Female artist's belly too fat for record label

by Laura // 26 November 2008, 20:16


Incredibly cool and beautiful singer Amanda Palmer (of Dresden Dolls fame) has been forced to search for a new record label after Roadrunner refused to promote her latest single, video and album. Why? Because she refused to let them remove shots of her "fat" belly from the video for Leeds United (see above), and is therefore "uncommercial". This comes from a metal label where, I have it on good authority, "you can count the number of women on the fingers of one hand and most of the people on the label are decidedly chunky hairy dudes". Amanda's fans are quite rightly outraged by this shoddy, sexist behaviour and have begun a Rebellyon, posting pictures of their own bellies on fan forum Shadowbox and sending them to Roadrunner in protest:


This issue is not just about Amanda Palmer's belly. This issue is about all the bellies of the world: big, small, hairy, stretch-marked, scarred, pregnant; every single belly. The aim is to reclaim the belly, to promote a healthy body image for everyone (not just females) and to protest against the "barbie dolling" of artists by record companies and the media.

Hell yes. If you fancy adding your belly to the growing collection, email Jordan at doritojoe89 [at] gmail [dot] com. I know I'm more than happy to support a woman who appreciates the value of southern comfort.


Speaking of which, Jezebel have a mighty fine post full of their top 10 Pop Songs About Female Masturbation...

Comments From You

Anna // Posted 26 November 2008 at 22:06

not amanda palmer! I am absolutely livid, the woman is one of my heroes.

tom hulley // Posted 27 November 2008 at 08:31

Great performance. I did not notice a belly even though looking out for it.
Meanwhile some people with enormous bellies (and no redeeming merits!) continue to win approval: (pic)
http://www.takepart.com/2008/05/03/johnny-vegas-and-that-sexual-assault-bit/
Once again, while women cannot move a jot from imposed standards men are applauded for being slobs.

Lindsey // Posted 27 November 2008 at 13:14

belly love video:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=WH61TNZ1a4A

jules // Posted 27 November 2008 at 14:03

Thankyou for covering this. :)

Amanda Palmer is my hero.

R. // Posted 27 November 2008 at 15:58

You should check out the video for her song "Oasis," which is dedicated to Sarah Palin...

Jordan Smith // Posted 27 November 2008 at 16:46

Thank you SO MUCH for bringing attention to this issue!! Blogs like this are important to us, and i'm glad to know we have your support!

-Jordan

Laura // Posted 27 November 2008 at 17:35

No probs, Jordan :-) You may want to rethink the google ads on the Rebellyon site, though, as they all advertise ways to lose belly fat!

Aideen // Posted 27 November 2008 at 17:59

Amanda Palmer is also one of my heroes.

Yey rebellyon!

Nicola // Posted 28 November 2008 at 14:52

Since when has Amanda Palmer ever been commercial? This is a woman famous for her hairy armpits and painted on eyebrows.

Rebellyon is an amazing idea :)

Heather // Posted 28 November 2008 at 22:11

What is offensive about that beautiful, supple female belly?

Oh, right... a HEALTHY female having a great time on stage... SHOCKING!

Amazing video and Amanda is gorgeous!

Sinistra // Posted 01 December 2008 at 03:44

Uh. Amanda Palmer is one of the sexiest women on this planet. No joke.

How very dare they.

Valsadie // Posted 01 December 2008 at 04:26

First of all, anyone looking at the video -- and presumably listening to the song -- and can only think to look at Amanda's rarely-exposed belly needs a good shaking!

I think, all told, Amanda's belly is visible, although mostly obscured, for about 10 seconds cumulative. And is at most 5% of the total frame at the closest camera angle. Even being "told" to focus on it I could barely see it. Certainly the last thing I would think is that it's somehow "too fat" to be on display--if you can even call that being on display!

What a ridiculous assessment!

Kevin // Posted 01 December 2008 at 04:29

wow....just wow.

