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September 13, 2012


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Steve Garfield

Hi David,

I went and read Amanda's blog post and she's allowing fans to jam with the band on stage for a couple of songs, NOT asking them to BE the BAND.

I think it's ok.


David Meerman Scott

Thanks Steve. And hey, sometimes filming something for free (like the video you helped me do with Amanda) has value, right?

Steve Garfield

Right David!

I was happy to help you shoot that video and hang. I got dinner too. ;-) And as you know my video was shown at HubSpot's #inbound12, and I got to interview Amanda and blog about it and promote the fact that i was there when she learned about the $1 MILLION DOLLARS.


Here's some of the video of Amanda that I was able to shoot after we shot your interview with her:



Helen Marshall

So up and coming musicians get a real chance to be showcased live and have a good gig under their belts.... sounds like she's supporting and encouraging the music profession to me ....

Dragan Mestrovic

To be successful as a business, artist or simply as a human you need to give before can get.

“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, "What's in it for me?” --Brian Tracy

C.C. Chapman

I understand exactly what you are saying and agree fully.

What bothered me about this whole situation is when she was asked about why she wasn't paying the artists her response was that she couldn't afford to pay them.

THAT directly after all the fanfare she received from raising over $1 Million from fans is what rubbed me the wrong way. She could and should of handled it differently.

As a successful indie artist with a lot of eyes on her, I just wished she had been smarter about it.

David Meerman Scott

Steve - KARMA indeed.

Helen - Yes! She is supporting the up and comers.

Dragan - Excellent Tracy quote. Thanks.

C.C. - I agree that was a poor choice of words. She should have talked up the new model and the benefits and not say that she couldn't afford the musicians. Amanda told me that she sometimes crowdsources rides to and from the airport (she tweets when she is going to be at a city and a fan will offer to drive her). She can certainly afford a taxi but she choose to interact with a fan who has a memorable experience as does Amanda.



If you listen to any career development expert, they'll tell you that one of the most effective things you can do is volunteer. This is especially true if you are changing careers. It's a great way to gain experience and network with others. This is exactly the path I followed to transition from software and web development into marketing. I volunteered for a number of non-profits and trade associations.

This strikes me as no different. I know some people will say it's different to donate time to a non-profit than an independent artist or the Huffington Post and that's fair, I suppose. However, the personal benefits are the same and so the two arguments you usually hear (that it devalues the profession and takes advantage of people) are incorrect.

David Meerman Scott

Jon - Good point on volunteering. I always tell university students who ask me about getting first jobs that one thing they should certainly do is volunteer their time at an appropriate nonprofit (or even a non-paid internship at a for profit company).


I guess I started reading the post and the title made me ask myself why Amanda was not paying other musicians especially after raising so much money. But when I continued reading I have to agree with you when it comes to accepting or not accepting.

The important thing is Amanda is being transparent and she has built a platform in which other musicians can kick off and get better opportunities.

As the economy does not seem to be in the best shape these opportunities for people who have the time and the hunger to do something might be great launching pads for ideas and finding opportunities.

After reading the post I agree with you and Amanda!

Tom Bishop

As a musician with some limited knowledge of music industry history, I see two sides of the same coin being played here: on one side is a need for musicians to earn a living from writing their content, on the other is their need to earn a living from performing. Palmer has foregone the security of being an industrialized artist, and has asked like-minded musicians to join in her cause, which is the freedom of music.

The 'industry' as it stands today is built on exploiting copyright protections, but those protections exist regardless of whether a corporation makes a dime from it. I can no more plagiarize a David Meerman Scott writing from one of your books than I can crib from one of your HuffPo articles. Nor can I pass off an Amanda Palmer piece as my own.

If I could play with Amanda Palmer on stage, I would freely do so, knowing the trade-off: I get to perform great music, get seen, and enjoy my craft, while upholding my principles that art should not be exploited by bean-counters.

David Meerman Scott

Rj_c - your reaction is interesting and I have heard others had the same. At first you think "why wouldn't she pay?" Then, upon learning more, you realize that for the right musician what she is offering is better than a bit of money.

