A Closer Look At How Amanda Palmer Connected With Fans To Become Successful

from the it-ain't-'cause-of-the-label dept

We've written a few stories about Amanda Palmer, and her amazing success in connecting directly with fans (and her struggle to get dropped by her major record label), but none got quite as much attention as the last one about her massively successful Twitter experiments last month. The comments on that post got pretty involved, with Amanda herself stopping by to clarify some points. Some people argued that the only reason she had a fan base at all was because of her major record label association, and also claimed that the label financed the album -- which Palmer denied, noting:
for the record, i actually fronted ALL of the money for this record, because the label wasn't interested in supporting the effort.... i put in my own 200k (much of it borrowed) to make the record. the label picked it up, but i was never fully paid back (long, vile and complicated), which added insult to injury when they did FUCK all to promote the record.
Even more to the point, others are pointing out how much of her core loyal following had nothing to do with anything done by the record label. Hypebot asked Emily White, who's had a long history with Amanda and her work, to weigh in on how she built up her fanbase, and how much impact the record label had. The answer is that the label didn't do very much at all. It got some new markets interested... briefly... but those fans didn't stick around. The true fans were the ones who found out about Amanda and the Dresden Dolls via word of mouth. A few key excerpts (though you should read the whole thing):
I tour managed The Dresden Dolls from 2003-2006 and later co-managed the band as well as managed the launch of Amanda Palmer's solo career. The band self-booked a spring 2004 tour around SXSW hitting everything from sports bars to a bbq restaurant. They had no label, publicist, radio promo, agent, etc. to help book or promote the shows. Before hitting the road, I thought, "who is going to turn up to these shows outside of the Northeast? (as the band is from Boston). How will anyone know about them?"

But kids DID turn up. Whether it was 100 folks in Carbondale, IL or the amazing show Appalachian State University students put together in Boone, NC, the tour was a smashing indie success. I asked the fans at the merch table and the folks who helped us put the shows together how they knew about the band. The answers were consistently along the lines of "my cousin in Vermont IM'd me," "my boyfriend sent me a CD from Boston," or "someone forwarded me one of their mailers." It was true word-of-mouth about an incredible new band, fostered by Amanda and Brian's commitment to playing killer shows, writing personalized mailers and signing an autograph for every fan who wanted one, no matter how many hours it took.

....

And because of that decision [to sign with a major label], the band did receive pockets of radio success in markets like St. Louis and Arizona. The attendance at those shows spiked in 2006 when a few Dolls songs were receiving airplay. Awesome, right? Well, now it's 2009 and we've returned to some of those markets. Many of those radio fans don't turn up anymore. Yet, the hardcores or "1000 true fans" are still there, just like they have been since they organically founded The Dresden Dolls back in the day. They still line up outside for hours, know every word of every song (whether or not it has been released), and wait around for Amanda's autograph. They don't need a top down marketing plan to tell them what to like. And who are the new hardcore Dolls/ Amanda fans? They are the younger siblings and friends of the original fans, who continue to spread the gospel about an artist who's work they love so much they can't not talk about.
Once again, if you can connect with fans, and give them a true reason to buy, they will. That doesn't mean labels are useless. If they can help artists better connect with fans and provide more reasons to buy, they can absolutely be helpful. But that's just not the way many old school label folks work these days. Some of them are finally getting it (and I've actually had some really great conversations lately with record label folks who are figuring this out). But for artists who can (and want to) do it themselves, there are an increasing number of wonderful opportunities.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    seriously?, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 9:50am

    conflicts?

    @mike: is amanda palmer one of your clients? It's like you (and only you) write about her every time she goes to the grocery store.

     

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  2.  
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    SERIOUSLY?????, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 10:25am

    Idiot

    He quotes and excerpts the Hypebot article.

     

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  3.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Her "connection" with fans couldn't have something to do with the fact that she looks and dresses like this?

    I'd be more than willing to connect with her, if given the chance!

     

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  4.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 10:31am

    Re: conflicts?

    "It's like you (and only you) write about her every time she goes to the grocery store."

    She went to the grocery store?! Damn, how did I fricken miss that?!

