Left to right: Chad Raines, Amanda Palmer, Michael McQuilken, Village Underground, New York City, 2012.


Last April former lead singer of the Dresden Dolls Amanda Palmer launched a month-long Kickstarter campaign to fund an album, a book, an art exhibition, and a live music tour. Here, the performer discusses the successes of the campaign, which raised over one million dollars, as well as the intersection between art and business. Palmer’s album, Theater Is Evil, will be released September 11 and her year-long, world-wide tour begins September 10.

A LOT OF THE DRESDEN DOLLS BAND PHILOSOPHY was about inviting people on stage and getting them into the circus. It’s the same on the Internet— I like to use it to pull other people into the spotlight, to share energy, and to foster a community of people. This is a beautiful thing about Twitter and Tumblr: I can spill my ideas out into the world and have a constant, ongoing conversation. I ask my fans for advice and absorb their feedback all the time. There’s all this information coming at younger bands about communicating with their audience through social media, but if it’s done superficially, it’s almost worse than doing nothing at all. There’s nothing more painful than watching someone be disingenuous about connecting with people.

The Kickstarter campaign would never have been successful had I not genuinely connected with my fans for all of these years—they’ve support me in a way my music label never did. When I worked with a label, I became accustomed to being punished for having creative ideas. I’d have a wild idea and then immediately think: “No one’s going to want to do it, it’s going be a pain in the ass.” Now that I work independently my audience acts as scaffold and I get to test out all of my crazy thoughts.

One of the things I’m really grateful for is that I’ve never really ever felt any true backlash for not doing the same thing over and over again. I love the fact that I can do anything—write literal songs and non-literal songs, play a single ukelele, or perform with a gigantic orchestra. Though my audience might not love everything that I’m doing, they continue to follow the plot because of the relationship that has been formed over the past number of years. And that is the greatest blessing you can ask for as an artist— that people have an ongoing interest in your art and not just the one song that you made, so then if the next song that you make doesn't duplicate it, the interest just drops.

Part of my plight as an artist has been to figure out how to negotiate the relationship between art and business. It’s been beautiful watching the DIY approach grow its way weedlike to the top. Pop music used to be totally sterile and untouchable and now you’ve got artists like Lady Gaga who desperately want to show you everything while they’re trying to maintain a pop persona. Likewise, in the art world, redefining what it means to be an artist is a constant dilemma. I have my own personal way of attacking and approaching it—the Amanda Palmer way of expose all, discuss all, total transparency. But that also fits in with my style of music. I don’t think it’s for everybody.

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Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra, “The Killing Type,” 2012. From their album Theatre Is Evil.

— As told to Miriam Katz