Palmer recruited the musicians through her website via a post that declared, “Wanted: horn-y and string-y volunteers for the Grand Theft Orchestra.” Although her new album, Theatre Is Evil, and the tour that began earlier this month were funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised $1.2 million, Palmer didn’t initially plan on compensating the local musicians in typical currency.
Before the tour started Palmer told Pollstar, “So every night we’re going to have this circus of local musicians. We’re emailing all of the charts and they’re only going to have an hour to rehearse. Then that’s it. We’re going to throw them onstage with us and we’re going to mic them up.”
According to her website, this is what the payment plan looked like: “We will feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make.”
And while some fans defended Palmer and local musicians were happy to sign up for the gig, other musicians and people in the industry criticized the beer/high-five plan as exploitative.
Palmer, who said most of the Kickstarter money went towards the recording as well as promotion and touring, told the New York Times she couldn’t afford to pay the guest musicians. She estimated that paying a “string quartet and three or four sax and brass players” would cost around $35,000 for the tour.
Now Palmer has figured out a way to come up with the money.
“Me and my band have discussed it at length,” Palmer wrote in the Sept. 19 post. “And we have decided we should pay all of our guest musicians. We have the power to do it, and we’re going to do it. (In fact, we started doing it three shows ago.)
“My management team tweaked and reconfigured financials, pulling money from this and that other budget (mostly video) and moving it to the tour budget. All of the money we took out of those budgets is going to the crowd-sourced musicians fund. We are going to pay the volunteer musicians every night. Even though they volunteered their time for beer, hugs, merch, free tickets, and love: we’ll now also hand them cash.”
Palmer noted that after the controversy first began, an email was sent to the volunteers, saying it was understandable if the drama was “weirding them out” and giving them an opportunity to pull out of the tour. Not a single musician chose to drop out.
“We’re also retroactively sending a payment to the folks who’ve already played with us,” Palmer added. “SURPRISE!”
Palmer said that she still needs local musicians in a few cities and will soon “put the call out for Australia and New Zealand.”
For more information and to read Palmer’s complete post, click here.