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Like a lot of musicians these days, former Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer decided recently to skip the whole record-company rigmarole and fund her next record through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. She started out with a goal of $100,000, which she hoped to raise through small contributions from a lot of individual fans. In exchange, the contributors would get a copy of the record and/or some other cool swag, depending upon the size of the contribution. (If you pledged $5000, Palmer would come to your house and play the ukulele for you.) She reached her goal in a week. Before her funding deadline was up, Palmer had raised $1.2 million.

This raises a lot of questions. First, who needs to spend that much money recording? I doubt even Pink Floyd spent $1 million making The Wall. Second, it’s great that Palmer’s fans are so dedicated, but if they wanted to throw someone an extra $1 million over budget, couldn’t they have chosen Doctors Without Borders or some other worthy charity?

Lest young artists look at Palmer’s story and decide to try the crowd-funding route, remember: Palmer has been cultivating her following for ten years. The Dresden Dolls were always big on audience participation, both at their shows and at home. When Palmer is not performing music, she’s blogging or keeping in touch with her more than 600,000 Twitter followers. You can also see her (quite a lot of her) in an online-only NSFW music video she made recently with the Flaming Lips.

Palmer is a talented performer onstage and on record. But all this online interaction and self-promotion is a kind of performance, too, and she’s an absolute master at it.

AMANDA PALMER & THE GRAND THEFT ORCHESTRA: House of Blues, Monday, September 24, 7:30 p.m. 619-299-2583. $22 advance/$25 door.

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willcrain Sept. 19, 2012 @ 12:41 p.m.

This is William Crain. I just wanted to say that, my deadlines being what they are, I wrote this before the controversy broke out over Palmer's volunteer musicians. I can appreciate both sides of that debate. I'm not totally sure which side I'd come down on, if I had to pick one. But whether you're in favor of Palmer's methods or against them, my original point stands: She is a master of social media.


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