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Q&A: Amanda Palmer Exclusively Talks To FILTER After TED Talk;  WATCH Her 2013 Speech Now

By Elise Hennigan; Photo by James Duncan Davidson on March 7, 2013


Q&A: Amanda Palmer Exclusively Talks To FILTER After TED Talk;  WATCH Her 2013 Speech Now


Amanda Palmer thinks digital content should be free and that it’s about time for artists to get on board. During last week’s TED Conference, she laid out this vision to a receptive crowd and a standing ovation.

“First of all, I’m me, so I’m not used to being nervous,” she told FILTER after the talk. “But it was slightly nerve wracking.”

She thought of presenting her talk “Amanda Palmer-style”—a special breed of trippy, crowd-sourced, multimedia rich performance art—but when it came down to it, she opted to speak from the heart.

“At the end of the day, I realized that I had something important to say,” she says.


“I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘How do we let people pay for music?’”

You’ll remember The Dresden Dolls frontwoman’s fundraising efforts: aware of the certainty of music piracy, she got out of her seven-album-deal with Roadrunner Records in 2010 and decided to give her music away for free.

She encouraged her fans to freely share her music, but also to consider helping her pay for it through a Kickstarter campaign. The goal was $100,000. She raised $1.2 million from a total of 25,000 backers. It was the most successful music campaign on Kickstarter, ever.

In her TED Talk, Palmer recalls that, at the time, the media asked her, “‘Amanda, the music business is tanking and you encourage piracy—how do you make all these people pay for music?’ And the real answer is: I didn’t make them; I asked them. And through the very act of asking people, I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you.”

Palmer compares this direct connection between artist and fan to her early days as a street performer, where she’d have to ask each member of the audience for a personal contribution. She says that through this direct payment model she could feel the mutual benefit between the artist—getting paid—and the audience, connecting to an emotion or an idea bigger than themselves.

Palmer believes that the music industry will evolve to reflect this type of arrangement where the musicians ask, not demand, payment for their work.

“The most perfect tools can’t help us if we’re not willing to face each other and give and receive fearlessly. And more importantly, to ask without shame…When we really see each other, we want to help each other.”



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