Is a modern day star.
How did Amanda Palmer get to where she is now?
By working all the time.
By putting her fans first.
By maintaining her fan relationship 24/7.
Amanda Palmer is not for everybody. Just for her fans. But that’s enough for her to raise a million dollars on Kickstarter.
There’s plenty of money out there. You’ve just got to find ways to tap it.
Used to be you looked for a record company check. But now the company pays less, because there’s less money to be made. And not only do they own the copyrights in perpetuity, but they want a share of everything you make.
Amanda Palmer began as a street performer. After college.
This is the lowest rung of entertainment. And not the choice of almost any college graduate. But this is where the rubber meets the road. Daniel Glass once told me a prerequisite to working at SBK Records, and this was twenty years ago, before he became majordomo of his own independent label, was that you had to work retail. That’s where the transaction took place. How big a fan base are you gonna have if you’re not a great performer? Probably a tiny one. And if you think someone comes out of the box fully-formed, totally great, you’ve probably never been to a club gig. Or a high school sock hop. This is where you hone your chops. You’ve got to be awful before you are great. You’ve got to learn the tricks. There’s a trick to every art form, whether it be performing, recording or selling. And in today’s music world you’ve got to do all three.
Furthermore, Daniel Glass had two more requirements to work at SBK Records. One, you really had to want to work there. Two, you had to graduate from college. Why? Not because you learned anything in school, but a degree demonstrated you could FINISH something!
Amanda Palmer knew the road was long. She had to get good grades to get into Wesleyan, had to endure four years there, so when she started as a street performer she was not about to give up. She was in it for the long haul. She’s got a giant footprint now, but she’s in her thirties. Recently got married and has no kids. Her eye was on the prize.
And yes, she had a deal with a “major,” RoadRunner Records. But more importantly, she was one of the first artists to get off a major label. At her own insistence. She wanted to be free. Bondage was holding her back. She wanted to experiment.
Which included cutting Zeppelin covers on her ukulele, which she’d just recently picked up, and selling the result for six figures to her fans.
You see Amanda was not afraid of the future. She just knew that the past sucked. And not only did she abandon her label, she gave up her moniker. The lead guy in Ohio Players just died…do you know his name? Probably not, but you know “Fire.” It was a big risk to go solo. But that’s what Amanda felt in her heart. Artists always do what’s in their heart. Money comes second. Expedience is not in their lexicon.
So if you’re not willing to tweet, work 24/7, try every new platform to engage potential fans, your odds of succeeding in the new world are slim. Sure, the major MIGHT be able to get you on the radio, but that world is collapsing and most acts are not radio-friendly.
No, you’re on your own.
Are you up to the challenge?
Then know you and your fans go hand in hand. No one else counts as much. And you can reach your cadre and make new fans via new technologies. This paradigm is only going to expand, it’s never going to contract.
With Amanda Palmer it’s not about her music, it’s about HER!
The cult of personality.
She’s her fans’ best friend. She’s an outcast just like them. With more rough edges than smooth.
Don’t look at the recent publicity, look at the two decades before. Working in near-obscurity.
You can do it.
But it’s gonna be slow.
And you’re gonna have to take chances.
And you’ll be playing without a net.
And someone in the band has to be the face.
Used to be the drummer booked the gigs, was the de facto manager.
Now you need a de facto face on the Internet, in social media.
You’ve got to be interacting and selling 24/7. If you’re focusing on the album, you’re not only leaving money on the table, you’re missing the point.
As did the mainstream media. Amanda’s name was all over. Did it make her any additional money? NO! Will this same media care in a year or two? NO! Did this media even listen to the music? NO! It might make you feel good to be in the newspaper, even on TV, but most people aren’t paying attention and the impact is nigh near neglible. You’re your own barometer. Can you pay your bills? When you tweet do you get responses? Are your fans passionate about you and your music? Then you’re on your way.