Tom -- I really appreciate you jumping in here. Having the perspective of a musician in this conversation is incredibly valuable. Al the best for your success in earning a living AND getting noticed.

Jay Lewis

I've played cello and string bass semi-professionally for 20 years. I'm a fan of Ms. Palmer and have seen her play here in St. Louis a couple of times. I work a day job in web strategy and UX for a financial institution, and I've read your books and follow your blog.

Let me start by saying that I think music is the greatest part-time job in the world, but for most who attempt to do it full-time it's a terrible career choice. I love being a part-timer because it never loses that element of joyous diversion. I have the luxury of taking gigs that pay, and I can take others for the fun of it. As a cellist, I play quite a few wedding gigs that I would never take for free, but I've also played rock gigs for nothing more than free beer because it's a fun way to spend time with other musicians and music-loving friends. Ms. Palmer has a history of recruiting local talent to participate in her live shows, and there's nothing underhanded about it - her heart is absolutely in the right place in trying to give fans a chance to participate and to show what they can do.

Jean-Claude and Christo are an example of artists who recruited local talent and insisted on paying them, although this was partly due to the disruptive nature of their installations. In either case, I'm content to leave the decision on whether to pay entirely up to the artist. Neither record companies nor musicians unions need always dictate the terms of artistic arrangements. Personally, I'd have no problem playing one of Ms. Palmer's gigs on the agreement she's laid out.


It's also worth noting, for the people complaining she's made so much money but has said she can't afford to pay...that she probably can't afford to pay. I don't think it was a poor choice of words, and is probably true, as she's been very upfront about where the kickstarter money has gone:


Could she have planned it all better from the outset so she could afford extra touring musicians? Very probably. But I still don't think it's inaccurate to say at this point she can't afford to.

I think there's also a sense of "well I donated! That's MY money! And I want her to pay musicians with it!" No. You donated for an album (or an art pack or private concert or whatever) and that's what you got. You don't get any other say in things; either creatively or how she directs her tours.

On another note, I agree it's wrong to EXPECT musicians to work for free. But it's certainly right to ALLOW them to if they want to.

Scott Wilson

I'm trying something new and I'm not sure if it is the stupidest thing I've ever done or something else in between that and the other. I've made as many of my recordings available on Soundcloud.com as I can find, or have the rights to.

The archive can be found at http://www.soundcloud.com/metapunk

Demos, masters, instrumentals, soundtrack stuff, my complete discography, demos for albums not yet finished, etc. There's an article in The San Diego Reader that was published yesterday about it, and yes, I am promoting it here because of the linkage to the new paradigm idea, but I'm also looking for feedback.


or a bigger blog:



My wife was asked to play at the White House during the Clinton administration. When she asked about compensation she was told "Oh, we don't pay people to play at events. What would we pay Yo Yo Ma or [xyz] when they play here?" She wishes she had answered "Union scale?"

(Yes, she played anyway, and enjoyed doing so. Parking in D.C. and wrangling her instrument in and out of the White House, a lot less so.)

In the case of AFP, as others have noted, she addressed the request to her fans, and I suspect that some of the folks who have responded wouldn't have attended the concert otherwise; in which case they (I hope) got comped into the show. So the equation has to include: play a couple of songs (with a band I follow) equals (free entry to rest of show?), momentary high while doing so and the envy of other fans who don't play my instrument. Is there a group out there whose fans *wouldn't* love to have that opportunity? How many bands give it to them?

This isn't AFP+GTO ripping off musicians. This is Amanda interacting with her fans and that is what pushed the Kickstarter over a million.


Since when do back up bands get paid?

On major tours featuring bands that could all be the headliner - sure, or even events like Jazz festivals. Rarely do I see a typical music tour paying the back up bands (except when it's a brother/sister band that is accompanying for the tours entirety).

Where I am the chance to gig with someone on Amanda Palmers level would probably come with a minimum $300-500 pay up front pre-sale, even if you are a pretty well established act. Sure you might be able to make some money with extra sales and your merchandise, but most people are going to get their tickets through the ticket distributor.

