If you haven’t heard already on a music blog or in your tweet stream, allow me to break the days-old news: Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman have raised over $95K (and counting) on Kickstarter for a five-city West Coast “tour”, the contents of which have yet to be determined. Except that it will involve the happy couple Amanda and Neil doing…whatever it is they do together onstage.
Here’s the explanatory video, in which AFP confesses she doesn’t know what the fuck they’ll be doing in the show, but that, even if they’re not coming to your city, you should still give them your money.
Within hours of the start of this campaign, the highest donation option of $500 had been capped. This means that the max amount of fans possible paid $500 for a ticket to the show (whatever it turns out to be), a grab bag of merch, and an “intimate” meet-and-greet with Amanda and Neil. The ironic thing is that you can usually meet Amanda after any of her shows. For free. One can only assume that meeting Neil Gaiman is more expensive. But $500? Really?
Here’s the kicker: the project is already 475% funded; it has 22 days to go; and people are STILL DONATING. It’s like this cult of followers can’t stop themselves from giving, even when the “tour” has been funded four times over.
What peeves me the most is that Amanda’s songwriting has been less than her best since about 2006. Yes, Virginia was the last strong album she wrote. No, Virginia was essentially a bunch of B-sides. WKAP was an incoherent collection mostly of self-indulgent ballads with an online fantasy game accompanying it and a commemorative coffee table book made collaboratively with none other than Neil Himself. (So it came as no surprise when AFP and Neil announced they were dating around 2009.) Now they’re married, and apparently they believe that their simultaneous presence onstage is worth anywhere from $30-$500. My question is, where is the music to back up this ticket price? Is Radiohead on ukulele worth that? Is a live album in Australia worth that–or is it just a way to avoid going into the studio?
It seems like Amanda has realized that she can sell anything on the Internet and that people will buy it–four or five times over; so quality no longer matters. She can announce a show on the beach while her husband eats a banana, and people will give her $95,000. She doesn’t have to write good songs anymore. (Maybe Neil won’t have to write books anymore.) They make more money standing on the beach than most people make in two years. This is not art. This is a musician-turned-megalomaniac e-personality run amok. It’s crowdsourcing at its worst, flippantly inviting people to pay for concerts that probably won’t come to their city or for an opportunity backstage that thousands of people have previously gotten for free.
I was a huge fan of The Dresden Dolls. They worked hard, toured incessantly, and made great music. And I never had to pay more than $40 to hear it. Granted, I may have Roadrunner Records to thank for that. According to AFP, being indie is more profitable for her than was having a record deal. When it’s profitable to the tune of $95K for a uke, a half-formed idea, and a banana, I guess she’s right. The fans have spoken: do little, and we’ll pay you a lot.
Do you want a solid music blogger to review your performance? Or your CD? (More specifically, do you want ME to review your performance or CD?)
Would you like to be interviewed?
Do you want to help me bend the rules of journalism and blend it with PR?
If you answered yes to any/all of these questions, then get in touch with me. I am pimping out my blog, my opinions, and my writing next week at SXSW.
Here’s how this will work:
- For a $20 donation, I will attend and review your performance. (Note: if you’re playing a showcase that requires a badge, you’ll have to put me on your guest list because I don’t have a badge.) (450 words)
- For a $25 donation, I will review your CD. (500 words)
- For a $40 donation, I will attend and review your performance AND review your CD. (800 words)
- For a $100 donation, I will interview you. (1100 words)*
All of the above include photos. For performance reviews, I will take photos of you playing live, and I will give you copies of the photos for you to use however you want in the future so long as I am credited as the photographer.
I reserve the right to express honest opinions in my reviews. However, as I am not in the business of totally bashing bands that are new to the biz, I also reserve the right to refund your money and not write about you if I feel that I have absolutely nothing positive to say about you.
So, do you want to hire me? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org [Update 5/1/11 - I no longer use this email address. Contact me at email@example.com or on Twitter @lindasusername.]
*You may notice that the charge per word is steeper for interviews. That’s because I have to spend time transcribing the interview after recording it (with your permission, of course), which doubles the workload for me.
Ok, folks, here’s the long and short of it. I am dying to see Ozzy Osbourne and Halford play Madison Square Garden on December 1. I had a brief encounter with the Ozzman earlier this year, but I’ve never seen him perform live. I’d love to. And let’s face it, he’s not getting any younger. Who knows how many more opportunities like this one there will be?
Anyway, if you know me at all, you know that I have been broke all year. The job market hasn’t been kind to this Original Hipster, and my overdrawn bank account can’t fund a concert ticket (among other things). But I really want to go to that show.
