Amanda Palmer makes no bones about the scope of her intentions for her recent Kickstarter campaign. "This is the future of music," declares the Boston burlesque-punk artist via cue card (shades of Bob Dylan's famous "Subterranean Homesick Blues") in the campaign's promotional video.
Laugh if you will: AFP, as she is known (guess what the F stands for), earned $1,192,173 in the fundraiser that ended May 31. Although other enterprises at the crowd-sourcing website have passed the $1-million mark, hers is the first musical project to do so.
In the bad old days, artists had to make a pact with a major label to get that kind of money. Now they can go straight to the people.
"You may pull other people in with the buzz around your project, but your goal on Kickstarter isn't to pitch to total strangers," Palmer told The Times in an email interview. "It's to gather capital from your community, your pre-existing fans, with the hope that their enthusiasm might attract people to hop over the fence and take a look at what you're doing. You need to treat your existing fans like GOLD, even if you only have 200 of them. ... They are your megaphone, and they are powerful message-spreaders."
In return for their cash, contributors get everything from a deluxe-edition CD (the most popular option at $25, funded by 9,333 backers) to dinner and a portrait-sitting with Palmer for $10,000 (two backers).
As if becoming a millionaire over 30 nights wasn't enviable enough (though, of course, Palmer has to pay lots of expenses, employees and management, not to mention Uncle Sam), here's the kicker to this Kickstarter kick-down: Palmer has already recorded the album, "Theater Is Evil." The money won't be going to studio time or producer John Congleton, the usual beneficiaries of a record advance. So how will Palmer spend her windfall?
“HOOKERS !!!!!!!!!!!! BLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” she emailed. "Just kidding. We're going to put a lot of the money into the packaging of the CDs and LPs and art book themselves ... and the rest will go towards the videos and the touring production, which looks like it may be an unprecedented feat of rock theater."
Palmer, who split with her last label, Roadrunner, has made marketing and promotion an intrinsic part of her creative package, right alongside the business side of her trans-media empire. They used to call such a me-centric endeavor a "vanity project." But AFP's efforts are scarcely in vain. She's well aware, as a female artist, of how entrepreneurialism such as hers is changing the usual dynamics of show business. And she has a sense of humor about it all: “Of course if any money is left over I'll get that tummy tuck and [breast augmentation] I've always dreamed about. Finally."
-- Evelyn McDonnell
Photo: Amanda Palmer, center, and entourage at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 18, 2009. Credit: Spencer Weiner and Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times