     

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  5.  
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    Mechwarrior, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 10:36am

    200k is chump change. She should be glad that the labels didnt sue her for singing her own songs.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 10:45am

    Re: conflicts?

    @mike: is amanda palmer one of your clients? It's like you (and only you) write about her every time she goes to the grocery store.

    (1) No, Amanda is not a client.

    (2) Everything we've written about her has been based on links from other sites, so it is incorrect to suggest that only we write about her.

    (3) What she's doing is interesting and fits with what we talk about here. Seeing as it's a good example of how this works, why not provide more details. This is especially true since many questioned the earlier details, so this post clarified that.

    (4) I have no idea when she last went to the grocery store, nor would I write about it.

     

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  7.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 10:47am

    Re: conflicts?

    Well, she's dating Neil Gaiman, so I doubt Mike has a conflict-of-interest thing going on.

    OTOH, that might account for part of her popularity.

     

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  8.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re: conflicts?

    "Everything we've written about her has been based on links from other sites, so it is incorrect to suggest that only we write about her."

    Good point! You've got one guy complaining that you're the only guy writing and another guy complaining that you've cited too much from someone else. Trolls are a rare breed, logic and reason means nothing to 'em.

     

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  9.  
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    Shawn (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: conflicts?

    I was writing up a post on how she took a dump this morning and she must have slipped out while I was not looking. I will not let it happen again

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Bob, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Cause your music is shit.

    "for the record, i actually fronted ALL of the money for this record, because the label wasn't interested in supporting the effort.... i put in my own 200k (much of it borrowed) to make the record. the label picked it up, but i was never fully paid back (long, vile and complicated), which added insult to injury when they did FUCK all to promote the record."

    they weren't interested in supporting the effort cause they thought the music would be shit.

    they weren't interested in promoting the effort because it was shit.

    they picked you up (probably for peanuts) on the off chance that society would turn retard overnight and for some reason buy your crap.

    you jumped at the chance to be on a big label (just like a real life rockstar), so you didn't read your contract, and you got screwed.

    tell me i'm wrong.

     

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  11.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 11:18am

    Re: Cause your music is shit.

    "tell me i'm wrong."

    No, Walter, you're not wrong, you're just an asshole. Will you just, take it easy...man?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 11:19am

    Re: Cause your music is shit.

    All hail Bob, who commands all who live on this Earth. Let it henceforth be known that all bodies and minds shall act in accordance to his whims.

     

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  13.  
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    randy Garbin, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 11:19am

    Would you believe?

    I first heard of Amanda on, of all places, the Howard Stern Show. He happened to play one of her live renditions of "I'm a Creep" on the uke. I had to find out more. I'm hard core now. I just have to go see a show. She's amazing.

     

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  14.  
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    amanda palmer fan, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 11:28am

    i discovered her through techdirt

    After reading about Amanda Palmer on this blog a few months back, I decided to torrent one of her albums. (I didn't have the money to risk buying an album I hadn't heard.)

    I'm now going to see her in concert in August!

    I might even buy a T-Shirt or 2 ;-)

    Check out her videos here: http://whokilledamandapalmer.com/videos.php

     

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  15.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re: Cause your music is shit.

    "All hail Bob"

    That means we throw icy chunks of precipiation at him, right? I mean, it seems excessive, but I guess I'm in...

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Bob, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 11:33am

    Thanks.

    "No, Walter, you're not wrong, you're just an asshole. Will you just, take it easy...man?"

    Touche.

    "All hail Bob, who commands all who live on this Earth. Let it henceforth be known that all bodies and minds shall act in accordance to his whims."

    Sweet.

    I know I sound like a dick, but you have to think like an A&R representative when you want to understand how record labels deal with artists of this calibur. They might take a chance (and trust me, it is a chance), but if they do they're going to want to mitigate any loss they might incur if the project bombs (which happens about 85% of the time).

    Its hard on artists. Especially the starry-eyed ones who thought they made it big. But it's a business, and that is where they get the money to fund and promote the few artists who become very successful.

