Amanda Palmer Leads the Way


Amanda Palmer, the solo artist who used to be one half of the Dresden Dolls has always been a controversial figure. Known for taking risks, speaking her mind and going her own way in an industry (music) that has traditionally frowned on such things, Amanda is blazing new trails for musicians all over the planet.

Her most recent album, Theatre is Evil was funded via Kickstarter and is now available online via her website at a “pay what you want” price point. Her Ted Talk, The Art of Asking, has gone viral and is being talked about by media moguls and independent artists alike.

Amanda isn’t the only artist to use Kickstarter or ask for local volunteers to help flesh out a backing orchestra while on tour or to even offer her music online for free (or hoped for donation):

Jonathan Coulton has long since embraced the idea that it’s better to let people have the things for free and pay voluntarily and based on their own appreciation of the work. He now books national tours and is a featured guest often on NPR and has had his work reappropriated on Glee.

Almost every blogger who has ever gotten a book deal (Heather Armstrong being the most prominent) has a debut memoir that relies heavily on work available via a blog for free—not counting the expenditure of time needed to search out those individual posts.

So what does this mean for you? If you are someone who wants to make art and show it to the world, you are no longer limited to the off chance that you will be discovered. If you want to be a professional musician you don’t need a million bucks to spend on professional recording equipment. You can use YouTube and any of the free software programs found on to build your “studio” and put your message out there.

So what makes Amanda special? Why are people focusing on her?

It’s possible that people are choosing to focus on her because she embodies the dream that most musicians share: finding intense levels of success, a loyal fan base and the ability to make a million bucks doing what they love.

It’s also worth noting that she’s the first female artist to harness the power of the Internet. Some tune-philes might point to her predecessor, Ani DiFranco, who started her own label so she wouldn’t have to kowtow to existing labels and their demands/standards. What makes Amanda different, however, is that she is full on bucking the system. She’s not just saying that her way of doing things is possible, she’s pointing out that, for many artists, it’s preferable.

Amanda is also well known for literally putting herself out there. As a performance piece at a recent concert, she led perhaps the ultimate trust exercise: she stripped nude and allowed members of her audience to draw all over her body with markers.

Most importantly, her philosophies transcend music and can be applied to writing, film, visual art and design work as well.

We are in the age of “doing it for ourselves,” and Amanda is making sure there won’t be any turning back. That’s pretty exciting stuff!

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