Rockstar ups the ante with online funding, networking
This April saw the launch of one of the most successful campaigns in the history of online crowd funding.
The goal of the project â recording and releasing a music album â certainly wasnât anything new to those familiar with Kickstarter, save for one crucial difference. This wasnât an indie musician trying to pay for some studio time through the generosity of family and friends.
It was underground rock star Amanda Palmer.
A lifelong performer, Palmer first gained a following as one half of The Dresden Dolls, in which she and drummer Brian Viglione rose to prominence on the Boston music scene with their special brand of Brechtian punk cabaret. The Dolls were dark, high octane and definitely not for everyone. The devoted, however, quickly found themselves part of a fandom that could connect with the object of their enthusiasm on an almost unprecedented level.
For Amanda Palmer, reaching out to the fans has always been priority number one, with signings accompanying almost every Dolls show in an effort to build a dedicated and genuine following that looks far more like a community than a cult.
A huge part of that sentiment stems from Palmerâs online presence. In addition to blogging regularly, she utilizes her Twitter feed to greater effect than just about any other artist working in the business. She tweets and retweets dozens of fans a day, asking fans for stories, feedback and, on at least one occasion, took suggestions for various items to incorporate into a song.
When she has time to kill, sheâll announce a spur of the moment âninja gigâ for anyone able to drop what theyâre doing and make it somewhere for a quick, free show. Nearly 650,000 fans follow her account, a number that only grows as more people get the urge to plug themselves into her life and experience creative spontaneity on a completely unique level.
Itâs not just the music that draws people in; itâs Palmerâs persona. Renowned British author and Palmerâs husband Neil Gaiman has referred to her life as âone giant interconnected piece of performance art,â and he doesnât seem too far off the mark. Everything she does is about creation and interconnectedness, something thatâs never been more apparent than in her latest venture.
For her next album, Palmer decided that she wanted to create music without the influence of big-name studios by utilizing the loyalty of the fans sheâd worked so long to gather. After using Kickstarter to fund the five-city âEvening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmerâ tour as a sort of test run, it became clear that the site was a viable platform for the kind of large-scale entertainment endeavors that an already successful musician would want to pursue. Palmer is out to prove that Internet crowd funding isnât charity, itâs just financing through a pre-order system that cuts out the middleman.
To that end, she created the Kickstarter campaign for her tour, new album â titled Theatre is Evil â and art book filled with works inspired by her music this past April. The project reached its $100,000 goal almost immediately but by no means did things stop there. By the end of May, nearly 28,000 backers donated upward of $1.2 million, making it the most successful music-based Kickstarter project in the siteâs history by a $1 million margin.
Since then, the build-up to her albumâs release has been a non-stop stream of musical madness that donators have followed every step of the way. About a third of the songs were released online ahead of time, along with a couple of music videos and regular updates on all of the gifts for backers which, depending on the size of the donation, ranged from special edition vinyls of the music to private house parties.
June and July saw Palmer traveling the country with her new band, the Grand Theft Orchestra, for a special Kickstarter tour with two shows per city: one welcome to all music-lovers and another for top tier VIP donators, which featured gallery showcases of all the artwork collected for the art book. Guests at the latter were treated to gift bags, an open bar and a private performance from Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. More often than not, these would conclude with Palmer stripping naked and inviting fans to cover her in paint. If it wasnât clear enough by this point, let there be no question that when it comes to her art, she rejects any notion of boundaries.
In this case, itâs a no-holds-barred approach that pays off. While never quite approaching mainstream recognition, Palmerâs success is still everything that a performer could hope for. She has a dedicated and ever-expanding audience that loves and accepts her work enough to support her no matter where she goes.
Through her openness and sincerity, sheâs retained the ability to create and express exactly what she wants to while connecting with others and enriching lives.
Perhaps her Twitter bio sums it up best â sheâs an âamateur musician. professional party thrower.â With her ever-present legion of adoring fans surrounding her, Amanda Palmer has no choice but to rock on all night long.
And thatâs just the way she likes it.
Michael Chasin is a sophomore majoring in narrative studies. His column âFandominationâ runs Fridays.