Now, before you call me a beggar, consider: have I ever written about your music for free? Have I promoted your show? Have I recommended a band that now you’re really glad you know about? Heck, have I made you crack a smile?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, I invite you to click this button:
If your answer to any of these questions is no, please also click the button. To give you an idea of how easy and affordable this can be–if everyone who viewed my blog in the last two days would donate $1 each, I could buy a concert ticket. That’s right. $1.
Here’s what I can offer in return.
- I will go to the concert. I will take photos, even if photos aren’t allowed. I will write about the show and post my photos on this blog. I will try to weasel my way backstage (it’s worked a couple times before) and will relate the tale to you all.
- For the reader who donates the most, I will write a blog post about whoever and whatever you want. If you have a band, I’ll write about it. If you have a pet, I’ll interview it. Whatever you want. (That said, if I deem your proposed blog post to be offensively immoral or illegal or completely contrary to my personal ethics, the deal’s off. This is a lighthearted blog, for goodness’ sake.)
Did I mention my birthday is next month?
So, thank you in advance–both for reading and, hopefully, for donating $1 (or more). Let’s see how this experiment works!
Update 9/19/10 — If I don’t get enough donations to buy a ticket, I will issue refunds of all donations. In other words, I promise not to spend the money on anything other than the proposed cause.
Notice I say “favorite.” I’m not claiming that they’re earth-shatteringly good; few–if any–Christmas albums are, after all. These are the ones I can listen to without wanting a stiff, brandy-spiked eggnog to get me to the end of the record. Not that these albums wouldn’t be improved if listened to with a stiff, brandy-spiked eggnog firmly in hand. A beverage like that can make any experience twice as enjoyable. Unless you’re lactose intolerant, in which case, for you, there’s this wonderful product.
Amy Grant – Home for Christmas
This might actually be Amy Grant’s best album ever. Her deep, folksy voice is well-suited to the acoustic accompaniments. The best track is the last one (“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”), which is completely instrumental and features the London Studio Orchestra and some fierce violin soloing by Mark O’Connor.
Michael W. Smith – Christmastime
On this album, it sounds as though Smith took a cue from Grant’s Home for Christmas (above) and delivered his own, similarly-balanced blend of spiritual, traditional, and original songs. The fifth track is a standout: with “Hope of Israel,” Smith creates a haunting, minor-key piano melody that opens into a full orchestral arrangement. Truly beautiful.
Various Artists – Holiday Songs for Snow and Mistletoe
And you thought this was going to be all Christian artists, didn’t you? Nay. And verily I say unto thee, Old Navy hath more than affordable fleece. They’ve also ventured into the secular holiday mix CD market. This particular one (shown at left) is my favorite. It cost less than $10 when I bought it about eight years ago, and it includes classic songs by great jazz artists (Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Lou Rawls). There’s only one undeniably annoying song on the record: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” by Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting. I’ve always found that song to be kind of sexist, and Margaret Whiting doesn’t help things by sounding like a naive idiot. But apart from that song, the album is quite listenable.
Savatage – Dead Winter Dead
This is the album that started it all: my borderline-tasteless Savatage addiction. But you really should give this album a chance. Just try to forget about the overplayed radio hit “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24),” usually credited to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (i.e. Savatage’s eventual, unfortunate incarnation as a touring extravaganza of perpetual Christmas). And try to forget that the band’s sound was outdated, even in 1995 when the record was released. If you can forget all those things and listen with an unbiased mind (I know; it’s hard), you may find yourself head-banging your way through the holidays.
Mitch Miller and The Gang – Holiday Sing-Along with Mitch Miller
You may have been thinking that this list wouldn’t get any worse than 90s metal that sounded like it belonged in the 80s. But guess what? It’s worse. Oh, it’s much, much worse. I declare with pride and pleasure that this is my favorite Christmas album of all time. This opinion is due in part to the fact that I have fond memories associated with it (my parents have it on cassette tape), but it’s also because this collection has just about every jolly, non-religious Christmas classic imaginable–and an elfin-sounding backup chorus, to boot. This is truly one of those love-it-or-hate-it recordings. Either the accordions and the vocals by “The Gang” (which sounds an awful lot like Mitch, Mitch, and more Mitch) will drive you up the wall, or you will learn all the words by heart. You will listen to it as you decorate your tree. You will insist on subjecting your family to it as you all open presents on Christmas morning each year. You will not care that many people consider the music intolerable…because it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without it.
Here’s the thing: I am willing to put my miniscule reputation on the line by confessing to being uncool. Why? Because I think people should be honest about how they really think and feel. Lists are great. Full on shameless self-disclosure is great. You should like this post, just as I should like these artists’ music. Except I don’t.
These are listed by degrees of offensiveness, from least to most offensive.
10. Animal Collective
Why: I’m all for electronic music. But at least make it complicated or melodic or aesthetically pleasing. Beeps and boops and static and simple melodies get a great big yawn from me.