Opening for an act as famous for Amanda without having to pay for it is compensation enough. This is the kind of opportunity mid level musicians would pay to have.

I've always advocated that a musician should always be paid. That doesn't always necessarily mean doling money out at the end of the show.

There's a difference between playing for "nothing" and playing for "free". Giving the fans a chance to play with her will net them an awesome experience, and insane exposure and experience. This is the kind of event that could help really launch an artists music career.


My mistake, I thought it was a call to openers, not to members of the quartet/etc.. However, I see no problem in asking if people would like to play for that.

Simply put, If it's not worth a musicians time then they shouldn't bother, if however a musician has nothing better to do that night, likes AFP, and think it'd be pretty cool to jam one of those nights, then why the hell not?

These things happen all the time in the music industry, this is nothing new. There is a chance (though it seems small given her popularity) that nobody will volunteer in a given location. In which case she'll have to pay or work with a smaller back up band.


I am a musician who has played his instrument for 30 years. I started playing drums when I was 9. I can tell you that I have been fortunate to be paid well for playing music, but I can count those times I was paid well on my fingers. I've played thousands (literally) of shows and, generally, have made little to nothing in the grand scheme of things. This does NOT make me bitter. I have had some of the most incredible opportunities anyone could ever ask for and unique opportunities seem to have availed themselves MORE not less, as I have gotten older.

If asked to play with Ms. Palmer (I went to the show on 9/11 in NYC - it was INCREDIBLE, btw) or if given a similar opportunity with an established artist that I respected - to sit in on a few songs and play in my home city, I would do it whether paid or not. Period. It would, first, be an honor to play with an immensely talented, creative genius, regardless of whether there were 5000 people or 5 people at the show. In this particular context, I can think of no better way I would want to spend a Tuesday night. Before the old guard Music Industry that we now see crumbling before us, music was about exactly this. It brought people together - established acts helped lesser known acts gain popularity - people playing big shows brought their friends on stage to sit in on a song or two. It's how genres like Jazz and Hip Hop got built, for example, and how many artists became "greats." If you don't agree with my sentiment - I respect that, but if you disagree, it's better to advocate for yourself than to think you're speaking for all musicians in the name of what you feel is amicable or fair.

And, let's face it, a million dollars in 2012 is nothing. I'm sorry - I'm not wealthy - my house is not worth a million dollars, either, but when you talk about recording, promoting, pressing and distributing music the way that Amanda Palmer does - with care, artistic integrity and above all, something that feels real, feels organic and not mass produced, watered down averageness in it's sonic and visual presentation - those dollars add up VERY fast. Let's also not forget that her new record is "pay what you will," and all those people who can only afford a dollar - with recording costs and hosting of digital files and Topspin's platform, etc. - that's a net LOSS per unit. I believe she truly could not to afford to pay all these people - or if she did pay them, the amount would be more of an insult than anything.

I'll play a tambourine whilst Amanda Palmer plays ukulele any day in exchange for the experience, and maybe a beer and good conversation.


@oneupmediasolutions you've still got it wrong. This was a request for horn and string players to volunteer to sit in on a few songs and add to them. She has a band. Having been to the show on Tuesday in NYC, she utilized these additional players on a few tunes and it sounded great. If I were a horn or string player, I would have volunteered to interact with Amanda and her amazing band in a second.