Priscellie // Posted 01 December 2008 at 04:32

I scoured the entire video, looking intently for "uncommercial" shots of belly, and I just don't get it. Amanda looks great. I'm mystified as to what they could be objecting to.

James Mobius // Posted 01 December 2008 at 06:46

are they kidding? for one thing, blink and you'll miss it, the editing is so fast you can't really get a good look but it doesn't seem to me like she's overweight by any reasonable measure, I'm sure this incident will inspire a song and amusing video from her. also they really made a mistake her fans are loyal, vocal and politically active, they will be regretting this absurd sexist decision.

simon // Posted 01 December 2008 at 07:24

How the hell is that belly supposed to be fat?

I'm a 6ft tall stick-skinny guy, and even my belly is pudgier than that!

What planet do those morons at Roadrunner come from?

Nate // Posted 01 December 2008 at 08:10

Just as soon as I see a big belly on that vid I'll let you know. I love my darling fiance with her stretch marks and all. I'm proud of the fact that she has a beautiful daughter from it too!

PixelRobot // Posted 01 December 2008 at 11:01

The record industry is stupid and deserves to die. Thank your favourite deity for P2P software.

Chang // Posted 01 December 2008 at 14:17

After careful examination of the video, I see no fat belly here.

All I see is talent. Great track, great singer, great video!

nolandda // Posted 01 December 2008 at 17:37

Excellent post.

Just wanted to bring a typo to your attention:

"Amanda’s fans are quiet rightly outraged..."

Should be

"Amanda’s fans are quite rightly outraged..."

Laura // Posted 01 December 2008 at 17:44

Eek, thanks for that, nolandda.

Anne Onne // Posted 01 December 2008 at 18:06

First of all, an agreement that In addition to Palmer being a talented, kickass singer, she's certainly on the slim side of average, weight wise, and the video editing certainly didn't focus on her stomach, nor did the lighting emphasise roundness (it's all in the lighting, folks!). There's no way on Earth someone can reasonably suggest she's got a plump stomach. Kudos to her for sticking up for herself and refusing to be told that even her slim frame is too fat to be on TV unless they airbrush her out of existence.

Secondly, and more importantly, why the hell should an artist's stomach matter in the end? They're paid to SING, and a singer's weight in no way affects the quality of their voice. When I think of singers like Beth Ditto, Missy Eliot, Aretha Franklin or Shirley Bassey I certainly don't think you can say they're less talented as singers because they're not unusually skinny. Weight (or the mere appearance of looking a little 'fat') shoudn't be a reason to drop an artist, nor should they be required to hide themselves away.

And I dunno about anyone else, but the video isn't very important to me in deciding on whether I like a song and want to listen to it again/buy it. Sure, if the video is atrociously misogynistic, I'd give the song a miss, but on the whole the video is not important, and I think that as a whole we focus too much on the video of a song and not enough on the lyrics. Most of the people I know didn't even listen to the lryics or think about the meanings until I pointed out how creepy they are. Now they thank me for ruining popular music for them. :)

Apple // Posted 01 December 2008 at 20:30

Hmm, music business in 'assholes' shocker...

MB // Posted 01 December 2008 at 21:00

If someone hadn't mentioned her stomach I wouldn't have even noticed that you could see it.

This obsession is unhealthy.

Faye // Posted 01 December 2008 at 21:23

Uh...she told them to "Fuck off".

As far as I know there's been no break to date with Roadrunner. I'm subscribed to her blog and email list and really, there hasn't been any sign of one.

As much as I think she really, really needs to get off Roadrunner - they treat her like crap - Amanda hasn't said anything about that.

jonelin // Posted 01 December 2008 at 21:52

if that's a fat belly, what does that make me? my god. i will do one better then sending in a photo of my belly. i will make sure i don't spend any of my money on roadrunner products in the future!

jane // Posted 01 December 2008 at 23:21

eek. what a voice. a step away from ashley simpson at the end of the superbowl. i can actually understand why a record label would say no to that. the video is glitzy but it sounds like my 68 year old great aunt with smoker's cough. it's like she's half-yelling the lyrics, which in some cases is ok, but here is just bad pop. (and i'm talking POP too, not even real genre of music).

