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Saturday, May 24, 2014

ENTERTAINMENT - Amanda Palmer: The art of asking

TED2013 · 13:47 · Filmed Feb 2013 
Subtitles available in 37 languages

Don't make people pay for music, says Amanda Palmer: Let them. In a passionate talk that begins in her days as a street performer (drop a dollar in the hat for the Eight-Foot Bride!), she examines the new relationship between artist and fan.

pinThis talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.


(Breathes in, breathes out)

So I didn't always make my living from music. For about the five years after graduating from an upstanding liberal arts university, this was my day job. I was a self-employed living statue called the 8-Foot Bride, and I love telling people l did this for a job, because everybody always wants to know, who are these freaks in real life?Hello. I painted myself white one day, stood on a box, put a hat or a can at my feet, and when someone came by and dropped in money, I handed them a flower and some intense eye contact. And if they didn't take the flower, I threw in a gesture of sadness and longing as they walked away....

And meanwhile, I was touring locally and playing in nightclubs with my band, the Dresden Dolls. This was me on piano, a genius drummer. I wrote the songs, and eventually we started making enough money that I could quit being a statue, and as we started touring, I really didn't want to lose this sense of direct connection with people, because I loved it. So after all of our shows, we would sign autographs and hug fans and hang out and talk to people, and we made an art out of asking people to help us and join us, and I would track down local musicians and artists and they would set up outside of our shows, and they would pass the hat, and then they would come in and join us onstage, so we had this rotating smorgasbord of weird, random circus guests...

And meanwhile, my band is becoming bigger and bigger. We signed with a major label. And our music is a cross between punk and cabaret. It's not for everybody.Well, maybe it's for you. We sign, and there's all this hype leading up to our next record. And it comes out and it sells about 25,000 copies in the first few weeks, and the label considers this a failure.

And I was like, "25,000, isn't that a lot?"

They were like, "No, the sales are going down. It's a failure." And they walk off.

Right at this same time, I'm signing and hugging after a gig, and a guy comes up to me and hands me a $10 bill, and he says,"I'm sorry, I burned your CD from a friend."(Laughter) "But I read your blog, I know you hate your label. I just want you to have this money."

And this starts happening all the time. I become the hat after my own gigs, but I have to physically stand there and take the help from people, and unlike the guy in the opening band, I've actually had a lot of practice standing there. Thank you.

And this is the moment I decide I'm just going to give away my music for free online whenever possible, so it's like Metallica over here, Napster, bad; Amanda Palmer over here, and I'm going to encourage torrenting, downloading, sharing, but I'm going to ask for help, because I saw it work on the street.So I fought my way off my label and for my next project with my new band, the Grand Theft Orchestra, I turned to crowdfunding,and I fell into those thousands of connections that I'd made, and I asked my crowd to catch me. And the goal was 100,000 dollars. My fans backed me at nearly 1.2 million, which was the biggest music crowdfunding project to date...

For most of human history, musicians, artists, they've been part of the community,connectors and openers, not untouchable stars. Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance, but the Internet and the content that we're freely able to share on it are taking us back. It's about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough. So a lot of people are confused by the idea of no hard sticker price. They see it as an unpredictable risk, but the things I've done, the Kickstarter, the street, the doorbell, I don't see these things as risk. I see them as trust. Now, the online tools to make the exchange as easy and as instinctive as the street, they're getting there. But the perfect tools aren't going to help us if we can't face each otherand give and receive fearlessly, but, more important, to ask without shame.

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