Forgive me if I'm just reiterating someone elses point here, but what this really comes down to is the Kickstarter funds. People are acting like she has $1.125 million in her pocket and is just holding out. The articles and the blogs and the tweets are all from people saying that she is refusing to pay her musicians. This is completely untrue, and just goes to prove that they have no idea how much she is doing with that money, how much it costs to do anything with that money. Between the Amazon.com / Kickstarter fees, the taxes, etcetera there’s a third of it gone right there. Then there are the recording costs, the production costs, the distribution costs. The manufacturing costs – and let’s note that she isn’t just pressing CDs: there are books, LPs, 45s, there is art, there are turntables for crying out loud. There is promotion and there are music videos. Now you have to pay for your production team, your designers, your artists, then your management and then your tour. People who have never been on the other side of a tour think that a ticket price covers the band. It doesn’t. You have to pay for everything for everyone, and the larger the tour the more people you need and then you have even more mouths to feed. Throw in an international leg and you’re completely underwater.
All of these expenses are normally covered by a label – which is why people are so willing to sign themselves away to one. But with a label you give up most of the power you have over your own music and your own art. In the end you don’t even get to keep the rights to what is yours. AFP fought her label for the rights to her own music and career and won. Now she is doing it on her own. Kickstarter was the perfect venue for this, and from the start she has been very open and honest about where all of the money is/will be going.
After the success of the Kickstarter campaign, a lot of people were upset. She went against the status quo and made good. News organizations like the New York Times have been scrutinizing her every move, as if she is hoarding every cent, when in reality when this is all over she’ll be lucky if she breaks even. These reporters and bloggers are failing to note everything that she has been doing with this money, and failing to note everything she has done for her fans and supporters. The people receiving their Kickstarter packages are getting above and beyond what they’ve expected and what they have paid for. In addition she has been giving free performances, free podcasts, free music.
These critical press people are representing an old hat fraught with corporate money, and it scares them to think that someone could shirk the system so very successfully. Going directly to the fans and saying: ‘let’s do this, let’s make art’ threatens the hell out them. So one can fully expect to see more slanderous rumours and insinuations spread by supposedly reputable new sources, like the pitiful one they’ve dug up now about not paying musicians. It’s ridiculous. She has a band, they get paid. She couldn’t afford to hire strings and horns to tour with her (and really, not many can). So she asked her fans if they wanted to stop by for a show and sit in – not tour for free. She was honest, asked for volunteers and promised a good time to anyone who stepped up. And I can tell you that, as a musician, when she comes through my neck of the woods I will be JUMPING at the chance. I am a classically trained violinist. I’ve played with Itzhak Perlman. And when AFT and the GTO take New England I will be beyond thrilled to play with them for a night, and whatever joy I get out of it will be all the pay I could ever want. Trust me.


My opinion in the fewest words: I would LOVE to do this!

Anyone who feels negatively about this is just jealous that she or he is not involved.


"The entrenched powers that be in the music business actively resist change."

As a gag, I wrote, An Alternative History of the RIAA"

Take a look, if you're so inclined.

(I don't know before posting if this commenting system allows URLs, so here's the link: http://botaday.com/node/1098 )

David Meerman Scott

Wow - what a great discussion here - especially from the musicians! This is obviously an interesting topic for many.

I missed the party because soon after I wrote the post, I had to travel to an appointment several hours away.

I'm a professional speaker. I am normally paid. But I would definitely jump at the chance to share the stage with a big name.



I've been following this all day. As a professional musician (performing, writing, and teaching private lessons is ALL I do) and someone who is of the instrumental persuasion she's looking for (saxophone), I think I may have a different view here. Also, I work in a VERY crowded market (NYC), am NOT a union member, work in a very niche genre (jazz), and have worked with names much bigger than Ms. Palmer's as a "pick-up" player for traveling acts.

First, let me say that I agree entirely with the thinking that it's sort of a "live and let live" proposition for those that wish to volunteer for her shows. I do think it's a brilliant way to interact with fans, grow your community, etc. Good on her.

However, there a few things to keep in mind, things that I believe is leading to the small firestorm that is raging on the interweb...

1.) Part of what is causing the outrage about this is the horrible choice of wording in post on her website asking for musicians. Many people on here keep saying she's inviting her "fans" to "jam". This is not true. While its reasonable to assume only fans will be looking at her website, the ad never utters that word. In fact, quite the opposite, they insist on being proficient, on some level of "professional-ish"-ism. In addition, THEY REQUIRE A REHEARSAL EARLIER IN THE DAY! This is not "jamming". Look, I'm a jazz musician, I invite friends and the like to sit in on my gigs all the time. I get it, they don't get paid, it's part of the tradition, they get to show off, etc. However, I WOULD NEVER ASK THEM TO REHEARSE. Shit, I PAY people to rehearse my music, even if it's not for a gig. Yes, it is entirely the musician's choice whether they want to agree to this arrangement, more power to them. But please do not call this "jamming with fans". That is far from the truth.

