Amanda Palmer, the worst poet in all of human history, has, for maybe the first time in her life, written something correct. In an open letter to ex-frontman Morrissey, published on Salon, she suggests that he should "crowdfund" his next album:
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.
Amanda Palmer is absolutely right that Morrissey should do this.Obviously, she's completely incapable of writing out even this single correct idea without drowning it in narcissism—
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. [...] I couldn’t stomach the idea of Morrissey meeting me and not liking me[...]
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.
—but the point still stands: Morrissey is "one of the best candidates on the planet to use crowdfunding, because of who [he is] and what [he] mean[s]."
That's why it also makes sense only for Morrissey (and Amanda Palmer) to "crowdfund." Palmer's managed to convince people, herself chief among them, that she's unlocked the secret to music as a business, and her new record label-free ask-people-for-money system is a radical new structure for the recording industry—"the Future of Music," she claimed on her last Kickstarter. As she asks Morrissey in her letter, "What does one need a record label for nowadays?"
Well. Funny you should ask, Amanda! Record labels are generally horrible, but there's one thing they're very good at: spending money on promotion and publicity. It's nice to think that "your fans will basically do the work of spreading the existence of your project for you," but you need those fans first. And you can get them by, say, spending years benefitting from the promotional capabilities of Warner Music Group subsidy Roadrunner, as Palmer did. Or by working with the various Warner, Sony and Universal subsidies that Morrissey and his bands have.
(No wonder Palmer sounds like a grifter wising another grifter to a location full of easy marks when she's trying to sell Morrissey on her plan: "They want to help. Help me, and help you. [... Y]our fans will basically do the work [...] for you.")
So, yes, definitely: Morrissey should "crowdfund" his next album. So should any artist for whom the benefits of the label system are in the past. Busking is a time-honored musical tradition, and if you've got the means to make it work for you, godspeed. Just don't call it the "future of music."
[Salon, image via AP]