“I think we’ve been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘How do we let people pay for music?'”
So asks performance artist and musician Amanda Palmer in her TED Talk (video above). I was reminded of her presentation while reading the “Courting Supporters for Independent Media” chapter of Spreadable Media. Palmer’s practice of “giving away” her music pays homage to her background as a street performer, where she depended on her audiences paying for her performances voluntarily. Though today she allows her fans to access her music for free, Palmer finds that her band survives on the generosity of its fan base through donations of money or in-kind services, and that her public is grateful for the opportunity to give something back.
It’s counterintuitive to assume that people will pay for things when they don’t have to. And perhaps the less personally-connected one feels to an enterprise, the less likely one is to pay (ask me how to get around the New York Times’ paywall, for example). But when the content is independently produced by artist or artisan, its consumers seem likely to open their wallets to express their gratitude for what was freely given.
At a time when publics feel as alienated from big corporations as ever, the spreadability and connectivity that the internet allows create opportunities for a new kind of economy, one based on mutual respect, gratitude and trust.