Amanda Palmer At The First Unitarian Universalist Church

How do you build a career from the ground up?

People pay lip service to this, but they want a shortcut, they want someone to help them, but just like in the rest of this Republican-defined nation you’re on your own in the music business, if you build it they may not come, but if you entice them, if you bond with them, you can build an audience and survive.

I was surprised to find people lined up two hours in advance.

I was further surprised when the auditorium filled up. Capacity is 700, there were more than 600 there, with only a few seats left in the balcony. And they paid to be part of Amanda Palmer’s book tour, $18-$23.

Think about that. Book tours used to be for free. Back when authors thought their audience was reviewers, instead of knowing that their audience was readers, and in today’s world unless you have a special, preexisting relationship with readers, you’re doomed. Publishing, like music, has little left in marketing funds. Either you can stay home or mobilize your fans. And if you haven’t started building a fan list years before, you won’t get much traction.

So the “show” began with Amanda reading. She knew the words were not enough, that it was about a PERFORMANCE! Honed during years on the road. The so-called 10,000 hours. I can read the book at home, but can I see the author enunciate slowly and emphasize the words therein? I won’t go to readings because that’s what authors believe they are. No, readings are performances. In this case with the lights low, with the audience enthralled.

And then Amanda surprised them. She performed. On the piano.

Audiences love surprises. Some rules of marketing always apply. Promise little, deliver more.

And then I interviewed her.

Wherein I learned Amanda considered her biggest mistake to be focusing on everyone instead of her core.

That’s the truth. Are you a pop artist or a niche one? Other than the Foos, all rock artists are niche, own it. Ariana Grande is pop. Taylor Swift declared herself pop. Mainstream country is equivalent to pop. Everybody else is toiling in the niches.

Have no illusions about it.

You’re never going to be a household name, certainly not for your music. In a world where it’s impossible to get everybody’s attention, only the mainstream does. So, be happy where you are. Don’t dream about world domination unless you have a direct pipeline to Max Martin, sorry.

But unlike so many of the popsters, Amanda was honest. She spoke from the heart about what others will not. About her abortion. About her decision, as of now, to not have children. We’re all confused, we all have more questions than answers, used to be our stars reflected our lives back upon us. Today they keep going on about how much better they are than us. Which is why pop comes and goes, but niche artists with fans are forever.

And Amanda’s “book doula,” Jamy Ian Swiss, performed some of his world class magic.

And then the assembled multitude asked questions.

More so, they testified. How Amanda was a beacon in their lives, how she got them through.

Now Amanda Palmer has become both a poster girl and a target for figuring out the newfangled game. She blogs, she tweets, she raises money on Kickstarter and considers her life her art. It’s all consuming. There’s no borderline between what’s on stage and what is not. Because today no one can hide behind the curtain. You must be three-dimensional, you must reveal your warts and your thoughts and…

So this is much different from those bitching about the high cost of the road, the low payments of Spotify, this is an artist who’s forging her own way, the way everybody used to do it when music drove the culture and you were addicted to your turntable and not your smartphone.

And it does not matter if you like her music, it does not matter if you become a fan, because it’s not for you…you skeptical soul who believes your chance has been stolen and therefore you must tear everyone else down.

The tools are at your disposal. Most of them can be utilized for free. But one thing necessary is inspiration, and then follow-through. Sounds simple, but they’re the core of art. Sure, you might be able to divine what’s a hit, but can you conjure one up all by your lonesome?

So, like in the rest of the world, there’s a divide between the haves and have-nots in the music world. And if you don’t have it and want it, you’ve got to play by the rules of those who do, following the pop formula above. Otherwise know that it’s now easier and cheaper to reach those who do care and monetize them than ever before.

As a result, Amanda Palmer’s book, “The Art Of Asking,” entered the “New York Times” nonfiction chart at number 7. Why did she get this deal with Hachette? Because she had 8 million views of her TED Talk and the publisher knew she would sell her book.

What are you doing to sell your music? Dunning gatekeepers who don’t care? Bitching online that the successful suck?

Look within. Make fans one by one.

Know that you too can be Amanda Palmer.

Oh no, you probably can’t. You can’t work hard enough in high school to get into Wesleyan. You can’t live without money in your bank account for most of your twenties. You can’t handle the rejection that comes along with the glimmer of adulation. You can’t get down into the pit with those who care, preferring to knock on the doors of those who don’t.

It’s simple.

But walking the steps is not.

“An Evening With Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking Book Tour”

The Art of Asking (Signed Edition): How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

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