9. The Shins
Why: In addition to not enjoying music that’s simplistic and takes itself too seriously, I can’t stand Zach Braff, and I will forever associate him with The Shins and with Garden State, a movie I found depressing.
8. Death Cab for Cutie
Why: The name alone is a turnoff. What the fuck does that even mean? There are worse names out there…but not many.
7. The Decemberists
Why: Couldn’t really tell ya. I just don’t like ‘em. Low-key, subdued music almost always fails to interest me. I guess I don’t really do musical subtlety.
6. Vampire Weekend
Why: I don’t give a damn about an Oxford comma.
5. Tegan and Sara
Why: Twin lesbians don’t get me excited. And neither do their bland vocals.
4. Arcade Fire
Why: More instruments do not a better band make. Not necessarily, anyway. Strings and rock music sometimes go well together (example: Muse’s new album The Resistance). Other times, even a good violin can’t get me jazzed about a dull song.
3. The Smiths/Morrissey
Why: Melancholy. It’s not bad music. I really WANT to like it. But I can barely handle The Cure. So of course The Smiths and Morrissey’s solo stuff are too emotionally draining for my already marginal stability.
Why: Don’t really care for Thom Yorke’s voice. Exception: “Creep”
1. The Beatles
Why: Simple, predictable chord progressions. Posh British accents which I can’t find rebellious and rockin’ despite how revolutionary this band supposedly was. Upbeat lyrics that I can’t relate to. “Imagine” is a good song, but that’s from a John Lennon solo album. I am a fan of Ringo Starr, though, but that’s another story.
I know I am not alone in some of these opinions. It simply isn’t possible that everyone else in the world likes each and everyone of these bands. The question is: will you be bold enough to admit it? To publicly own up to it–or to declare that some other “hip” band is not to your liking? If so, do it here. Tell me what you hate. Embrace the individuality of your own tastes.
Below is an email I sent to Jon Pareles at the New York Times in response to his review of Wild Beasts at Joe’s Pub on 9/8/09. I can probably now scratch the Times off the list of places to pitch music articles. Oh, well. At least I got my opinion out there.
Dear Mr. Pareles,
I’m glad to see that the Times covered the Wild Beasts concert at Joe’s Pub. The originality and (for lack of more apt word) ballsy-ness of the band’s sound deserves every recent notice it has received.
With all due respect, however, I think that comparing them to U2 and Morrissey is an easy, obvious description of music that seems to have a more complex array of influences. Are you not hearing Berlin-era Bowie / Brian Eno in the arrangements? What about the fact that the Klaus Nomi-like falsettos rival those of Muse’s Matt Bellamy–who until now has had that vocal range cornered but who also can’t be mentioned without acknowledging the Thom Yorke similarities.
I think that reducing the lyrical subject matter to “nothing less than the human condition” is a cop-out, but that’s probably because I always think that phrase is glib way of glossing over specificities that a writer doesn’t want think about long enough to identify in more detail. What else would any lyrics by any artist be about, if not “the human condition”? The lack of oxygen on Pluto? (Even that could be metaphorically applied to humans, I’m sure.) If the songs refer to “invention and destruction,” what prevents the inclusion of an example of some of those lyrics? The article’s word count?
I also think that the band’s British origins contribute to their being unafraid to approach camp and melodrama–though with their serious performance demeanor, they never completely step over those lines. England has a history, moreso than the U.S., of producing bands who write fey-sounding waltzes (like “The Club of Fathomless Love”, on Limbo, Panto) as readily as up-tempo rock songs. Just as Queen, Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Muse, etc., began their glam-ridden or -influenced careers in the U.K., so, I believe, Wild Beasts could not have come from anywhere else. It is interesting to note the amount of attention this first NYC show by Wild Beasts has garnered, as well as the amount of nervousness the band members confessed to feeling at Joe’s Pub. They are an all-male band with often-effeminate vocals. Politically speaking, mainstream America squirms in discomfort when men aren’t behaving in a stereotypically masculine way. Is it any wonder that Wild Beasts materialized in a country that typically embraces gender-bending musicians without anxiety; that they worried about their American reception prior to their New York debut; that they are becoming “cool” in the U.S. only after Europeans have deemed them acceptable?
I realize that, as a journalism student who should be making friends in this industry rather than criticizing people at the Times, I am not doing myself any favors by writing this email. But I kind of can’t help myself. I feel impassioned when I hear music that makes bold choices, that blends styles of predecessors in a new way to create something truly unique. This doesn’t happen often enough in music today. While I am pleased that a major newspaper is paying attention to a very small yet significant musical niche, I wish that the review had afforded to this band more pointed comparisons, detailed examples of the songs’ subject matter, and a broader context in which to frame the emergence of such a unique sound.
Thanks for your time,