook my head and declined the invitation. (I’ll never know if I did the right thing…late at night, I have regrets.)
So first of all: How dare you have such power over me?
And second: 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.
You’re possibly one of the best candidates on the planet to use crowdfunding, because of who you are and what you mean.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. What does one need a record label for nowadays?
To put albums in stores? The stores are closing.
To make all the phone calls, so that radio plays the album? The radio stations are closing. The good outlets with human beings programming them (non-commercial radio, college, the BBC) will probably just download the record if it’s good, and play it.
To get into the charts? Who cares anymore? Do you? Do I?
To arrange tour promo and buy commercial space to inform people that the album is out? Well…if you’re not going to tour, and if people have already pre-ordered the record, maybe it’s not necessary.
And if you’re not putting out a physical record…it’s all moot.
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.
You could avoid the agony of physical manufacturing, shipping, traditional distribution and promotion….and have only one option for backers: $5 digital (it’d be tempting to add CDs and vinyl, but this is, indeed, where you start “needing a record label” and where the old-school problems start to tear away at your life and energy).
Given your record sales and history, let’s make a very conservative guess that 500,000 people back you (i.e., pre-order a digital album) at $5 each.
That’s a total of $2.5 million. Assumptions galore, but at a guess: Subtract the 20 percent you will need to pay out to commissions (to your management and digital team) and processing (to the crowdfunding platform) and you’ll be left with about $2 million. If your album costs half a million to record, you’ll earn about $1.5 million. I don’t know what kind of advances and royalties you were getting from any of your previous labels, but I doubt they could compete with that. And if there’s no label you can find to work with, anyway….is there even a point in making the comparison?
You would own all the material, and then cut whatever deal you wanted with whoever, should you choose to distribute the record further.
You wouldn’t have to tour and risk your health.
You wouldn’t have to do any promotional work for it if you didn’t want to.
You wouldn’t have to do anything, really, other than simply go into a studio, record 10 songs, and deal with the small headache of getting the digital information to a bunch of people.
(And it is a headache…but I know people who can help you with that part. I’ve personally learned many things from my own release-it-digitally mistakes and would be happy to share what I’ve learned.)
You’d also be the first artist of your fame and caliber to undertake a project of this kind with your fanbase, which would make it historic.
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.