2.) Many people posting on here keep talking about the "industry". The "old guard" doesn't like new business models, record labels are evil, etc. Ms. Palmer was unique in that she ever had a label deal in the first place. Let me fill you in on something...90% of professional musicians (and probably 99% of instrumentalists) will never get within sniffing distance of recording for a record label. For the non-singer/songwriters out there, for those of us who play instruments only, unless you are a STAR soloist and get very very lucky in the classical or jazz fields (occasionally instrumental pop), there is no "industry" the way the public thinks of it. You make your living from gig to gig, backing other artists (often like Ms. Palmer), playing events that need instrumental music, and occasionally leading your own gigs. Your only chance of royalties (speaking for purely performing) comes through being on successful albums, and often major artists will perform a "buy out" of sidemen in order to free themselves of those royalty payments. In reality, those musicians who are "volunteering" are no striking back at the evil industry, because they aren't a part of it.

3.) A lot of the resentment among people I know stems from this...you have a large segment of the professional music community who, like many other professions, look down (to some degree) on the attitude of doing it "for the love" of it. Listen, music education (and arts education) is a big business at the University level. For those of us who play piano, sax, cello, whatever at a high professional level, it took years of training. In the last couple of decades that made conservatory training almost mandatory for most. And much like law school, in music the name of the school you went to often matters professionally. Check the tuition amounts of the NYC conservatories like MSM, Juilliard, the New School, etc. You're talking over $30,000 a year in most cases. My point is that for those of us who went that route, who do this as a profession (not part-time, not on the side, etc), many of us see ourselves more akin to doctors or lawyers in terms of professionalism, not "artists" in the way it's popular for people to think of us. Yes, we love what we do, but we also constantly fight the preconception that exists that all we care about is playing our instruments and that we'll jump at any chance to play no matter what. If you don't think that attitude is prevalent amongst venue owners and people needing to hire musicians, I doubt you've ever looked for many gigs.

Look, I agree with practically everything that has been written on here. I think it's great she's doing what she's doing and I don't hold a grudge against people who take part. But please don't paint larger pictures about the industry or musicians as a whole based on this limited incident.

Technology and the world economy is changing so fast, traditional notions of revenue generation are becoming harder to sustain and it's difficult to adapt. Much of the blame can be placed at the feet of musicians. But much blame can also be placed at the attitude of consumers. It's the changes in consumer's attitudes wrought by evolving culture that will potentially make it harder for music to be a profession at all.


Hi Saxman, I do take issue with this a bit...

"While its reasonable to assume only fans will be looking at her website, the ad never utters that word. In fact, quite the opposite, they insist on being proficient, on some level of "professional-ish"-ism."

Well, no...It's kind of assumed fans will be looking at the blog, so it seems redundant to suddenly address them as such. I'm not sure "the ad" (blog post) needs to utter it for it to be understood - nor do I understand how being proficient with an instrument is "quite the opposite" to being a fan.

I think it's entirely possible to be a fan of Amanda Palmer and proficient with an instrument?


Hi Kala,

Its entirely plausible she could count great virtuousos amongst her fans. My issue more is the "jamming" part. If you're requiring a rehearsal, that is not jamming. Throwing jamming and fan in there brings an innocence to the discussion that I don't find accurate, no matter how well-intentioned.


When you first start out, and for a long time, music is very much an investment of money, not a way to earn a lot. You need to woo both venues and fans. It is a full-time job you're often doing in the red, probably while trying to make enough to feed yourself at whatever job interferes with your music the least. Its amazing how many gigs are played "for free" and "for exposure"... So why not do so as collaboration with a great artist you admire instead of a Saturday night in the entrance for the restaurant down the street, or as the 7pm opener to a 10-band night at an empty bar. This is the beat kind of leg-work/art. Playing with and getting to know other artists is not just great business; it's creatively satisfying.

David Meerman Scott

Hi Saxman –

I really appreciate you jumping in with your perspective. It is fascinating for me to hear your side. Thank you.

