translator: joseph genireviewer: morton bast (breathes in) (breathes out) so, i didn't always makemy living from music. for about the five years after graduating from an upstandingliberal arts university, this was my day job. (laughter) i was a self-employed livingstatue called the eight-foot bride,
and i love telling peoplei did this for a job, because everybody always wants to know, who are these freaks in real life. hello. i painted myself whiteone day, stood on a box, put a hat or a can at my feet, and when someone came byand dropped in money, i handed them a flower -- and some intense eye contact.
and if they didn't take the flower, i threw in a gestureof sadness and longing -- as they walked away. so i had the most profoundencounters with people, especially lonely people who looked like they hadn't talkedto anyone in weeks, and we would get this beautiful momentof prolonged eye contact being allowed in a city street, and we would sort of fallin love a little bit.
and my eyes would say -- "thank you. i see you." and their eyes would say -- "nobody ever sees me. thank you." i would get harassed sometimes. people would yell at me from their cars. "get a job!"
(laughing) and i'd be, like, "this is my job." but it hurt, because it made me fear that i was somehow doingsomething un-joblike and unfair, shameful. i had no idea how perfecta real education i was getting for the music business on this box. and for the economists out there, you may be interested to know i actuallymade a pretty predictable income,
which was shocking to me,given i had no regular customers, but pretty much 60 bucks on a tuesday,90 bucks on a friday. it was consistent. and meanwhile, i was touring locallyand playing in nightclubs with my band, the dresden dolls. this was me on piano, a genius drummer. i wrote the songs, and eventually we started making enough moneythat i could quit being a statue, and as we started touring,
i really didn't want to lose this sense of direct connection with people,because i loved it. so after all of our shows,we would sign autographs and hug fans and hang outand talk to people, and we made an art outof asking people to help us and join us, and i would track downlocal musicians and artists and they would set upoutside of our shows, and they would pass the hat, and then they would come inand join us onstage,
so we had this rotating smorgasbordof weird, random circus guests. and then twitter came along, and made things even more magic, because i could ask instantlyfor anything anywhere. so i would need a piano to practice on, and an hour later i would beat a fan's house. this is in london. people would bring home-cooked food to us all over the world backstageand feed us and eat with us.
this is in seattle. fans who worked in museums and stores and any kind of public spacewould wave their hands if i would decide to doa last-minute, spontaneous, free gig. this is a library in auckland. on saturday i tweetedfor this crate and hat, because i did not want to schlep themfrom the east coast, and they showed up care of this dude,chris, from newport beach, who says hello.
i once tweeted, "where in melbournecan i buy a neti pot?" and a nurse from a hospital drove one right at that moment to the cafe i was in, and i bought her a smoothie and we sat there talkingabout nursing and death. and i love this kind of random closeness, which is lucky, because i doa lot of couchsurfing. in mansions where everyonein my crew gets their own room but there's no wireless,
and in punk squats, everyone on the floorin one room with no toilets but with wireless,clearly making it the better option. my crew once pulled our vanup to a really poor miami neighborhood and we found out that our couchsurfinghost for the night was an 18-year-old girl,still living at home, and her family were all undocumentedimmigrants from honduras. and that night, her whole family took the couches and she slepttogether with her mom
so that we could take their beds. and i lay there thinking, these people have so little. is this fair? and in the morning, her mom taught ushow to try to make tortillas and wanted to give me a bible, and she took me aside and she saidto me in her broken english, "your music has helpedmy daughter so much.
thank you for staying here.we're all so grateful." and i thought, this is fair. this is this. a couple of months later,i was in manhattan, and i tweeted for a crash pad,and at midnight, i'm on the lower east side, and it occurs to me i've neveractually done this alone. i've always been with my band or my crew. is this what stupid people do?
is this how stupid people die? and before i can change my mind,the door busts open. she's an artist. he's a financial blogger for reuters, and they're pouring me a glass of red wine and offering me a bath, and i have had thousands of nightslike that and like that. so i couchsurf a lot.i also crowdsurf a lot. i maintain couchsurfing and crowdsurfing
are basically the same thing. you're falling into the audience and you're trusting each other. i once asked an opening band of mine if they wanted to go outinto the crowd and pass the hat to get some extra money,something that i did a lot. and as usual, the band was psyched, but there was this one guy in the band who told me he just couldn'tbring himself to go out there.
