Why the crowd gave Amanda Palmer $1.2m

Glenn Fleishman at The Economist: "Amanda Palmer learned everything she needed to know to raise nearly $1.2m for her latest album as a street performer. Ms Palmer says that six years of busking, often as a living statue called "The Eight-Foot Bride", led her to realise that people willing to toss money in a hat do so according to their means and interest rather than in response to a specific reward." Previously.


      1. I’m sure it didn’t hurt, but Palmer was an indie darling before she married Gaiman. I’m sure he benefits as much from her exposing him as him exposing her.

      2. One discovers great people and art through introductions.  

        Why, I discovered Gaiman through being a fan of Douglas Adams (Neil wrote a great book about Douglas and HHGTTG).  Then through a comment Neil made about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, I discovered Susanna Clarke.  Clarke’s partner, Colin Greenland wrote some fantastic novels and I read them.  Then discovered through Colin and Neil, Jane Goldman who is married to Jonathan Ross (well, I knew about him already – but wasn’t quite aware that he wrote comics).  All the while, having wrote a blog about JS&MN, other authors get in touch with me – self-published authors – I like them, and both eventually get publishing deals.It’s a small world, and I like introductions to other people’s work regardless of how they may be related (or not).  Go with the flow, I say.

        1.  I discovered Jason Webley, who is the musician they both admired and introduced Gaiman and Palmer to each other!

          1. And I discovered Amanda Palmer through a recommendation from Jason Webley, before she was married to Neil.  I’d already heard of Gaiman before Webley or AFP.

      3. I bet far more people know her from the Dresden Dolls than know she and Neil Gaiman joined forces.

        Though they’ve done some great collaborations… the most recent I stumbled across was a charming short film with Bill Nighy that draws from Amanda’s living statue experience.

        1. Statuesque, yes – the short film sponsored by BSkyB and directed by Neil Gaiman.  Also features the son of Dave McKean, another Gaiman collaborator (most notably for illustrating covers for The Sandman series and the opening titles to Neverwhere as well as other books and, of course, directing MirrorMask which Gaiman wrote).

          1. Nice… I didn’t know the others were involved.

            Another of their shorts, probably linked from BB, was that hilarious parody of Labyrinth. God, I can hear that caterpillar cackle even now.

            Creativity clusters… that’s an iron law. In collaboration, synergy, resources, brainstorming, support, and in attracting new talent.The thing about having the right connections in creative fields is that these people came together because of the creativity… the connection didn’t make success out of talentless people. Talented people are interacting in complex orbits of artistry.

            Of course, for the connections without the talent, one need only look so far as Wall Street, or network television.The bigger question to me isn’t how do creatives find each other, it’s how do they manage to shed the psychic vampires, the stalkers, the scammers, and grifters who are attracted to vortices of creativity even faster than are other creatives?

      1. We currently live in the age of wealthy sponsors.  That’s what the uber-rich record companies and media conglomerates are – modern day de’ Medicis.  What Ms. Palmer is doing is quite the opposite.  She’s allowing the masses to choose the artist rather than having it chosen by corporate patronage.

        1. Palmer was already a celebrity, within her circle. She’d done regular tours with her former band, the Dresden Dolls, then did a theatre show, then released a solo record, then dated Gaiman, did another show, did a couple of other miniature solo records, then was married, then Kickstarted another long-form solo record. Throughout that time, she did appearances and interviews and continued to blog and tweet and keep up her profile. Is it possible that Gaiman’s success supported hers? Sure. But it’s not responsible. It’s not what made her famous. Palmer is who made Palmer famous. More importantly, Palmer is who established Palmer’s fanbase — the same fanbase that Kickstarted this record. It wasn’t solely Gaiman fans.

          Automatically assuming that Palmer’s husband is responsible for her success is akin to the assumption that the NYT made when they claimed that men (and only men) were responsible for the Internet. It’s lacking in data and context, and reinforces a narrative rather than a history. I’m sure it’s a lot easier for some people to attribute Palmer’s success to riding her husband’s coattails, but the fact is that she was successful in her chosen profession long before she met him. The fans who supported her are her fans. She earned them fair and square.