I'd like to comment on based on what I currently do. While I did work for companies for 15 years, for the last decade I’ve earned my income as a professional writer. I write books, magazine articles, and I speak at conferences and events.

Since I was a teenager, I have been a big music fan and support artists with my money (I've been to over 500 live shows and own, perhaps, 1,000 albums on various media).

I always look to the music world in comparison to what I do which is why your comment interested me so much. I write books (similar to albums). I've self-published and via major publishers. I speak live (similar to music gigs). I give away tons of my work, such as on this blog, (similar to offering free downloads).

I’ve learned a great deal from people like Amanda Palmer and bands like the Grateful Dead. (I wrote a book called “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History”).

So I think the thing here is that writers like me - and musicians like you - have choices. We can self-publish or go with a major publisher (label). We can write or play for money or for free. We can choose to promote our stuff ourselves on the web to reach an audience or choose to let others (labels, publishers, PR people) get the word out for us.

I certainly agree that Amanda chose her words poorly when she said she “couldn’t afford” backing musicians. That was unfortunate.

However, I do absolutely 100% agree with the approach she is taking. In my world, I’ve been there. Every day I get people who asks me to write something for free for them. They want me to write a blog post, an article, a chapter in a book, a foreword to a book, an endorsement of a book, or a quote for a story.

Yes, I am a professional writer. I get paid to write. I am happy they asked (it means I am relevant) but in 99% of the cases I say no (or just ignore the request with no response). Once in a while I say yes. But in no way do I “look down” on the market of free writing. I think it is great.

I am dumbfounded by my fellow professional writers (especially journalists) who long for the old days before the web and dismiss people like me who live in the paid AND free hybrid model. These folks are living in the past. There is a new world out there and the old days will never return.



Hi David,

Thank you for your personalized response. Let me say that I agree with you entirely. In fact, I had 2 conversations yesterday sort of making your point (though not as eloquently) about market models. I think the root of the issue, why are some are really upset, is because many people who bought into the old model, who are invested in the old model, cannot deal with the fact that times are changing and, with it, so are the concepts of ownership and compensation.

When I say "look down" it comes from a place that you have historically had very different view-points on what is "fair" (I over-use quotation marks) in the marketplace. And those concepts also are shaped by social factors that most don't consider. In my genre (another concept that is changing), which is Jazz, because it is such a small and historically derided part of the industry, these factors get exacerbated. Some examples are:

1.) Many trained musicians today (and I do find it necessary to separate them, not because formal training or education makes one a better musician but because many who go that route end up with great amounts of debt due to school loans. They are financially tied in a way that the singer-songwriter who leaves home at 18 to move to Los Angeles to play clubs is not) have to battle the fact that there is a degree of tolerance (nee, preference) for highly-skilled amateurs over top of the line professionals. The fact that many have to face is that most people cannot tell if you are a 1/4 step out of tune with the piano, if the singer isn't hitting the notes exactly on pitch, etc. I deal with this all the time. I think much to the chagrin of many musicians who have invested long periods of time and money in their training, to realize that most don't care if you can hit a high G on your trumpet or improvise intelligently on a harmonically-challenging song is a very frustrating prospect. Now, you can make the case that the music education industry was a giant money-making scheme, especially at the University level, and I would agree mostly. But it doesn't change the fact that you have 1000's of incredibly skilled professional musicians out there and a market place that can't sustain them.

2.) Also, there is a huge cultural element in some genre's. Historically, musicians of color got shafted by traditional media and industry, having music they created co-opted and sometimes stolen only to be turned for a profit by white artists. In the last 20 years my genre has seen a HUGE movement towards self-publishing, largely due to the dying of labels, but I can't tell you how often artists of color will cite the "ownership" issue. It's frustrating that now that the time comes where the ability to self-publish is there for all to use, people are expected to accept little return on their investment and are derided for not willing to accept the free-model. Technology and culture seem to be passing by a group of people who never got a fair shake and do not consider the new system any fairer.

