So much has been written about Amanda Palmer that I'm nearly sick of reading posts about her. She's ruining the music industry. She's saving it. She's the only legitimate unsigned musician still making money. She's the the greatest unsigned, underpaid musician that hasn't been able to land a major record label deal.
In a recent interview with TED, she said that her method of music business was the future of music business- not buying albums, but asking for donations instead.
This may be true for her. I mean, anyone that can raise over 1.1 million dollars this way for an album has proved conclusively that it works. And Amanda is easily the greatest musician on the market at using this method. She holds the record for the most money ever raised in this way.
But Amanda's way is not the only way.
We all desperately want a universal fix- one idea that "saves" an industry. But life is far more messy than that. There's never going to be just one way of solving a problem. There are going to be dozens of paths, hundreds of subcultures, and thousands of little areas that can help a musician be successful. Some of them may pay a fixed amount, others may be for free or for tips.
For instance, I make large chunks of change for occasionally playing solo piano at galas, dinner parties, and other similiar events. Asking for tips would not only be offensive to the guests, but would frustrate the people that hire me to play. They expect to have to pay up front, usually a high amount, for great piano music. If I don't deliver that experience, they'll be dissapointed or suspicious. Ironically, part of the allure of hiring me to play piano is the price tag itself- it helps the buyers feel assured that they're getting the very best, simply because of the money they're spending.
What I'm getting at is you need to understand your fans. If they want to buy something, let them buy it. If they want to give something, give them good reasons to give. But whatever you do, don't blindly pick a method and stick with it. You're communicating who you are by the way you let people support you.
P.S. Check out the below video to see Amanda's great talk at the TED conference.