Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Amanda Palmer!

Amanda F-cking Palmer.

With a name like that, how can she not be creative?

For those of you who are unaware, Amanda Palmer is a singer/musician/blogger/twitter aficionado who has a penchant for causing kerfuffles and raising eyebrows. While most artists lean towards scandal, Amanda has the habit of diving headfirst into a sea of angry people on the internet. In fact, in her first band, The Dresden Dolls, they had a part of their site dedicated to the hate mail that they received. 

I'm wearing a corset but I promise I'm still a real person
I would say however, that one of the most unique things about Amanda Palmer is the connection she has with her fans. I would also posit, that it is one place, besides her songwriting, where her creativity shines. It’s difficult to make it in the music industry nowadays. Being with a label is practically a requirement if you don't want to be eating cup ramen for the rest of your life. However, even if you do get signed, there is no guarantee that you’ll be successful. Amanda Palmer is a fairly interesting case because she was actually initially signed with Roadrunner Records. However, she eventually convinced them to drop her (she actually wrote a song about it) from their label. However, how does a singer prevail when they don’t have the backing of a label? Amanda Palmer’s answer was to go directly to her fans. Almost everything she does is crowd sourced and crowd funded. When she went on her big new record tour this past year, she crowd sourced musicians to help play with her band from every new city they played in. She threw “ninja gigs”, shows that she would announce on her twitter, play for an hour or two and then leave. She frequently stays at the various houses of her fans for a place to bunk for the night. That, combined with her active presence on the internet via twitter and her blog make her one of the most accessible musicians I have ever come across.

I'm sorry ladies, if your hipbones aren't protruding you aren't attractive
Amanda Palmer’s whole philosophy is that if she connects with her fans, they will support her. In the past two years she has had one of the most successfully funded kickstarters (1.2 million dollars) of all time, her TED talk has over two million views and she is currently signed for a book deal. That’s quite a big deal for a lady who freed herself from her record label years ago because they wouldn’t show her stomach in a music video because it wasn't flat enough. 

However, is this crowd sourcing creative? I believe this relates back to our very first day of class, listening to the story about how Dan Barber found a farm that made ethical foie gras by going back in history and following its lessons. In part, this is exactly what Amanda Palmer is doing. Back in the middle ages, one of the only ways a musician or a minstrel could make a living was by either getting a patron, or traveling around and having families (fans) host them and donating directly to the artist. What Amanda Palmer is doing is really not that divergent from this path. While it is true that this is the way that most bands start out, there tends to be a kind of stigma attached to it. You haven’t “made it” in popular music unless you’re poppin’ bottles and you’ve got stacks on stacks on stacks on stacks. 
Yes those lyrics are top 40 hits. Yes my soul died a little when I typed them

Amanda Palmer has defined a new way of “making it” in the music business. And she has made it this far by her human connections (for further emphasis on that, check out her TED talk, it’s fantastic), the art of asking and her drive. If you take a look at her touring schedule, her talks, or her twitter you’ll find that she rarely sits still. In the past few years she has released a record, gone on tour, cancelled her tour (her best friend got cancer and she chose to stay with him), given a TED talk, and is currently writing a book. 

Well since you asked nicely... Yes you can have my money.
In all of this, she has still managed to stay a real person and form connections with her fans. I believe that she is one of the most intrinsically (as Collins and Amabile spoke of) AND extrinsically motivated people in the music industry. One only has to take a look at her blog to know that her fans are her life, but she would also wither without her creative output. Miss Palmer simply loves what she does. This creates a pure, symbiotic relationship that leaves both parties feeling like they got the better end of the deal. 

Can other musicians do this effectively? I don't know. All I know is that Amanda Palmer is one of my favorite artists not only because I love her music, but also because I love how she approaches her job. I love the fact that I feel like I can connect with her, support her directly, and fuel her creativity. I love how she can turn the music industry on its head, be successful without a label and look good while doing it. Maybe I've got a one way ticket to crazy town, but I can't help but think
At least I hope so because if I hear one more freaking song about how I should "get low" on the air I am going to go ballistic

1 comment:

  1. She is so innovative. Her presence is so intense. I think that in itself is really creative. She presents herself in a way that makes you pay attention and notice her. She is powerful, driven and focused as a person and it really shines through her music. I think really famous musicians and celebrities can be so removed from us that we idolize them or think of them as so much different than we are. The fact that she not only meets with her fans, but spends real time with them is unheard of. What better way to make fans than to connect with them like this? It's a completely obvious, but creative way to build her music career and popularity. I think her ability to make her music into emotion is truly creative. I looked up her music video on YouTube, and it wasn't just her lip syncing to her song. It was almost like a play or a work of art. There is clearly a message that she is trying to portray and she does it in a beautiful and artistic manner. I'm not sure if there are many artists like her. She is her music, and she clearly cares more about her message than about making money or gaining fame. I think her sincerity is what makes her creativity truly unique.


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