....oh yeah, but the belly fat thing, that's totally sexist. go feminism.

Angry Andy // Posted 02 December 2008 at 00:02

This is a big dissapointment. Considering Roadrunner used to be one of the big names in the indie metal scene in the early 80s, it's quite shameful that they should take this stance now.
This is not what heavy metal was once about. It was a woking class form of music and, with the exception of the dodgey US hair-metal scene, didn't care who or what you were (Rob Halford homophobes asside). Now image is everything. Shallow....VERY shallow.

Here's the funny thing. I bet 99.9% of the male HMers out there aren't exactly the bronzed adonis type. Why then should all of the women be judged otherwise?
I'm no feminist...but I am a humanist. And this sort of behaviour isn't fair.

Netvalar // Posted 02 December 2008 at 00:45

So let me get this straight it is o.k. for us oh so un kept males to parade around half undressed and still make a great video. But if a female artist doesn't have the impossible body measurements of a Barbie doll for their height then the whole thing is garbage.

When did the looks of an artist state how great or poorly the music was? For that matter when did the looks of those in a video dictate how great, creative, and or inspiring the video for a song was?

I suppose when MTV 1st tuned in that 1st music video this is the direction those now prehistoric record labels were heading. And people wonder why the music industry is heading into an evolutionary cycle.

kellie // Posted 02 December 2008 at 03:51

if she is fat then i might as well die right now cause i must the the beach whale on the beach. ok you might be able to call me overweight and get away with it but this is silly she is not even a little bit fat. they should put their record label where the sun don't shine.

Raiven // Posted 02 December 2008 at 10:07

You can tell they've tried to hide her "belly" before even getting to the editting stage though; they've shone a bright white light at her from shoulders downwards to reflect off the white shirt so you can't really see her stomach in those shots!

I agree though that she doesn't have a "belly" but bear in mind that Roadrunner are possibly the most commercial of all 'metal' labels out there and are quite reknowed for going down the whole "sell-out" route.

Laura // Posted 02 December 2008 at 13:30

Faye,

I received an email from a friend of the woman who directed Amanda's video which stated that Amanda "needs a new label", which is what I wrote here, not that she has officially made a break with Roadrunner. However, I've contacted Amanda's manager and she will give us a statement clarifying Amanda's relationship with the label asap.

Saranga // Posted 02 December 2008 at 13:39

Jonelin said:
"I will make sure i don't spend any of my money on roadrunner products in the future!"
Great sentiment but unfortunately that may not help the artists in question...
Sending angry yet articulate letters to Roadrunner and talking about this on sites such as this may be a better way to protest.

Alex de Campi // Posted 02 December 2008 at 14:30

Raiven: "You can tell they've tried to hide her "belly" before even getting to the editting stage though"

I'm sorry, but that is completely untrue. She is lit with a traditional follow spot and backlight as any 1940s/1950s artist would be lit for a Broadway or stage performance show.

We never even thought of Amanda's belly during the filming - we thought she looked great - and Amanda, myself (the video's director), and our editor worked together on the edit. Only after we finished did the label (after originally saying they loved the video) begin to demand we cut shots.

The video you see is the original one cut and approved by Amanda, Editor Paul, and myself. It has not been interfered with in any way by the label nor have we attempted to hide anything about her appearance in any way. We were cutting for story and flow.

J_0 // Posted 02 December 2008 at 15:27

Thanks for helping to bring this (and that particular definition of southern comfort) to my attention. I'm off to go grab a marker pen and join the ReBellyon right now!

cortney // Posted 02 December 2008 at 18:30

Hey all,

Don't know if anyone bothered to oh, you know, fact check this, but as a music journalist I was intrigued when I saw it and contacted her label. Take the following with a grain of salt, but they told me that Amanda is still signed to the label, and they will be shooting three more videos for her album in order to release a DVD companion to the album. That sounds like promotion to me!

