• 03.01.13

Amanda Palmer’s TED Tease

The controversial Kickstarter-funded musician is huge at TED, but should her talk have more directly and thoroughly addressed the controversy surrounding her world tour?

Amanda Palmer’s TED Tease

With a successful talk, two stage performances, and an impromptu late night jam session, musician Amanda Palmer has been a hit at this year’s TED conference. In her Talk, posted online today, Palmer detailed what led her to Kickstarter greatness (reaping her nearly $1.2 million).


But while the official description of her talk mentions the “bump” in her world tour plans after she offered to pay local backup musicians in “hugs, merch and beer,” leading some in attendance to believe she would face the controversy head on, her presentation barely mentions the kerfuffle. “I got a lot of criticism online after my Kickstarter got big particularly for continuing my crazy vision and asking my fans who are musicians to join us on stage in exchange for love, and tickets, and beer,” Palmer said.

That may be glossing over the vitriol her proposal attracted. Musician Amy Vaillancourt-Sals wrote in her blog:

“The naive ones will say “Sign me up!” I most certainly had that as my first response. But in looking at the whole picture, this time you’re coming across as the 1% looking to exploit us. I’m guessing this is not the impression you were going for. If this is the case, please respect the musicians who are giving you their time and specialized skills. We would love to play for you! Please do the right thing, Amanda. This all seems so contrary to your vision.”

Palmer explained the situation more fully in a blog post, which said:

“i’m sad to realize that our creative intentions of crowd-sourcing – something that i’ve done for years, and which has always been an in-house collaboration between the musicians and the fans, never a matter of public debate or attack – are getting lost in the noise of this editor tweeted me last night to PAY MY BAND. good lord.”

In the end, she decided to pay her backup band-mates in cash, not that this was mentioned at TED.

While on stage at TED, Palmer also showed a doctored image from Gawker and said, “this hurt me in a familiar way,” and that it “really reminded me of people who yelled at me, ‘get a job!'”


Quickly, the talk transitioned again to her themes of trusting strangers, telling about how in Germany she stood naked, letting fans draw on her. And about how the music industry has to stop thinking about making people pay for music, but instead letting them pay for it.

It’s debatable to what extent she ought to have addressed the controversy in her talk. Palmer’s underlying message about closing the artificial barriers separating celebrities from their fans is an important one for the TED audience, which includes actress Meg Ryan, producer Brian Grazer, and several other people who can influence the future of Hollywood’s business. Should Palmer be expected to use such a large stage for her musical mea culpa? And is that the best thing for the world of crowd-sourced music overall?

[Image by TED Conference on Flickr.]