When I interviewed Charles Eisenstein, author of the book “Sacred Economics,” for the Interviews with the Leading Edge series, one of the things Charles discussed is what he calls the gift economy.
A gift economy is one in which people act in a way without profit motive as their primary reason for doing something. Instead, they perform their service or sell their wares, and let others decide a dollar value for that service.
Radiohead used this model when they released their 2007 album “In Rainbows” on their website. They allowed people to download it and pay what they wanted for it.
A gift economy is predicated on an open systems approach to the world. It is this approach that holds the key to the future, for if this approach proliferates – and mark my words, just as you can’t hold back a tidal wave, this approach will proliferate – then we will see a more enlightened world upon us.
One musician who is living by this credo, and articulates her vision quite well, is the musician Amanda Palmer, or as she is more fully known, Amanda Fucking Palmer. You can see her clearly speak her vision in the video above, which was a recent TED talk she gave.
Amanda Palmer is an alt-rock icon, and a champion of open culture and believer in making good work freely available, trusting that those who find value in it will support it accordingly. She believes that in the digital age, all music should be free, and that we shouldn’t fight the fact that digital content is freely shareable — and suggests that artists can and should be directly supported by fans.
Disillusioned with the questionable success standards of the music industry, she recently left her record label and set out to self-release her next album. She made international headlines this year when she raised nearly $1.2 million via Kickstarter (she’d asked for $100k) from nearly 25,000 fans who pre-ordered her new album, Theater is Evil.
Here are some quotes by Amanda Fucking Palmer from the TED talk:
I maintain couchsurfing and crowdsurfing are basically the same thing — you’re falling into the audience and you’re trusting each other.
For most of human history, musicians, artists, they’ve been part of the community — connectors and openers, not untouchable stars.
A lot of people are confused by the idea of no hard sticker price [on my music]. They see it as an unpredictable risk, but … I see it as trust.
I think people have 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?’