Amanda Palmer Talks Statues, Stripping, and Crowd Sourcing at Canadian Music Week 2014

posted by Marjana Jaidi on May 12, 2014

Toronto, Canada -- "I deeply knew from the age of 12 or 13 that I wanted to be a rockstar," Amanda Palmer told Bob Lefsetz, publisher of the Lefsetz Letter, in an interview during Canadian Music Week.

But before she became a rockstar, Palmer earned a solid living as a human statue, something she observed other people doing and decided it was something she could do as well. "It’s a lot like playing my songs for people for the first time," Palmer said, drawing the first of many parallels between her early jobs and her career as a musician, "You just get up and do it."

Palmer also worked as a stripper in her early twenties, which prompted Lefsetz to ask if this was empowering or degrading. "Both," she replied, "there are a million parallels you can draw between stripper world and music world and statue world... What I found is that it's the attitude you bring to it. I was very very different from the other strippers."

She used Dita Von Teese, who also worked as a stripper, to draw another parallel. Even before she had made a name for herself, Von Teese's routine was a slow, burlesque tease. Stripping for a room of 50, a blonde bombshell would make $1 from each of the 50 men, while Von Teese would make $50 from one man. 

"That's the thing about being a beloved high-art band," Palmer concluded, "you're not targeting at all 50 people."

Once she buckled down and focused on her music career, her experiences contributed to her ability to survive as an independent artist. Before Kickstarter came along, Palmer tried several different methods for crowdsourcing, including what she called a "proto-Kickstarter campaign," in which she pre-sold vinyl and digital copies of her upcoming Radiohead ukelele record. When it came time to launch her Kickstarter campaign, Palmer was armed with experience, a loyal fan base, and a few best-practices tips from a visit to the Kickstarter office. 

The record-breaking campaign raised nearly $1.2 million, and with it came global notoriety and inevitably, media scrutiny. Practices Palmer had employed for years - such as inviting musicians to play on her tour in exchange for tickets and beer - were suddenly called into question. 

"The most painful part was feeling misunderstood by the outside world," Palmer said of the backlash. "You have a million-dollar paycheck hanging over your head, and suddenly you're an asshole."

Palmer's global profile increased further with her acclaimed TED talk. Today, people approach her in the street as much for her TED talk as for her musical achievements, but she doesn't mind. "If people want to love me for my TED talk and my ideas, then I'm perfectly fine with that."

To wrap-up, Lefsetz asked about her long-term goals, to which she replied, "I want to make all the things."

She closed the interview with a live rendition of "Ukelele Anthem," which fittingly includes some crowd-sourced lyrics.

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