YEAR IN MUSIC 2012: Bottom line - Page 2

The majors, streaming sites, and independent artists dance to the tune of economic decline

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Amanda Palmer and independent arists of her ilk battled it out to set their own terms in 2012
PHOTO BY SHERVIN LAINEZ

Visit the homepage of Bandcamp, and you'll be greeted by a testimonial from singer Amanda Palmer: "I've always tried to be as directly connected with fans as possible, but until you guys came along the infrastructure was much more difficult. Bandcamp brings the whole picture together into a lovely package that not only works, but works WELL. Me and my team made more in one night than I've seen to date from my 2008 (major-label) album." Having found success marketing her album on Bandcamp, Palmer in April attempted to raise some money in advance for her next project via the crowd-sourced funding platform Kickstarter.

Well, attempted is not the right word. Palmer maintains a close relationship with her fans via Twitter and blogs, and they in turn give her a sort of fervent reverence. On a goal of $100,000, the Kickstarter project raised $1.2 million, and Palmer immediately became a model for DIY financing: not only could a person sell an album online, they could produce it as well.

But with the added attention came close scrutiny: Palmer's habit of having "volunteers" along side her paid band onstage for tour dates irked some outside observers, who felt that with all that money she could afford to pay musician's wage. Initially, Palmer resisted, saying "If my fans are happy and my audience is happy and the musicians on stage are happy, where's the problem?" before announcing that, in addition to beer and high-fives, the musicians who assisted her on tour would all receive checks after all. Supporting a Kickstarter often borders on philanthropy, and as a consequence, there's an interest in making sure the money is well spent.

"A FULL-BLOWN MOTHERFUCKIN' BATTLE between the old school (people must pay for digital content or musicians will starve and die!!!!) and the new school (digital content cannot be locked, the floodgates are open, let's figure out a new creative solution!!!)"

That's how Palmer described NPR intern Emily White's critical "kerfuffle", when the two met in September (while Palmer was still the subject of numerous blog posts and the recipient of emails addressed "dear amanda, you ignorant slut..."). But she could have been describing her own situation. Or any musician's for that matter. Because that battle is going to go on until the record industry goes back to being a music industry, and if there's been increased openness in the last year from both artists and conglomerates, it's because they're no longer alone in setting the terms.

 

RYAN PRENDIVILLE'S TOP TEN ANNOYING OR UNNECESSARY SUB-GENRES

10. Mashup — No. 9. Glitch — I'll wait for post-Glitch. 8. Electro Swing — No bonus points for sampling from the public domain. 7. Blog House — Clearly all music originates from blogs at this point, so this is just unnecessary. 6. Future [whatever] — The future is not now. 5. Grimes — I liked "Oblivion" as much as the next person, but I really don't think she deserves a genre unto herself. 4. EDM — No one listens to Acoustic Relaxing Music, this is just lazy. 3. PBR&B — If something is good, don't put it in a little ghetto genre just to be clever. Call it R&B and let it redefine what that means. 2. Brostep — The popularization of this term hopefully means that the backlash is well on the way. 1. Trap — Having a conversation about Trap in 2012 is like having a conversation about Dubstep in 2007: with a lengthy, laborious explanation. Can't wait to see what 2017 has in store.