          1.  I love your response here. What Amanda told me is that she has spent nearly her entire career, from busking to the present day, connecting one on one with those that appreciate her work. She spends hundreds of hours a year apart from her creative work and, you know, just regular things like eating and being with friends, talking and hanging out with people who like her art and want her to keep making it.

            I thought that was her secret. Mass appeal gets you known. The personal and sincere connection is what led 25,000 people to pony up. Only a small fraction of those people gave substantial amounts, and $1 got you the digital download, which will be DRM free.

            I feel like those who attribute her success to her fame or her husband are throwing away the two facts: her connection to her admirers, who she treats all like friends not fans, and the sheer number: 25,000.

  1. Been following this for a while now. Really amazing stuff. If this is the future of entertainment, sign me up.

    Makes me wonder if the music publishers realize their jobs are in danger even more every day they pretend it’s 1980.

    1. They’re so vicious because they realize more than most that they’re superfluous now.

  2. I initially paid $5 and upped it to $15, choosing the $1 reward. Then I found out that Amanda had added an extra $5 reward level.  I subsequently chose that, but it’s not so much about the reward itself (although I am eagerly anticipating the release of the album, of course) but much more about the artist and what she is doing.  

    Had the album not been included within the $1 or $5 rewards, I would have been okay with it. I would have bought the album separately given how wonderful the tracks she’s released to backers during the entire event (Trout Heart Replica is one of the most beautiful songs I think I have ever heard).

    Having not bought or heard much of her previous music, Amanda is still a relatively new artist to me, but what I saw on the Kickstarter and what was being bandied about on Twitter encouraged me to say , “what the hell”, and give some money.  If not *just* for her, but hopefully to encourage other artists to leave the big labels and go solo. If the fan base is there, you’ll do it.    Having downloaded all the tracks that she’s given backers, I’m absolutely not disappointed at all – I’ve overwhelmingly delighted.  She’s wonderful.

    I’ll always remember what the former CEO of a big record label said: “All iPod users are thieves”.  As somebody who has religiously – as an adult – bought my music or borrowed it from library (and resisting the use of my childhood Amstrad twin-cassette deck), I resent having been accused of wrongdoing just because I own a particular device.  It’s no wonder the record companies concoct ridiculous settlement sums whenever they go for people for sharing music illegally.

    If Kickstarter can help artists achieve their goals without the use of a large corporate body behind them – I’ll back more projects as and when I can afford to (the last one, apart from Amanda’s was Phil Tippett’s Mad God which has also reached and exceeded it’s goal).

  3. The key is building that fanbase though whilst still being able to eat and house yourself.  And that’s the bit that we haven’t figured out yet.  Sure there are some who win the lottery right away, but they are a small minority.  
    Crowdfunding is clear a part of the future – but I am unsure about how widely it can be applied.

  4. misread part of the attached article as:
    “Many of the house parties were self-organised by groups of as many as 50 people who each kicked in a kitty”
    missing the important to “kicked in to a kitty” and found myself wondering if there was a pay with cats level on the kick-starter and then my brain drifted onwards… been a long day

  5. Its amazing to me how worked up some folks are getting about the idea that this woman benefited from her marriage. So what? If she didn’t have any talent it wouldn’t have happened. Then we get the AP was famous first crowd. Not this famous…. Again so what? My favorite are the hipsters coming out of the woodworks shaking their fists and yelling that they heard of her first.
    How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    Its a really obscure number. you probably never heard of it.

  6. Honestly, I gave Amanda money because she gives me beautiful things – I ‘stole’ the first solo record, then subsequently saw the tour live, purchased the book, bought a DVD. Amanda’s response was ‘give it to your friends. Burn them a copy, tell them Merry Christmas, I have something I think you’ll like’ – She could very well have gone all iron-gate on the internet like the big labels wanted, but because she’s cool with spreading her music, I’m totally cool with spending a little extra to get more of it.

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