    If you don't like the business model. Don't sign to a major label. They are in the business of making money- as much as possible. And they can't do that with artists whose music doesn't sell well, or who can't sell out out big venues consistently.

    Amanda Palmer does neither.

     

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  17.  
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    Esahc (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 11:54am

    Re: Cause your music is shit.

    Damn Bob, cut her some slack.

     

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  18.  
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    Mike's a Tool, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Who?

     

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  19.  
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    DJ (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Thanks.

    "...you have to think like an A&R representative when you want to understand how record labels deal with artists of this calibur."

    No. I don't. I'm a fan of music. I like music. I like listening to music. Therefore I think like somone who does THOSE things. It's high time A&R reps started to fucking thinking like that!!! That would probably solve a shit-ton of the stupid lawsuits currently in the courts!!

     

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  20.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Thanks.

    I know I sound like a dick, but you have to think like an A&R representative when you want to understand how record labels deal with artists of this calibur. They might take a chance (and trust me, it is a chance), but if they do they're going to want to mitigate any loss they might incur if the project bombs (which happens about 85% of the time).

    You also seem to have totally missed the point. It's not that the label didn't pay or didn't promote. It's the fact that people ACCUSED her of only having a following because of the label. This discussion showed that to be untrue.

    They are in the business of making money- as much as possible.

    And how's that been working out for them lately?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Bob, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 12:34pm

    "No. I don't. I'm a fan of music. I like music. I like listening to music."

    Thats fine. You don't have to think like an A&R rep. But then don't be incensed when an artist you like who didn't do that either gets screwed.

    Labels no longer have a monopoly on production. With protools or logic and minimal equipment you can make a professional records and post them wherever you want.

    The point is, music in the fat tail is different than music in the long tail, and so are their respective businesses.

    Don't be surprised when an artist who didn't consider that gets screwed trying to fit under the wrong part of the curve.

     

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  22.  
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    DJ (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 12:42pm

    Re:

    Ever watch interviews where a question is asked and the answer given has NOTHING to do with the question?

    that's what you're doing here. I know I've made my share of off-topic comments here, but that's as far as I intended them to go. If you're going to debate, debate the topic at hand; don't start a new topic. That's Mike's job.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Bob, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    You're right. They failed.

    And how's that been working out for them lately?

    WMG (the parent company of Roadrunner- Amanda Palmers label) made almost $3.5 billion in 2008, and representing a $78 million positive change in their cash position.

    So, yeah, they're downsizing. But they are cash positive, and eventually they will stabilize, and they will still be a fucking huge company.

    The record industry is changing. That doesn't mean its going away, and that record companies won't still make alot of money.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Walter, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re: Cause your music is shit.

    "No, Walter, you're not wrong, you're just an asshole. Will you just, take it easy...man?"

    I'm calmer than you are, Dude.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 12:57pm

    Re: You're right. They failed.

    The fact that they're changing is a good thing. They can still provide useful service. I'm hoping they can understand that they're not the only gatekeepers, the gaurdians of the gold master, the only publicity game in town.
    The more time they devote to changing their business model to keep pace with changing times, and the less time they spend trying to leglislate support for their business model, the better.

     

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  26.  
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    herodotus (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    "So, yeah, they're downsizing. But they are cash positive, and eventually they will stabilize..."

    So in other words, they are failing, but because they still have so much money from their glory days it's going to take a while.


    "...and they will still be a fucking huge company."

    Does that give you a boner or something?

    McDonald's is a much bigger company, does that mean that their food is good? Because last time I checked it was just about impossible to swallow unless you are drunk.

    And does the fact that they don't have, say, tiramisu mean that tiramisu isn't good, while those apple pie thingies are?

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 2:02pm

    Don't worry about Bob.

    I'm sure that mediocre, generic crap like 'Nickleback' is more his speed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    kirillian (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 3:44pm

    Re:

    Actually, I have always been rather impressed with Nickleback's electric guitar which acts as a kind of rhythm guitar in most of his songs...if I was a fan, I might be able to tell you his name, but that particular guitarist is actually rather musically gifted - I wish that most melodic guitarists had the creativity that he does in even his embellishments.

