The name Amanda Palmer was until yesterday a mystery to me. It kept on popping up sporadically in all the music-media news feeds I read daily, but I never took the time to have a deeper look in this amazing artist’s career, until yesterday that is.
Amanda Palmer, who is most noted for being the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of the “Brechtian punk cabaret” duo The Dresden Dolls and who has now launched her solo act, has accumulated an astonishing amount of buzz these past years thanks to here uncompromising artistic vision. Formerly signed to Roadrunner Records (or maybe she still is. The story is complicated) to whom she gave the middle-finger on many accounts, Amanda seems to have made it her top priority to connect directly with her fans. The phrasing here might sound wrong – I don’t mean to say that she calculates her every move, but her every moves are nonetheless very well calculated.
In here eternal struggles with Roadrunner, Amanda accomplished where many others had failed: gave her major label that middle finger (Roadrunner is part of the Universal group), rallied and wrapped her fans around it, and still managed to keep her “job”. And by rallied I mean the real thing. During what is called the “Fans Rebellyon” where her label wanted to cut-out part of her “Leeds United” music video because of her “fat stomach”, she proceeded to tell her fans about the controversy leading to a massive movement of people photographing their own bellies and sending their pics to the record label. Since then a website with belly pictures has been created – http://www.therebellyon.com. Since then, Amanda has made a couple of attempts to be dropped by her label, one of which is a song simply called “Please Drop Me“.
That and other stories has turned her into a rebellious role model that the music communities are relishing.
Now the story that caught my attention yesterday is about Amanda’s recent twitter experiments that have garnered illustrious amounts of buzz, and have illustrated the very strong bond she has with her fans. These improvised operations generated $19k without the sale of a singer album. This story is told in three parts. Below is part one. I highly recommend reading all of it in the Techdirt post here (couldn’t find it Amanda’s website).
FRIDAY NIGHT LOSERS T-SHIRT, $11,000
about a month ago, i was at home on a friday night (loser that i often am when i’m not touring, i almost never go out) and was, of course, on my mac, shifting between emails, links and occasionally doing some dishes and packing for a trip the next day. just a usual friday-night-rock-star-multi-tasking extravaganza.
i twitter whenever i’m online, i love the way it gives me a direct line of communication with my fans and friends.
i had already seen the power of twitter while touring…using twitter i’d gathered crowds of sometimes 200 fans with a DAY’S notice to come out and meet me in public spaces (parks, mostly) where i would play ukulele, sign, hug, take pictures, eat cake, and generally hang out and connect. this was especially helpful in the cities where we’d been unable to book all-ages gigs and there were crushed teenagers who were really grateful to have a shot at connecting with me & the community of amanda/dolls fans.
i’d also been using twitter to organize ACTUAL last-minute gigs…i twittered a secret gig in LA one morning and about 350 folks showed up 5 hours later at a warehouse space….i played piano, filmed by current.tv, and then (different camera crew) did an interview with afterellen.com.
the important thing to undertsand here is that the fans were never part of the plan..,i basically just INVITED my fans to a press day, the press didnt’ plan it…i did.
i was going to be playing in an empty room and doing q&a with afterellen on a coach with only the camera watching.
it was like….why not tell people and do this in a warehouse instead of a hotel lobby or a blank studio? so i did.
it cost me almost nothing. the fans were psyched.
but back to the bigger, cooler story….
so there i am, alone on friday night and i make a joke on twitter (which goes out to whichever of my 30,000 followers are online):
“i hereby call THE LOSERS OF FRIDAY NIGHT ON THEIR COMPUTERS to ORDER, motherfucker.”
9:15 PM May 15th from web
one thing led to another, and the next thing you know there were thousands of us and we’d become the #1 topic trend on twitter.
zoe keating described it as a “virtual flash mob”.
the way twitter works (if you don’t have it) is that certain topics can include a hashtag (#) and if a gazillion people start making posts that include that hashtag, the topic will zoom up the charts of what people are currently discussing. it’s a cool feature.
so anyway, there we were, virtually hanging out on twitter on a friday night. very pleased with ourselves for being such a large group, and cracking jokes.
how do you “hang out” on the internet? well, we collectively came up with a list of things that the government should do for us (free government-issued sweatpants, pizza and ponies, no tax on coffee), AND created a t-shirt.
thank god my web guy sean was awake and being a loser with me on friday night because he throw up the webpage WHILE we were having our twitter party and people started ordering the shirts – that i designed in SHARPIE in realtime) and a slogan that someone suggested: “DON’T STAND UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT, STAY IN FOR WHAT’S WRONG”. neil gaiman and wil wheaton joined our party. the fdnas felt super-special.
by the end of the night, we’d sold 200 shirts off the quickie site (paypal only) that sean had set up.
i blogged the whole story the next day and in total, in the matter of a few days, we sold over 400 shirts, for $25/ea.
we ended up grossing OVER $11,000 on the shirts.
my assistant beth had the shirts printed up ASAP and mailed them from her apartment.
total made on twitter in two hours = $11,000.
total made from my huge-ass ben-folds produced-major-label solo album this year = $0
Don’t forget to read the two other parts on Techdirt’s website.
Micheal Masnick, the brain behind Techdirt, theorizes that if an artist connects with his/her fans and gives them a real reason to buy something, then that artists drastically increases his/her chances of selling that something. Very accurate theory.
If we take a look at all the B2F techniques used by bands lately (B2F=band to fan), most of what is for sale and has the true potential of generating money is the exclusiveness of the content sold or distributed. For me that is where lies the true power of social tools used by artists these day: the potential to create exclusiveness anytime, anywhere with anyone. In the olden days, the closest a fan could get to experiencing exclusiveness with a band was going to a show, buying that show’s t-shirt, getting a backstage pass for that show and buying a limited edition record from the band that played that show. Other than that, fans didn’t have that much to hope for in terms of connecting with their favorite band. Now all that has changed – absolutely every bit of it – and the talented, tech-savvy artists out there have the communication tools to leverage their career. Although this type of statement may seemed re-hashed, it’s a fact that is becoming more apparent as time goes by,and more applicable as those tools are perfected and exploited.
Exclusivity+Immediacy+Quality music=potential to middle-finger labels and make it on your own.