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Friday, March 22, 2013
Crowdfunding The Act Of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Crowdfunding The Act Of Asking
by Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer, an American musician, took the stage at a recent TED conference like a human statue. She stood on a plastic crate with a man’s hat upturned in front of it, held a length of tulle across her arms and a flower in one hand, and paused.
Ms Palmer, who is an advocate of crowdfunding and communicating with her fans online, then delivered an electric talk about patronage in the internet age. The audience response was such that TED immediately (and nearly without precedent) edited and posted the video to its free website. It racked up over 1m views within a few days.
Ms Palmer’s early performance work was as a busker, when she lived (or starved) by donations alone. She kept the spirit of street donations alive as she gained celebrity as a musician, first in the duo The Dresden Dolls, and then with Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. Last year, she raised nearly $1.2m from 25,000 backers on Kickstarter to pay for the recording and release costs of an album and an associated tour. (She was surprised by an industry backlash when she put a call out for local musicians to join her on-stage, offering to pay them in beer, hugs and merchandise. This was the kind of barter arrangement she was used to but others claimed it was exploitation. She later agreed to pay them cash.)
She says the crowdfunding success of her Kickstarter project was a result of years of building a give-and-take relationship with fans. Her nugget of wisdom is that she never makes her fans and supporters do anything. Rather, she asks. Often they come forward to give freely; whether it is food, musical instruments, a couch to sleep on or even the crate that she used in her talk. In return, Ms Palmer gives, uninhibitedly, her time, company and emotions. “Money is a small sliver in the pie chart of the things I’ve asked my fans for”, she says. (Ms Palmer spoke about these aspects at The Economist’s World In 2013 festival last December.) On this basis she has forged her career and preaches that the act of asking provides others the opportunity to be generous. “Being able to share what you have, help and support other people, really is a fundamentally enjoyable thing to do as a human being,” she says.