“Toward a Patronage Society” – Amanda Palmer Has Done It Again!

by Jason on July 12, 2010 · 5 comments

in Business, Pay-What-You-Want, Thoughts

Amanda Palmer at Work

Amanda Palmer at Work

Over the past year one of the people I have come to “know” and greatly appreciate is Amanda Palmer. I used quotes there because I only know Amanda in the internet sense, as I read her blog and follow her Tweets. I’ve written about her once before and I’m constantly amazed at the way she approaches her career, her fans and her place in the music industry.

Today Amanda has written another great post featuring a seven minute video of a talk she gave in Boston titled “Toward a Patronage Society”. In it she draws comparisons between the concept of patronage in her former life as a living statue and in our future as artists. You should really watch the whole video, but here is the key point:

“I think it’s important that we see this trend [toward patronage] not really as a gimmick but as the way into the future. And there’s an accountability there on the audience’s part to shamelessly and joyfully give artists money. And the artist has to be accountable and shamelessly put out their hat. Because if they don’t, and this whole exchange seems very seedy and very guilty, it won’t move forward. Because artists feel very, very guilty about asking for money, like it’s this dirty, dirty thing…But now with content being free…there has to be a shift in the way the artists approach this and the fans and the audience approach it, and they both kind of have to step up to the plate. So, with everyone kind of screaming that the music business is collapsing, and oh my god everybody is torrenting and this is terrible for business, I think that we should be celebrating the fact that while music is free and content is free, we also have the technology for artists to stand up on their boxes, on their virtual street corner in their place in the internet and do that. And you, as the audience, if you’re moved by what an artist does, if you’re moved by a song that I put out for free, you can put in a dollar. And you can know that you’ve had a very real exchange with me, with no middlemen and no label and no promoter, it’s just you and me. It’s that moment, that connection. And then when you walk away you know that you’ve also made it possible for that artist to stay there so that the next person walking down the street can have their own encounter.”

This is thought of as a radical idea by some, even though it’s not a new concept. Artists have had patrons since people started making art. What is new is how the internet has made it much easier to reach out to our fans, supporters and even potential supporters to seek financial assistance for what we do. There are entire businesses now designed to help artists reach patrons.

If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I have used the “micropatronage” model to help finance my most recent CD and my most recent tour. It’s been a huge success for me and extremely humbling and gratifying to know that there are people out there who will gladly give some of their hard-earned money to help me continue to make a living as a musician. It is important to them that there be artists in the world, and that I’m one of them. And I’m not the only one. Not just Amanda, but many of my friends have used micropatronage very effectively, including The Teaching, Michael Owcharuk and Sunna Gunnlaugs.

While I’m sure it’s not the only way, it is my hope that Amanda is right that patronage truly is a way forward. The world needs artists to help us see what it means to be human, how we are all connected, and how we can best deal with life with all it’s joy and pain and wonder. And artists need society to value what we contribute.

More importantly, we need you to value what we contribute. It starts with you. One person at at time. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be financial support, although that is the most immediate way to help. You can give your emotional support, or volunteer your time to man a merch table or edit a newsletter. Whatever you can do help an artist continue to practice his or her art is vitally important.

So do me a favor and show your support to one of your favorite artists today. Buy a CD or a photograph or a painting or a ticket to a dance performance. Ask how you can help with your time. Or just give an artist a hug and tell her you appreciate what she does! By doing so you’ll be helping us move forward and continue to bring our humanity to the world. And your own humanity will be reflected right back at you.

That’s what it’s all about!

You can view the video that inspired this post here: “Toward a Patronage Society”.

If you’d like to help Amanda continue to make music, visit her store.

If you’d like to help me continue to make music, visit my store.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott McLemore July 12, 2010 at 5:18 pm

I totally agree. It’s both scary and exciting to see what the future holds. Regardless, as an independent musician, anything will be an improvement over the multinational-conglomerate dominated industry we seem to be shedding. So far, everything I’ve experienced in that direction seems to be saying people prefer dealing directly with the artist and having that exchange.

Keep up the great work, Jason.

Camden Hughes | Learn Jazz Standards July 12, 2010 at 11:38 pm

It’s true, patronage has been an important part of the life of the musician for centuries! I found an interesting article detailing how Haydn “made it” as a “working musician.” He was supported by various aristrocrats, particularly at Esterhaza, with the Esterhazy family.


Haydn was a pretty cool cat. I bet we could learn something from him!

Josh Rawlings July 13, 2010 at 4:43 am

Beautiful stuff Jason and thanks for the link to our band The Teaching in the article. I think one thing The Teaching has found from all of this is by simply putting the “ask” out into the world it’s often met with a “ye shall receive” sort of response – ya know? I know that may sounds a little new-agey-hippy-mumbo-jumbo to some, but I really do think it works. It’s much different than begging or even needing to feel guilty on any level because what are you really doing? – you’re just asking for what you need – it’s not like we’re forcing anyone or better yet – even attached to whether someone does or not – we’re simply letting people know we’re available for their support – what a beautiful thing to inform people (they may have never considered it until you asked). Hence, why I feel, whether the ‘Patronage Models’ really take hold in the new millennium, it’s at least letting us practice asking for what we need and creating those direct connections with people. Many of us are well aware there have been very kind patrons throughout history for many different artists. So what makes your music teacher in elementary school, your uncle Carl who gave you your first guitar or even a coffee barista who gives you a free cup of joe everyone now again any less of a patron that actually gives you chips for your art? We’re simply all connected and the more we communicate and fly our flag the more connections I know we can all make. He’s to ‘World Patronage’ – or as Herbie Hancock puts it in the movie Icons among us “What is our purpose in life? It’s to serve humanity!”

Barbara Saunders July 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm

It’s fascinating how we “modern” folks have been schooled to trust untrustworthy institutions more than we trust one another. Patronage, income/land/job/property-sharing among families, and so on may require that we give up some of our ideas about what it means to be self-sufficient. As it stands, the “self-sufficiency” that requires large corporations to act in good faith has proved to be an illusion.

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