Amanda Palmer: Kickstarting Controversy

Blog: 02.06.13

Wednesday, February 06, 2013 - 12:22 PM

Amanda Palmer knows how to use the internet. She named her website “Amanda Fucking Palmer.” And she took to the crowd-funding site Kickstarter like she owned it. She was the first musician to raise over a million dollars on Kickstarter last year to record and release Theatre Is Evil, which debuted in the top 10 on the Billboard chart with no music industry backing. In her Kickstarter campaign video (below), Palmer declared the crowd-funding model “the future of music."

That may be true, but the future is a risky place. After her million-dollar milestone, Palmer continued her old indie practice of asking musician-fans to play for free on her tour. The Kickstarter poster girl faced a storm of derision from critics, industry types, and fans. “Nowhere, even in the back of my mind, did I think this could backfire,” Palmer says, “because I’ve done it so many times.”

I talked with Palmer about the incident in the course of reporting on accountability problems on Kickstarter — the full interview is posted above. She says fans and critics assumed that the funding made her rich. “I was so shocked, because I knew what the numbers were,” Palmer says. “Pretty much all of the money got spent.” She ultimately did pay the musicians on her tour.

One of Palmer’s enticements was that backers who contributed $5,000 to the project could have her perform live at a house party. Around 30 minutes into the interview, she discusses how her fans did their own social-media crowd-funding campaigns to come up with the money.

Palmer’s takeaway is that when the crowd funds the work, communication and transparency become key. That might have saved Animal Collective’s Deakin from his own Kickstarter backlash. Deakin raised $25,000 to record an album in Mali in 2009, but three years later, failed to produce any music, and failed to update his backers. Palmer says if she had backed the project, "I'd want an explanation and I’d feel upset that I hadn't been part of the process."

Crowd-funding, Palmer thinks, will inevitably affect the creative process, and she’s okay with that. "Every time you look at the course of history, [funding] always changes the art. But that’s fine. The art evolves, the artists evolve."

Ike Sriskandarajah is a reporter for Turnstyle News, a project of Youth Radio.



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Comments [3]

Alex Greenwood from Kansas City, MO

Really? She was upset because she was sitting on a massive war chest (by indie musician standards) and was hurt that people wouldn't play for free? Yikes. Right or wrong, the negative perception she generated on the tour is not helped by her comments after the fact. I did a Kickstarter to raise funds for a paperback version of my mystery novel ebook. I asked for enough to supplement money I had already saved so that I, too, had some skin in the game. Despite some rookie mistakes, I raised 106% of my campaign goal of $1500 in just 21 days–an unusual outcome. I wrote a brief ebook about my experience and the crowdfunding movement, "Kickstarter Success Secrets" (2012 Caroline Street Press). One tip: be aware that everything you do with that money (or don't do with it) will be scrutinized--especially if its over six figures. More info:

Mar. 03 2013 10:45 AM
RiverVox from Boston

If you are interested in where the Theatre is Evil Kickstarter money went, you can read Amanda's accounting blog post here:

Feb. 10 2013 05:25 PM
DJ from DC

In your interview Amanda Palmer talks about how hurt she was that people thought she was rich, but then the interview talks about expenses totaling $500,000. Admittedly that's a LOT of expense, but that's out of a million dollars. So, even assuming some other more minor expenses, not only does it make her sound rich (by the garden variety definition), the fact that she asked the musicians to play for free makes her sound absolutely horrible.

She also spends a lot of time talking about accountability, transparency and communication. If she practiced these fundamentals, rather than paying lip service to them, maybe she'd sound better.

Feb. 09 2013 04:25 PM

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