Amanda Palmer Kickstarts Fans’ Hearts

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How many unsigned artists these days can make $600k on album sales before they even finish recording?  Thanks to Kickstarter and her social aptitude, Amanda Palmer has done this without any help from the labels she shunned.

This is more money than any other music project has raised on the crowdsourcing tool.  After raising $250k on day one, she ecstatically wrote that it was already $50k more than her recording fund would have been had she stayed with her old record deal!

This has all been made possible by the power of an engaged social network.  Palmer offered fans 11 donation levels ranging from $1 to $10,000.  Each donor receives a gift that was personalized in some fashion.  At the lowest level you get digital content exclusive to kickstarter.  Movements up the ladder earn signed limited-edition packages, a personal thank-note, surprise arts and crafts, a painted turntable and even a house party.  But to one-up the President, Palmer’s top donors get dinner and a canvas painted portrait by the artist during a 5-hour intimate soiree.

And while we’re comparing her to the President, it’s interesting to note that 90% of Palmer’s donations were for $100 or less.  However, this made up only 30% of the total money donated.  The majority of the funds have come from a few people making very large donations.

So is this the new music business?  It’s hard to argue with $600k (and counting), full ownership, control, and ease of distribution.  But that doesn’t mean that I could just shoot a 3-minute promo video and schnor a new career for myself tomorrow too.  Palmer’s overnight success story came after 10 years of hard work and 2 releases on a major label.  More likely it will be another viable avenue for established label drop-outs and, on a smaller scale, aspiring local darlings.

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5 thoughts on “Amanda Palmer Kickstarts Fans’ Hearts

  1. I actually disagree, I think Kickstarter will service the long tail more so than say digital distribution of music (or anything). For music, you can now record an album in your own apartment/house/whatever at a fraction of the cost and you can market the music through the Internet and social media also at a fraction of the cost. This means it takes less money to make an album. It really depends on what your goal is. Do you want to become the next Coldplay, then Kickstarter might not get you there, but if you want to put out an album as you have some songs to sing, then yes Kickstarter is useful.

    In terms of Amanda Palmer, she was already a somewhat established musician (I’ve heard of her and I don’t even listen to music) and she was well versed in the use of social media (she performed a flash mob wedding for her now husband Neil Gaiman, another individual who is well known on the internet and a best-selling author), so I’m not surprised she was able to achieve her Kickerstarter success.

    • Interesting article. I’ve actually considered using Kickstarter with my own band, The Grand Central (www.thegrandcentralnyc.com).

      Clearly, you need a lot of prior exposure and thus a lot of existing fans before this could work and produce any worthwhile funds, other than a few bucks from your grandma. Of course, an artist could potentially pick up new fans using this tool but it’s doubtful they would be large contributors (initially).

      I do not see this taking over the music industry- it’s rare for artists to be successful at promoting and distributing their work on a large scale 100% solo. Most artists just want to focus on writing good songs and performing/recording- that’s why management companies and labels exist.

      Still, the idea that fans could receive personalized merch through “donations” is a cool idea. In certain music genres where fan interaction is very important (Country is a big one!) this could definitely be a great tool.

  2. Kickstarter as a whole is an incredible business idea, and it democratizes the entire business process. I would be surprised if the movie business didn’t follow suit, given that the cost of producing movies has become more and more expensive with somewhat diminished returns (given the Long Tail effect).

  3. This is an interesting idea. I think that it lends it self to becoming a very useful tool, especially if an artist already has some experience and is looking for more exposure. This article reminds me of the show America Got Talent. In that show, they have a portion where people who have uploaded a Youtube video are able to try out on the show and possible win the grand price. However, in reality someone has to see your video and you really should have some type of fan base before submitting your video. This is not a requirement, however I think it helps. I think this site is very useful to expand an artist notoriety among established and new fans a like.

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