Amanda Palmer is one of the artists to have suffered from record company equations (see my previous post on sound recording copyright). In her famous TED talk she spoke of her previous record company ‘walking off’ because her album only sold 25,000 copies, a figure that was inadequate to cover its costs. She went on to prove that you don’t need to have a vast audience in order to be profitable. A later project was financed by the donations of fans: they were requested to provide funds for a recording and in return they would get a copy of the album when it was complete. Palmer managed to raise $1,192,793 using this method, constituting ‘the biggest music crowd-funding project to date’. The money came from just 24,883 fans, roughly the same number that had led to her being dropped.
Palmer learnt from the record industry: she profited from failure. This is not only because she managed to raise over $1m. If we return to sound recording copyright laws, you will remember that ownership is given to those who paid for the recording. In Palmer’s case this should mean that her 24,883 fans don’t just own physical or digital copies of her album, they should have a share of its sound recording copyright too. That’s not the case, however. It belongs to 8ft Records, a company that Amanda Palmer owns. Is she beating the record companies at their own game, or has she been beaten by that game? It’s certainly the case that as well as promoting a new business model she has perpetuated an old one. The walls come tumbling up.