How Amanda Palmer Built An Army Of Supporters: Connecting Each And Every Day, Person By Person

This post originally appeared on techdirt on 5/4/12.

Following the massive success of her Kickstarter experiment, we asked Amanda Palmer if she wanted to write a quick guest post about why she thought the offering was so successful. Here’s what came back, including a bonus bit from Sean Francis, who has helped Amanda for years on the tech/social side of things.

 

There’s a great story about how bamboo grows. A farmer plants a bamboo shoot underground, and waters and tends it for about three years. Nothing grows that’s visible, but the farmer trots out there, tending to this invisible thing with a certain amount of faith that things are going to work out. When the bamboo finally appears above ground, it can shoot up to thirty feet in a month. This is like my kickstarter campaign. The numbers aren’t shocking to me, not at all. I set the goal for the kickstarter at $100,000 hoping we’d make it quickly, and hoping we’d surpass it by a long-shot.

I’ve been tending this bamboo forest of fans for years and years, ever since leaving roadrunner records in 2009. Every person I talk to at a signing, every exchange I have online (sometimes dozens a day), every random music video or art gallery link sent to me by a fan that i curiously follow, every strange bed I’ve crashed on…all of that real human connecting has led to this moment, where I came back around, asking for direct help with a record. Asking EVERYBODY. Asking my poor fans to give a dollar, or if nothing else, to spread the link; asking my rich fans to loan me money at whatever level they can afford to miss it for a while.

And they help because they know I’m good for it. Because they KNOW me.

I’ve seen people complaining that this is easy for me to do because I got my start on a major label. It’s totally true that the label helped me and my band get known. But after that, the future was up to me. It bought me nothing but a headstart, and I used it. I could have stopped working hard and connecting in 2009. If I’d done that, and then popped up out of nowhere in 2012 to kickstart a solo record in 2012, my album would probably get funded to the tune of $10k…if I was lucky. There are huge ex-major label artists (pointless to name names) who have tried the crowd-funding method and failed dramatically, mostly because they didn’t have the online relationship with their fans to rely on. And vice versa: plenty of young upstarts with a small but devoted fanbase have kicked ass using crowdfunding, because they’ve taken a hands-on approach online and at shows, and have been close and connected with their fans ALL THIS TIME, while nobody was caring or watching.

 

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