Amanda Palmer gave a TED talk in early 2013 that kinda blew me away. As it started, I was a bit put off or threatened by this bold woman—such are my insecurities. But as I listened, I immediately began to respect this artist, this thinking, feeling, connecting human being. By the end of her talk, I may have even fallen a little in love 🙂
Amanda Palmer spoke at TED about the art of asking. She’s got a lot of experience. For years she earned her way through life, in part, by performing as a human statue—the “Eight Foot Bride.” She describes the experience as a silent statue asking for support as one of making a connection with people, sometimes a deep connection. These experiences encouraged her as she asked for support for her band during performances: passing the hat, asking for help, props, a place to crash. And people freely gave. More than that, they wanted to give. They gave out of appreciation and a desire to connect with her as an artist.
With modest musical success came a record label contract, but her band’s debut album was not deemed a “success” by record executives, with “only” 25,000 records/CDs/downloads sold. But Amanda thought different. She was thrilled and viewed the debut as a big success. Given this difference in perspective, she eventually managed to free herself from the record contract. Immediately, Amanda Palmer and her band returned to their roots, asking for support directly from the fans. She tells poignant stories of the support they received while couch surfing and crowd surfing. The connections she made surprised her, and provided her with some of the most meaningful moments in her life.
She even tried her hand at crowd funding through Kickstarter, where she raised an amazing $1,000,000—ironically, from about 25,000 contributors! She also raised the ire of critics who didn’t understand, after the Kickstarter success, how she could continue asking for support and “pass the hat” during her band’s performances.
Amanda was hurt by the criticism, but felt the critics simply didn’t understand what was going on. You see, once Amanda left her record label, she didn’t sell her music. She gave her music away. She even encouraged fans to copy and freely share her music. So “passing the hat” was just a way for fans to give back.
Instead of trying to find ways to MAKE people pay for music, we need to find more ways to LET people pay for music.
~ Amanda Palmer (paraphrased)
This approach of trusting fans to pay the artist is a huge paradigm shift that Amanda Palmer has adopted with gusto.
All it requires is trust…and making a connection.