     

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  29.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 5:26pm

    Re: You're right. They failed.

    WMG (the parent company of Roadrunner- Amanda Palmers label) made almost $3.5 billion in 2008, and representing a $78 million positive change in their cash position.

    Heh. Profits, Bob, profits. Have you noticed any lately?

    WMG just had to borrow a billion dollars at a rather high interest rate. They were running out of cash.

    What's their growth rate? Are they making more money this year than they were last?

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 10th, 2009 @ 7:09pm

    Please to understand that amanda f=cking palmer didn't get support from ger record label because she wasn't willing to allow her video to be re-edited to remove some shots of her less than stunning physique from the video. I saw her cut of the video, and I can undertand the intentions, which is to help to market her very odd version of music hopefully to a slightly wider audience. That process often involves removing or editing out things that aren't as attractive to the target market place.

    Having dumped on her record label at that point, she went off from there, and things have gotten stupider.

    Her position as a darling to techdirt doesn't come because she wants to be there, rather because she appears to have such an attitude that she doesn't want to work with anyone else, which leaves only her current "selling t-shirts and crap from our last tour" to make money rather than actually playing more shows.

    "you do it to yourself, you do"

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Disturbed, Jul 12th, 2009 @ 5:14pm

    Amanda Palmer is about as successful as a pregnant nun

    Amanda Palmer a success? A record that doesn't sell? A record company that doesn't want to promote her lame ass? A vanity project book with crazy Scientologist Neil Gaiman that no publisher wanted so they published it themselves. Damn. If you think this is success, I'd like to introduce you to Gary Coleman.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Karlheinz, Jul 13th, 2009 @ 6:22am

    Bob et. al.:

    You may think her music "sucks." That's your opinion, and you're entitled to it - I think lots of musicians suck. But even if they did, I would still think they were treated unfairly were they in Amanda's position.

    If you want to be more accurate, instead of "sucks," you should say "wouldn't sell." But here's the thing: The album sold 30,000 copies, no thanks to the label. If you're a business that sells 30,000 units, and you can't make a profit, then you should re-think your business strategy.

    In reality, they did make a profit - they just didn't give any of it to the artist. From Amanda's viewpoint, the record was nothing more than a handout to label executives.

    As to being "difficult:" as far as the art itself goes, being difficult is part of an artist's job. This is because your first priority is to create quality art. A label doesn't care whether your art is good, they care about maximizing profits. (Never mind that the quality of the art is its selling point.)

    Obviously this clash is nothing new, but at the end of the day, the artist has to make the final call. It's the artist's "product," after all - they're the "brand" that the "consumers" are buying, and will be loyal to, or not.

    Labels interfering with artists' output is exactly like ad agencies changing the formula for Coke.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 13th, 2009 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Amanda Palmer is about as successful as a pregnant nun

    Oh, I see, so when an artist can make a good living by circumventing the middle man, she's a failure.

    When the promotion company has nothing to offer because their promotion methods are worse than what an individual comes up with herself, they're a success?

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 13th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Re:

    What a sad world we live in, where Marketing companies think their job is to create content.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Signor, Sep 5th, 2009 @ 1:26am

    Amanda Palmer, what a mess.

    Calling what Amanda Palmer does "music" is a stretch. She wails, she moans, she takes her clothes off, she writes on her body and seems to think armpit hair is a political statement, but singing is one thing she cannot do since she is tone deaf. Amanda Palmer is a walking and, unfortunately, talking oxymoron; a feminist who strips down and wants to be posed as a mutilated sex object and screws notorious womanizer Neil Gaiman and now is apparently jumping into the clammy claws of Scientology or maybe she was raised one. Amanda Palmer is a damaged mess selling tickets to her daily violation and degradation. Yuck.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Silan, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 6:05am

    A follow-up article might be in order after recent developments:

    A Closer Look At How Amanda Palmer Alienated Her Fans And Pissed People Of By Being A Tacky Offensive Try Hard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Sylvia the Moon, Nov 24th, 2010 @ 1:38pm

    Amanda Fail Palmer... she is made of Fail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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