Amanda Palmer is a performance artist, dramatist, singer and songwriter who has built a remarkably loyal following. They love her punk-cabaret music as performed solo, with the Dresden Dolls, and in various collaborations. As she describes in her TED Talk, her former label considered her album releases failures because her audience didn’t expand enough. Palmer decided to leave the label, and her fan base has continued to support her via Patreon, a platform that enables her to continue to support herself while making her art. It’s a phenomenon any artist should like to repeat themselves, and a story that translates well to any type of entrepreneurship.
Perhaps the best advocate for how to connect like Amanda Palmer is Palmer herself. Since departing from Roadrunner (a Warner Music subsidiary) in 2009, Palmer serves as her own promoter, organically sharing and cleverly partnering to trumpet her work to the widest audience possible. As she told Pitchfork in 2009, building an audience requires a long view of success. “You tour and you work hard and you take care of your fans and very real things lead to other real things. There’s never been some fantastic fluke or break in my career, it has all been very slow and steady.” Here are a few techniques that have served her growth:
- Collaborate–She recorded her album “Who Killed Amanda Palmer?” at Ben Folds’ studio. Ben Folds produced, and he and others played on the album. She has included people such as Margaret Cho in various projects. Each time she collaborates, she inches herself out there a little bit more, connecting with her collaborators’ fans as well.
- Borrow—Covering other artists’ songs is yet another way to spark connections with audiences who may not have encountered Palmer otherwise. This could be said for her ukulele covers of Radiohead songs.
- Facilitate–Palmer hosts a community, Shadowbox, where fans discuss all things Amanda Palmer. It’s meta, it’s bold, and it keeps her fans engaged when there is downtime between tours and album releases.
- Share–Palmer makes masterful use of social media (follow her on Twitter here). There she manages a balance between the public and private that is compelling. Palmer shares personal updates, political views and links to content, as well as frequent updates about her creative life and progress on new work.
- Ask–Palmer is a big proponent of the “ask”–of being forthcoming about the economic exchange artists require. Art is work, and artists deserve to be compensated fairly for it. She made headlines in 2012 when she funded a project by launching a Kickstarter that earned $1.2M, setting records for funding on the platform. Rather than empowering gatekeepers to set prices for her work, she prefers instead a true free-market approach. Leveraging her own website, you can download her music for free. The “ask” comes in when you donate what you think it’s worth or can afford. She has also used the Patreon platform, where you can subscribe for early access to releases and extra content.
There are many who claim to know how to build an audience–here Palmer truly shines. She is a tremendously approachable artist, and I challenge you to adopt some of her techniques. Consider your audience early and often in any undertaking, and find ways to connect that create a dialog. That way, your audience knows what’s coming next, its value and place in your body of work.