3.) I would ask you if you think there is an inherent devaluing of creative works in our culture. I think the natural inclination of the human animal is to devalue anything that is free and plentiful opposed to that which is scarce and hard to obtain. We all do it in some fashion. I'd like get your ideas on the subtext of the free-model.

Again, I agree with you. There are larger issues at play in this discussion, that are far outside the scope of the Amanda Palmer situation. The frustrations were borne out of deeper issues and I think she got thrown under the bus for it. Not fair, but certainly not unexpected.


Dear David:
As has happened so often in the past with your blog, there are dozens of relevant lessons in your post and the comments. I really appreciate the perspectives and questions you've brought up.

I'm curious, though...

I'm fascinated by the momentum, passion, and strength in your blog post. So, I have to ask; was this an "easy" or a "hard" post to write?

Was the first draft substantially different from the published post? Did you substantially edit it? Anything you'd like to share about the process, from "I've got to write about this!" to the final version?

Thanks for, once again, informing, motivating, and inspiring by example.
Roger C. Parker

David Meerman Scott

Saxman - Great communicating with you. Thanks.

Firstly, I forgot to comment on the "rehearsal vs. jamming" part of your earlier comment. I'd agree with you that jamming means coming to the gig and doing your thing but as soon as you add a rehearsal it is more asking someone to be a sideman for the gig. I agree they are not the same.

In my world as I said, I'm often asked to do free gigs. So if someone says to me, for example, "please participate as a panelist on our teleconference on Friday from 2:30 - 3:00 but we cannot pay you" I'll often say yes (if there is likely to be a decent sized audience) because it requires 30 minutes of my time and I don’t have to prepare. If they then say “You need to participate on a pre-call, you need to review the questions in advance, you need to supply the moderator with proposed questions, you need to promote the event via social media, etc, etc," I almost always say no unless I am paid. So I get it.

Still it is my choice either way and I don’t have any issues of people who are willing to do these gigs for free. I frequently do free gigs.

Regarding devaluing of creative works in our culture – YES! There is no question that creativity is devalued as something becomes easy to do at a non-professional level. I’ve had this discussion with many, many professionals. My designer friend laments that with wide availability of tools like Adobe Photoshop and people in lower wage countries willing to work for little money, that design is devalued. My video producer friend used to have a barrier to entry of competitors of $50,000 of required gear to do a video. Now with an iPhone and iMovie, anyone can make a decent video. And of course with publishing, blogging devalues professional writers.

And by the way, I think this is GREAT. That anybody can create and publish is a good, certainly not a bad, thing.

But here’s another thing – the vast majority of people don't understand (and simply don’t care) about the differences in quality. They watch a poorly produced video on YouTube, they read a blog post riddled with spelling errors, they tolerate poor design, they run up the YouTube views on bad musical performance.

I actually don’t see anything wrong with this devaluation. It’s just reality.

It’s reality that if someone does a Google search on a topic and they get results that include a New York Times story, a blog post, a company Web press release, and a SEO-optimized sales pitch that many, many people have difficulty judging the difference between these types of content.

Is that bad for society? Maybe. But we can’t fight it.

David Meerman Scott

Hi Roger. Many thanks for noticing!

A blog post like this is something I feel I "must" write. In this case, I read about Amanda when I woke up around 4:00 am and I dropped everything to do the post.

I did it in one "vomit" of ideas, looked it over, made a few tweaks, and published. Total time for research, draft, edit was less than an hour. Very soon after, people were tweeting and commenting on the post (you can see the timestamps in the comments).

Whenever I have an idea that must be told, I write quickly. My book "Newsjacking" was written in one month. Granted, it is short (about 12,000 words if I recall) but that's quite quick -- all because I had an idea that *needed* to be told.


An incredible discussion. The intersection of music and new economic models has really struck a cord, David!

I am a recovering professional musician. I was in the musician's union (American Fed of Musicians) and had the pleasure of playing in the studio for artists like Lou Rawls, The Pointer Sisters, Patty Labelle, and others. It was a great time in my life. Through my union membership, I was making $350 for 3 hrs of work in the studio. To a 20 year old kid in Philly in the early 80s, this was a fortune -- a fortune of money to do what I love AND a fortune of experience. I am no longer a professional musician, but, as others have commented, get enormous pleasure from playing for fun (and occasional pocket money).