Bands can't just leave their label when the label pisses them off -- many of them have restrictive contracts and they'd have to buy their masters back in order to get out. It makes sense -- labels spend a lot of money upfront to pay for recording, touring, and video costs, and they need to turn a profit somehow.

So yeah, Roadrunner and Amanda probably disagreed over the video, which is pretty much par for the course. But ask yourself -- why would a label refuse to promote an album? They'd just be shooting themselves in the foot, because they'd lose money.

Not to harp on this blog, but it really, really bugs me when people just reprint shit without bothering to verify it. A few months back, Be Your Own Pet threw a huge fit about Universal "censoring" them because the label refused to release certain violent tracks. A lot of people just took the band at their word. When I talked to Universal, they told me that they declined to release the tracks, but also agreed to let the band out of their contract temporarily so they could find a new distributor -- a fact the band conveniently forgot to mention.

Fred Davis // Posted 02 December 2008 at 22:27

A lot of people just took the band at their word.

So the label did in fact refuse to release certain violent tracks, and so the band wasn't actually wrong... therefore because Palmer is locked in a restrictive contract that requires her to finish off the promotion for her music, all of the information which she has provided, that is in no way contradicted by anything you've said, must be wrong.

Huh.

Brett // Posted 03 December 2008 at 00:23

This just absolutely outrages me. It's this exact mentality that causes women to become anorexic and bulimic. Amanda is about as far from "fat" as a person can be. I've been looking around for some kind of email address to a higher-up Roadrunner staff member, but have yet to find one--so that I may give them a piece of my mind, personally. This kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated in this day and age, least of all by a metal label that really, honestly, has hardly any real talent signed on except for a few worthwhile musicians (Amanda, of course, being one--Slipknot being representative of the rest of the label's HORRIBLY bad taste). If she hasn't left yet, she really should. I refuse to give anymore of my money to Roadrunner Records, so I hope it was worth it for them!

daaltje // Posted 03 December 2008 at 05:21

I have a great belly picture I shot a few years ago. It's on my flickr page which I listed in the "my website" section.

I love the female form. Those slightly out of focus eyes are drawn right on the woman, looking like the eyes in Tibetan art, looking out of her belly.

Csy // Posted 03 December 2008 at 06:03

Psst - Amanda responded to this story over on MetaFilter: http://www.metafilter.com/77006/Whats-with-the-fucking-mimes#2360580

Uriah Zebadiah // Posted 03 December 2008 at 11:00

Call me a cynical manipulative bastard, but if I had an album and I wanted some serious free promotion, I would consider staging a fight with my record label. The contract is for x number of albums, by which time x years from now everyone has totally forgotten, and even most of the faces at the label are different, so when and if you renew you can brush it all under the carpet, 'just business'. Great viral meme. I almost certainly would never have seen the video without the meta-narrative of an asshole record label oppressing a normal female body tickling my injustice button. Would you? I mean, it's a great song with a great video, but how many music videos do you really watch in a given month?

I'm Not saying this is staged, just pointing out the incredibly net-positive effect this thing will have on the brand of Amanda Palmer.

I guess what I'm saying is that even assuming that some schlub at Roadrunner is so incredibly sexist and ignorant as to ask for the changes reported here, it seems somewhat unlikely that they would be so far beyond that, to be so short-sighted as to take a firm stand on the issue and deliver some sort of ultimatum, and that this ultimatum would be made by someone who actually had the authority to do so, which you would HAVE to assume would come back to bite you in the ass if you didn't have a good mechanism to profit by it. Obviously I'm projecting, but it seems like a lot to believe.

