Volunteering Your Way to Musical Fame


In a move that drew both sharp criticism and supportive praise, Amanda Palmer put out a call for amateur musicians to volunteer to play with her band on their upcoming tour. In exchange for volunteering to perform with her Grand Theft Orchestra Tour, Amanda Palmer is offering the volunteers beer, hugs, high-fives, merchandise, and a mighty “thank you.”

Essentially, she’s opening up opportunities for aspiring musicians in a way that is reflective of today’s culture of collaboration, not only between musicians and their audiences, but between professional and amateur musicians of all stripes.

This is also providing a new path for unknown musicians to jumpstart their careers. The chance to perform with a band on tour would be a great way for amateur musicians to gain experience, exposure, and expand their contacts within the music industry. These types of networking opportunities may become increasingly important to young musicians in the years ahead, as Zwaan and ter Bogt (2009, p. 90) note:

the usual means of career entry for musicians is ‘breaking into’ their chose line of work. Instead of clearly defined requirements or formal selection procedures, musicians must gain the interest of record industry executives.

Palmer was criticized by some, however, who argued for “the need for all musicians to get paid.” One angry musician even admonished her for coming across as “the 1% looking to exploit us.”

I agree with the writer of the article, though, that ultimately: “it’s up to individual musicians to decide if performing with Amanda Palmer’s crew for free is worth doing.” I don’t think it is unfair or exploitation of the volunteer musicians; they do receive a form of compensation in return for playing: the opportunity to be on the stage, without having ‘built’ their own band and gone through the painstaking effort required to put on a music tour. Moreover, the volunteer musicians, like all volunteers, have more freedom to do as they please and are not bound by contractual obligations.

Musicians who volunteer to play may gain more from the experience than financial compensation. They could get what they have probably always dreamed about: the chance to perform live music on stage in front of an audience of screaming fans.

Muge Fazlioglu

The article can be found at: http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2012/09/amanda-palmer-requests-volunteer-musicians-chaotic-discourse-ensues.html.

One Response to “Volunteering Your Way to Musical Fame”

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