While reading this New York Times article about Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter campaign, this sentence, spoken by former music executive Greg Scholl, made me so fucking crazy. The underlying romantic and snobby sentiment here is that Cobain was a “real” artist who wouldn’t have subjected himself to such humiliations.1
Well, actually, I’d argue that, aside from his substance abuse and mental and physical health issues, Cobain’s true humiliation was his rapid, inhuman fame — made possible only by the machinery of the record industry. (This isn’t to say that Cobain didn’t want to be a rock star. I think in a way he did, but didn’t know how to handle getting his wish.) It was a big part of what killed him. In his suicide note, he expressed how much he felt detached from rock and roll, from the fans, from the “punk rock 101…independence and the embracement of your community.” The thing had gotten too big, too fast. He quotes Neil Young’s “better to burn out than to fade away” line at the end of his note.
I wonder what if the fates had aligned to let him “burn slow” instead.
When asked how it felt to be handed a million dollars by her fans, this was Palmer’s response:
I have over $1 million of capital to manufacture a record that nobody’s heard. To me, that makes that entire pile of money look like a mountain of faith that my fans have in me, because they’re already on board with my music, my philosophy, my career. They’re on Team Amanda. That’s the kind of thing that a new artist can never do.
As Yancey Strickler says, it’s not about fame:
Fame is a lot of people caring about you a little. What Amanda has is something different. It’s a few people caring about her a lot.
What I see in Amanda Palmer’s model is a very human, a very healthy, a very slow and steady rise. A kind of antithesis to Nirvana’s rapid stardom. Who knows if it’s sustainable (when asked, Palmer admitted, “I haven’t made any music all month. I’ve been working on my Kickstarter.”), but it’s not an anomaly, it’s nothing to sneer at, and it’s definitely something worth stealing from.