Indeed, technology and supply and demand have taken their toll on the life of a professional musician. There are simply too many talented musicians for the market to absorb. My super-talented musical friends cobble together musical lives by teaching, gigging, recording, doing whatever they can to earn a living. I play in a band now with 3-time Grammy winning bassist Oscar Stagnaro. He, too, cobbles together a musical and financial life by teaching, recording, touring. Pit orchestras on Broadway have contracted with the advent of electronic instruments. So has the demand for real musicians for recording film scores and TV commercials. There used to be a job called "music copyist" -- these were the scribes who transferred music from the score to individual musician's part. These guys are long gone.

As a practicing marketer now, my world of suppliers has fundamentally changed too. Gone are the large film crews that used to shoot my videos. I now carry around a camera myself, and so do most of the members of my marketing team. I used to hire companies like Landor and Interbrand to develop logos and corporate identity. Now, I often crowdsource these things -- and get great work at a fraction of the cost.

I, too, see many positive aspects to the changes in the music industry. There is no longer a monopoly on distribution. Recording costs have plummeted. Musicians can market directly to their fans. Maybe it's the optimist in me, but I see a great future for music. But it is very different from the past.

David Meerman Scott

Thanks Brian! I am thrilled you jumped in because you've lived both sides of this discussion. Now, when are you playing next in the Boston area?


My next gig? Nov 15 in Boston with Amanda Palmer, natch ;)

Michael Tschuertz

David Meerman Scott,

read some of the posts. hear and all over the internet. I am not an artist myself, being a butcher and having passion about, just like my father you started as an Architect, but then took over the family biz, just as i will. Thing is over the last 15 years we did all kinds of "shows" where we present and sold our stuff. Most of the time without profit, just to get the brand starting and still to this day we havent really broke even. Still what kind of gets me is that the arts seems to be the only works where playing for free is something normal. If the musicians are doing it and are happy fine for them. look i even had two people asking me to work for our company for free, which I feel not good about just as I never feeled good about all the times when I was on the guestlist for a concert, got a vip ticket or whatnot. I am why cant amanda ask for an accountant or tourmanager who works for free. Look I really dont hate on amanda it is just why do the arts do it so different from everbody else?


Thanks for the mention in the post, David - great discussion here and after seeing reactions from the musician I have to say I'd revise my original opinion and agree that this is cool. Also, I filed to even look over my own experience in doing contract gigs for free or near minimum wage to build my internet marketing skill set to the point of where I could get a salaried job with it. Outstanding comment thread, too. Also, I used to DJ in NYC in my 20's, quite a bit, and often took free gigs for exposure, or just to play with DJs whose music I liked.

I don't know why as a music fan I initially felt emotion on the part of unpaid backing players. But, emotion is never the best fuel on which to base a position. Good stuff all 'round.

David Meerman Scott

Justin - thanks for re-thinking this. Many people have a position and don't budge. Good for you to be open minded.

Tom Borgman

David, I was doing some work/research this morning and something led me to this discussion. I'm late to this forum but I just had to say a few things. First, I am not a musician but we have many musician friends. We are very active with very broad tastes - much of it enabled beyond anything we could have foreseen 20 yrs ago, by this devil technology being discussed here! We've had more than a few beers over this topic after shows so I just found this all very enlightening and RIGHT ON. Second, it's just great to read a discussion that's like a salve against all the typical flamer/disrespectful/assumptive forums we're all subjected to all over the web. This is one of the good-uns! Third, I've been a writer/marketer all my life and so all of your thoughts - especially those comparing your business with the music business - really connected a bunch of nagging random thoughts in my own head. I now go forth with a bonus benefit of having a clearer focus in my own business efforts. Cheers!

David Meerman Scott

Hey Tom. Many thanks. This was one of most popular blog posts. People really enjoyed digging into the issues. Amanda's album debuted at #10 on the Billboard charts!

Free Music

Hi Dude, it's a real helpful post and also informative. I really enjoy comments also. Thanks

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