Amanda Palmer and the Art of Asking

This was also published on Eshac.

 

 

I caught this TedTalk with Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, Evelyn Evelyn, and Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. I’ll be honest and say she’s always been in my weird box. I remember when The Dresden Dolls released “Coin Operated Boy” when I was in high school, and while it always struck me as an odd song, it was freaking catchy. I had that album on repeat for a few months, then managed to find a new weird band to obsess over. After that, she mostly fell off my radar. So when this link popped up on Facebook entitled “An 8-Foot-Tall Woman is Destroying the Music Industry” naturally I clicked on it. I tend to click on the weird links, they’re usually pretty entertaining. I click, and wait for the video to load. It starts out with her walking out and standing on this box with a top hat on the floor and a flower in her hand. She starts talking about how she was a self employed living statue. She talked about how people would walk by, and if they gave her money she would hand them a flower and have some very intense eye contact.
She talks about those connections she made with people through this job. About how through that intense eye contact, especially with those very lonely people who may go weeks without talking to anyone, they would have these exchanges of moments of “I see you, and you matter and you see me, Thank you.” Those moments without words where you can have a direct connection with people and see each other, to truly connect in a way that we don’t see very often.
She couch-surfs and crowd-surfs when she tours, she puts her trust into her fans, and it is completely returned because of those connections she’s been able to build up with them. Through the invention of Twitter, and its rise, she’s been able to capitalize on that even further. If she needs a piano in New York, an hour later she has one. It’s because of that trust, and those connections that her fans are there for her. She gives them her music and her creative output, and her fans give back completely fully. She has direct connections which is rare in the music industry.
The label she was on, was not happy with their small amount of sales. They sold 25,000 copies, and the label dropped them. She was excited about it. It was 25,000 people who had gone out and bought their music based on that connection. What her fans do is just returning the favor, of what her music has done. For anyone who has had a connection with a song, and felt like that person gets it, they get me. Feeling a connection with someone who you probably never meet is a common thing in the life of music fans. Many of us will wait after shows for autographs, photos and hugs. It’s hard in that moment to fully purge your thankfulness to these people for their songs. For what they have unknowingly done for you. Whether it’s helping you celebrate something momentous or holding your hand through those dark and tough times we all know, we create connections with those people.
I admire Amanda Palmer for what she’s done, for being that direct connection with as many fans as she can be. For giving every single fan who waits for her after shows her time, and for thanking them for their support, and for simply returning the favor. This is really what the industry should be about. The artists not being on a pedestal, but being a human being. Being accessible, and giving fans time like she has. The fans are the reason musicians are able to do what they do in the first place. Without fans, musicians are just people with an obsession or a hobby, fans give it a life outside of them. They breathe into music and give it life. That’s an extremely important thing for a musician of any stature, large or small, to take to heart.
It’s about the fans. If you’re a musician and you’re lucky enough to have fans, give them the time and the energy you can, and be accessible and talk to them. Let them know what their support means to you.

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