Amanda Palmer took a moment to curate this month’s Spotify playlist. With 180,000 people connected to her Facebook Page, Palmer nixed her record label and went it alone, part of a new generation of artist with a more intimate connection to fans.
Amanda Palmer is the future of music, and the future plays the keytar in black lingerie.
On stage, Palmer, aka Amanda F--king Palmer, aka (formerly) one-half of punk-cabaret outfit The Dresden Dolls, is playful and raw, murmuring expletives and sweet nothings into the microphone as sweat beads above Joan Crawford eyebrows. She’s the right cocktail of crass and class, a grownup Punky Brewster raiding Marilyn Monroe’s underwear drawer.
Palmer, along with The Grand Theft Orchestra, will release their new record, Theatre is Evil, on September 11, and that means a tour and a marketing campaign with all the trimmings worthy of an album she’s spent four years writing. Normally, this is the point in the release cycle for a record label to insert professionals and marketing strategies, but Palmer opted out. She split with her former label, Road Runner, in 2010.
“I wouldn't have signed with a record company in the first place, but there wasn't any other way to get all the work done,” she says. “We had to go out and tour and running an office wasn't really an option. I never turned my back on the label because I never trusted them to care as much about my music as I did. I understood fundamentally as a lot of bands do, your connection with your fans is your relationship; no one can do it for you.”
Instead she’s intuiting, pushing and defining a new norm, following a set of self-taught DIY rock star guidelines that cut out labels in favor of a direct-to-fan business model powered by social media — and it’s a hell of a lot of work.
“People can help you, but they can't do it for you and that's why when you see giant, major artists being dropped from their labels and having a really hard time connecting with people,” Palmer says. “If they've let that relationship go and just relied on the giant promotional machine, they feel the sting when that machine goes away.
But bands that stay constantly connected with their fans on a personal level, they have a fundamental connection with their fans no matter what happens. It's like having a really deep set of roots.”
In April, Palmer tested the vitals of her tree of rock and launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising funds necessary to help with the cost of producing and promoting her upcoming record. By June, fans had blown by her initial ask, and the campaign raised nearly $1.2 million. She’s not the first musician to turn to the masses for crowd-funded support, but as the first musician to raise $1 million on the Kickstarter platform, she is the most successful.
But social media’s foul-mouthed queen of rock isn’t going to write off her accomplishment as mere flattery. She earned it one status update at a time. “There are a lot of things I don't do so I can spend time with my fans,” she says. “After the show, I don't go back to the tour bus, I stay outside and I sign for two hours and literally it's the accumulation of the decisions over years and years and years that pay off in moments like this Kickstarter.”
Palmer really does love her fans. Not in the detached way that heavily guarded, inaccessible teen idols say they, like, love their fans – the same ones who complain about how sore their autograph muscles are in interviews like this one. No, Palmer has cultivated a rare reciprocal relationship with her following that plays out in tweets, Facebook posts and hours spent greeting fans on tour.
“We literally take care of each other. The Internet makes it absolutely possible in a way that it just wasn't before,” she says.
For more about Amanda Palmer and her music, check out her Facebook Page.