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June 5, 2012
NYTimes Discovers Palmer is Doing Something Different
It's cute watching conventional media struggling to "get" things that are outside their usual purview. Used to be they didn't get SF, or tech. Now they kinda mostly get some of that. Ben Sisario does his best to translate the AFP phenomenon for the mass Times audience.
That right there? That's the first problem: as Palmer said, the music business is built on the idea you have to trick people into parting with cash. Her Kickstarter model is based on the idea that she has a tight, dedicated (if small) fan-base that are willing to part with cash - to the tune of USD 1.1 million it turns out. Inverting peoples' expectations is a common phenomenon in small dedicated groups (often "fans") and is usually hard to explain to people who are not part of that group.
Sisario talks about Palmer's "theatrical gestures", which I think is slightly missing the point, and her intense and uniquely personal broadband engagement with her fans, which I think is much more relevant. AFP, in her Kickstarter updates, has noted that other musicians who want to do this sort of thing will have to find their own way. Trying to "be" or "be like" Amanda Palmer isn't likely to work, simply because she has a certain personality and a certain style that most people don't have. Trying to fake it won't buy you anything because you're not (supposed to be) about faking it or passing as something else.
Sisario talks about Palmer's "experienced managers and publicists" as if that was somehow a mark against her authenticity. But Palmer's own Kickstarter Q&A pointed out that someone who wants a successful project of this sort needs to have it planned out. Knowing ahead of time what updates you want to do, what bonuses you can add, how to get the campaign noticed, etc are all vital to success.
My view is still that there's a business opportunity here, helping artists who aren't as Net-/social-media savvy as Palmer put together a successful sponsorship campaign, and possibly let the artist have a life, make art (or music), and get the money they need. How to do that without losing the personal, deep-connected authenticity that motivates a group like Palmer's fans is a question yet to be answered.
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