If I were CEO of Roadrunner and I knew for sure I had a lock on her contract, and it got back to me that Amanda is pissed over some sexist thing one of my producers has suggested, I'd apologize to her, get him to apologize, move him to some other project away from her (or use it as an opportunity to fire him if I didn't like him or it was politically necessary), encourage the story to spread all over the net as fast as possible, and then sit back and wait for when the fervor is getting really intense and the boycott is looming, before getting out there with Amanda, with her triumphant and the label rep contrite and making overtures to the community that forms around the story, play it down and isolate the action from the company, standard pr crap.

Then, what the hey, you attempt to work with Amanda to engage that community with some outreach, maybe a book deal for all the beautiful bellies, with the proceeds going to breast cancer or some such, and a concert tour of badass women rockstars, again with the proceeds going to charity, and the whole episode becomes part of her little narrative of fame, her cult of personality, the story of the time she stood up to her record label and forced them to change, and still nobody really remembers or cares about the fine details, and everybody smiles that we've gotten to make the world a better place, and she can reference it with her fans like some sort of inside joke that makes everyone feel all warm and fuzzy and connected.

The net effect of all that is that her audience grows a lot stronger and more devoted (which is both hard to do and vitally important), there's a ton of free publicity for the album and all the marketing materials (like the video), profits are up, it becomes a little less acceptable to be a sexist in the record business, and the company gets to put a feather in its cap for changing what shouldn't exist in the first place.

Or maybe I'm just a cynic looking for all the angles, and they''re a bunch of sexist assholes after all. Hard to say, really. I'd LOVE a more in depth article. Because quite frankly, right now this is all just gossip and drama, and it doesn't mean much.

Laurie // Posted 03 December 2008 at 16:48

Wait, wtf? Before I watched the video, I was expecting to be angry over unrealistic expectations of women, etc., and figured she'd have a stomach with a little bit of flab. But, er, her abs are completely flat? What, do they want her stomach to be hollow?

Aideen // Posted 03 December 2008 at 23:50

@ Uriah:

I agree that there needs to me more in-depth coverage of this, but having followed Palmer for years and knowing the nature of her fan-following, I would say you clearly lack knowledge of the artist in question. She didn't make a huge big song and dance about it, but she did mention it at gigs (attended largely by loyal Dresden Dolls fans who don't need to be sold on the album) and on her blog (which is only read by, again, loyal fans who don't need to be sold on the album). Her exceptionally loyal, bordering on obsessive, fanbase were outraged and took it from there. Just read the shadowbox forum, it's full of people posting what media sources they contacted about this. Trust me, I know Dresden Dolls fans. Amanda and RR certainly had nothing to do with this furore.

Terry // Posted 04 December 2008 at 00:06

Not a big fan of her voice, but it is still BS. You've got guys like Dino from Divine Heresy and FF who is huge and he's a hero on that label. Someone who makes some interesting music? God I thought Roadrunner were cooler than that.

VC // Posted 05 December 2008 at 00:46

Righto. I've never been a Dresden Dolls fan, but I do appreciate singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. I really couldn't give two shits about their body type (probably bigger, if anything) because that's not what's important to me. What is important is they made music that uplifts my soul.

However, the realities of the commercial music world are as follows: when you sign a major label contract, you're given an advance to record, tour and so on. This advance must be recouped from tours and record sales. If it is not, you end up in debt to the record label. You might initially be promised creative control over the process, but ultimately you may have to relinquish it if you do not meet the expectations of the label.

Ultimately, it is the label that pays for the video. From the financial point of view, you've a weak position to dictate much if you're not making (enough) money for the label. If the label decides that they wish to make masturbation fodder for pubescent boys, you're stuck - you're in debt to them and your artistic integrity has gone out the door when you signed to the label.

Obviously, the expectations of the label execs will reflect the dominant prejudices of whatever society they are raised in. It'd be somewhat like me applying for a job as a school-teacher with my mohawk, piercings and tatts and crying discrimination. If you want to work within the system, you may have to give up a part of your identity.

All that aside, it's an incredibly stupid move on Roadrunner's part. I do like Uriah's explanation but Occam's razor would suggest it's a less-than-enlightened attitude from some dinosaur at the label who wanted to make the vid more slick and marketable.

