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Unions upset with Amanda Palmer for paying musicians with beer, hugs

Internet darling Amanda Palmer is in a bit of hot Internet water over a plea she’s made to musical fans who play strings, saxophone, and brass. In a post on her site, she asks for skilled musicians to show up at each of her shows and play along with her. The catch: They won’t get paid. Instead of cash, Palmer promises performers merchandise, gratitude, beer, high-fives, and hugs.

While Palmer says this is meant to be a celebration of friendship and love, that’s not really how some musicians’ unions see it. They argue it’s just a way for Palmer to get out of paying the $35,000 she would normally have to fork over if she actually hired players for her tour dates. Some of those upset musicians have been posting angry, sarcastic comments on Palmer’s website, like, “I’m having a house concert at my place. You should bring your tour to my house and play for free. It’ll be great exposure for you.” And at least one musicians’ union, Seattle’s Local 76-493, has taken to Twitter to denounce Palmer’s actions.


Raymond M. Hair Jr., president of the American Federation of Musicians, told The New York Times that, as he sees it, “if there’s a need for the musician to be on the stage, then there ought to be compensation for it,” going on to note that “playing is work and there’s a value associated with it, and that value ought to be respected.”

In her defense, Palmer told the Times that all the performers are “incredibly happy to be there” and “fundamentally believe it’s worth their time and energy to show up at this gig.” “If my fans are happy and my audience is happy and the musicians on stage are happy, where’s the problem?” she asks.

Palmer’s latest record, Theatre Is Evil, was released Tuesday, following a Kickstarter campaign in which the singer raised an enormous $1.2 million. Palmer says this mostly went toward recording expenses, promotion, and touring. (And not hiring musicians, obviously.)

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