Thursday, July 02, 2009

Coin operated girl...or how Amanda Palmer's reinventing the music biz and sticking it to ‘the man’.

I love Amanda Palmer. On top of writing some awesome tunes, beating seven flavours of holy crap out of her piano and getting naked on a fairly regular basis (see her recent ‘write your question to me on part of your body and I’ll write the reply on mine’ act), she’s busy reinventing the music business (or, to be more accurate, how you actually make a living out of it) on her own terms. Every so often I’ll drop into her lengthy, day enhancing blog and lately it seems that she’s been taking more of a homespun approach to the whole career thang, playing impromptu all ages gigs for people on beaches (the video above is from a recent beach gig) and in parks and collecting donations (totally at the discretion of the audience) in return. Of course busking’s nothing new but you don’t generally get well known artists doing it. A few weeks back she hit on another idea. Sitting at home on a Friday night she sent out a Twitter message to her 30,000 or so followers and started a virtual online party. This in turn generated a t-shirt featuring the legend ‘Don’t stand up for what’s right, stay in for what’s wrong’. A few hours and many orders for said shirt later she’d grossed $11,000. Then she held an online auction, selling all sorts of random shit that was just laying around her apartment. Raised another $6,000. A few days after that she held an online gig and asked for donations from her viewers…raising a neat $2,000 in the process. I’m no Carol Vorderman but I make that a rather tasty $19,000 in just a few nights. Amanda noted that the sales of her last album (currently standing at 30,000 copies), funded by a major label who need to shift a hell of a lot of units just to recoup their investment, had netted her exactly $0. Zip. Zero. Bugger all.

Individually none of her actions are revolutionary but Amanda’s seemingly putting this quirky approach to financing her lifestyle right at the heart of her career and having a hell of a lot of fun with it too. Along the way she’s directly (and that’s an important point – Amanda to fan without the middle man is a lot more powerful than being marketed to by a faceless corporation) building herself a loyal fanbase of folk who are happy to fork out whatever they can afford, whenever they can afford it, in order to spend some quality online time with their heroin(e). And she’s doing it all without...’the man’. Of course she is Amanda fucking Palmer. She already had a decent fanbase, developed through the more traditional music biz model…album…tour…album…repeat to fade. I accept that it’s not going to be as easy for new groups to suddenly start selling the contents of their knicker drawer for cash. But, if you’re in a band and you’re struggling to make a buck, maybe her ‘what the hell, let’s just try it’ (or, as the corporate clones would put it ‘hey, let’s think outside the box’) approach might help…


Ken Davidson said...

You eventually covered the thing that struck me most from the outset: Amanda already has a 'profile'.

And, with profile, somehow, comes an ability to draw the cash-cow along by the ring in its snoot.

It's the old bootstrap issue: money makes money - so where do you start?

Busking naked at New Street Station would be one option I guess. By the end of the day Nick Owen would be smiling one of his interviews at you ;)

Keep taking the fluids.

The Baron said...

Too true. Whilst the great thing about the Intermess is that anyone and everyone can upload their tunes whenever they want, that's also its huge flaw. I've seen so many really great bands fall by the wayside over the last 20 years purely because only a handful of people ever heard them. Now, with the odd billion bands on MySpace and squillions of blogs all touting the next big thing it's harder than ever to break through. In the words of Johnny Nash...there are more questions than answers.

PS: does cider count as fluids?

PPS: there are a number of local bands that I love dearly...but really wouldn't want to see naked.