Leigh // Posted 05 December 2008 at 13:14

@ Uriah - you can follow the digital paper trail, and find out 'who said what first' by simply reading the blogs, fora and rebellyon website news. There has been plenty of clarification by Amanda herself. There is no evidence to support your idea, I'm afraid and plenty to show that this is a fan initiated response.

@ Laurie - Yeah, hollow pretty much sums it up (see my picture on rebellyon for my own response to this).

@ VC - That's a pretty grim view of the power dynamic, of course it's so grim because we can all see that it's often accurate. However, I think, there is a different way of looking at the artist/publisher relationship. The label has agreed to market, fund (or part fund) and distribute an original artistic work (or collection of works) of the artist. Therefore the artist must have freedom to create the works, and that freedom may be ratified in the contract. While the artist may be stuck in debt to the label (until sales have balanced it) both artists and label are bound by a contract that (should) respect creative freedom. In this case Palmer asserted her right to keep the shots in the video and the label respected that, though they did not respect her reasoning or her artistic background.

What I think is most pertinent to the debate is that attitude shown by the label, which was simultaneously androcentric and scopophillic. Their notion of making Amanda Palmer more commercial shows them to be poorly informed for dealing with genuinely creative people, and their reasoning in this case demonstrates a sexism that is unfortunately typical of the music industry. By calling them out, through websites, forum posts and mail campaigns fans and consumers can help steer attitudes away from that kind of implicit misogyny.

Brian Robert // Posted 08 December 2008 at 11:09

I cannot agree more with Uriah Zebadiah. Your heart, and emotions, are closer to your wallet than your head is! Ultimately we are all being manipulated to part with our money. As long as we can see it as a game and just enjoy the music it ain't to bad!

Garrett // Posted 09 December 2008 at 19:19

Consider this, folks. I am not a fan of Dresden Dolls, nor can I really stand this type of music. However, this story moved me to watch the entire video and look for the "fat" and unacceptable belly.

Fact is, your willingness to get angry is being used for marketing gains. This is a very interesting way to generate listeners and exposure for the band. It's brilliant, and +1 for the marketing genius who came up with it. How many others who have never listened to Dresden Dolls will be exposed to their music as a result of this "rebellyon"?

Enjoy your reclamation of woman's self-image. Just remember that someone knew you had this button and pushed it at the right time to generate interest for the band. ;)

shatterboxx // Posted 09 December 2008 at 21:58

We're not trying to get people to stop listening to the Dresden Dolls, we're trying to focus on sexist body issues... If more people listen to Amanda Palmer because of this, then that's great. If more people think about women's body issues because of this, then that's great too...

Fran // Posted 10 December 2008 at 09:05

"Fact is, your willingness to get angry is being used for marketing gains. This is a very interesting way to generate listeners and exposure for the band. It's brilliant, and +1 for the marketing genius who came up with it. How many others who have never listened to Dresden Dolls will be exposed to their music as a result of this "rebellyon"?"

-1 for not reading the thread. A couple have people have already pointed out why this is obviously a fan-initiated response. (Also, your smug tone is not doing you any favours -- funnily enough, women don't appreciate being talked down to on a feminist website.)

Lilli // Posted 16 December 2008 at 09:31

i don't know what the hell they're talking about. she is friggin' hot... and as a woman with a serious belly i feel a little insulted at the implication that that belly could be considered a fat belly...not even close... i've got your fat belly right here..know what i mean?

Charlie // Posted 24 December 2008 at 21:46

Excuse me, but having read this thread I thought I should perhaps mention something -since when has your physical appearance had ANYTHING to do with what you sound like? I mean, clearly there are more complex issues at work here connected with this, but -just thought I'd throw that one out there. Thanks.

Not Impressed // Posted 13 January 2009 at 14:43

nothing to do with the fact that this song is AWFUL and she CAN'T SING? It sounds like it was recorded on someone's laptop. It's really really bad.

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