it felt too much like beggingto stand there with the hat. and i recognized his fear of "is this fair?" and "get a job." and meanwhile, my bandis becoming bigger and bigger. we sign with a major label. and our music is a crossbetween punk and cabaret. it's not for everybody. well, maybe it's for you.
we sign, and there's all this hypeleading up to our next record. and it comes out and it sellsabout 25,000 copies in the first few weeks, and the label considers this a failure. i was like, "25,000, isn't that a lot?" they said, "no, the sales are going down. it's a failure." and they walk off. right at this same time,i'm signing and hugging after a gig,
and a guy comes up to me and hands me a $10 bill, and he says, "i'm sorry, i burnedyour cd from a friend." "but i read your blog,i know you hate your label. i just want you to have this money." and this starts happening all the time. i become the hat after my own gigs, but i have to physically stand thereand take the help from people,
and unlike the guy in the opening band, i've actually had a lotof practice standing there. thank you. and this is the moment i decide i'm just going to give awaymy music for free online whenever possible, so it's like metallicaover here, napster, bad; amanda palmer over here, and i'm going to encouragetorrenting, downloading, sharing,
but i'm going to ask for help, because i saw it work on the street. so i fought my way off my label,and for my next project with my new band,the grand theft orchestra, i turned to crowdfunding. and i fell into those thousandsof connections that i'd made, and i asked my crowd to catch me. and the goal was 100,000 dollars. my fans backed me at nearly 1.2 million,
which was the biggest musiccrowdfunding project to date. (applause) and you can see how many people it is. it's about 25,000 people. and the media asked, "amanda, the music business is tankingand you encourage piracy. how did you makeall 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'd connected with them, and when you connect with them,people want to help you. it's kind of counterintuitivefor a lot of artists. they don't want to ask for things. but it's not easy. it's not easy to ask. and a lot of artists havea problem with this. asking makes you vulnerable.
and i got a lot of criticism online, after my kickstarter went big, for continuing my crazycrowdsourcing practices, specifically for asking musicians who are fans if they wantedto join us on stage for a few songs in exchangefor love and tickets and beer, and this was a doctored imagethat went up of me on a website. and this hurt in a really familiar way. and people saying,
"you're not allowed anymoreto ask for that kind of help," really reminded me of the peoplein their cars yelling, "get a job." because they weren'twith us on the sidewalk, and they couldn't see the exchange that was happeningbetween me and my crowd, an exchange that was very fairto us but alien to them. so this is slightly not safe for work. this is my kickstarterbacker party in berlin. at the end of the night, i strippedand let everyone draw on me.
now let me tell you,if you want to experience the visceral feelingof trusting strangers -- i recommend this, especially if those strangersare drunk german people. this was a ninjamaster-level fan connection, because what i was really saying here was, i trust you this much. should i? show me.
for most of human history, musicians, artists, they've beenpart of the community. connectors and openers,not untouchable stars. celebrity is about a lot of peopleloving you from a distance, but the internet and the content that we're freelyable to share on it are taking us back. it's about a few peopleloving you up close and about those people being enough.
so a lot of peopleare confused by the idea of no hard sticker price. they see it as an unpredictable risk,but the things i've done, the kickstarter, the street, the doorbell, i don't see these things as risk. i see them as trust. now, the online tools to make the exchange as easyand as instinctive as the street, they're getting there.
but the perfect toolsaren't going to help us if we can't face each other and give and receive fearlessly, but, more important -- to ask without shame. my music career has been spent trying to encounter people on the internetthe way i could on the box. so blogging and tweetingnot just about my tour dates and my new videobut about our work and our art
and our fears and our hangovers, our mistakes, and we see each other. and i think when we really see each other, we want to help each other. i think people have been obsessedwith the wrong question, which is, "how do we makepeople pay for music?" what if we started asking, "how do we let people pay for music?"