As the headline of her Patreon page says, “Amanda Palmer is creating with no intermission.” Her experience and talent span includes songwriting, band member, running an insanely successful Kickstarter campaign, and now being a Patreon guru with more than 15,000 patrons who are enabling her to create exactly how and what she feels the need to share with the universe.
That ability to create for a fan base without having to go through record labels and popular critics enables Palmer to truly be herself. Palmer’s authenticity is worth emulating if you’re interested in delivering authenticity and more importantly, value, for your own community.
Palmer is no stranger to the music industry, having signed with a major label in her 20’s and being a member of the Dresden Dolls. And while Palmer says that she doesn’t have a problem with the industry, she did struggle to jump the “hurdles” of having her content appear marketable to her label. With songs that discuss rape, abortion, and miscarriage, Palmer struggled to convince managers who had never had such experiences to put her work out into the world.
By crowdfunding with her audience directly, Palmer effectively jumped over those hurdles. First with Kickstarter (raising over one million for her campaign) and now with Patreon. Crowdfunding allows artists to control the relationship between them and their fans, which Palmer calls the “cornerstone” of being an artist. The power to connect with the people who you are creating for is what will help you build a loyal and engaged community of fans and supporters.
“The amazing thing about Patreon is that it’s so direct it’s almost disorienting. I just know that I have to write it, deliver it, press a button, and the cash drops. It doesn’t matter if it will play well to radio…fit on a record... All of the other stuff is gone, and it’s pretty amazing.”
Palmer says that most people, especially artists, have been conditioned to be ashamed of asking for money. She wholly disagrees with that idea. Instead, she wants artists to know that asking for money and support isn’t greedy or needy because people who are enjoying what artists produce actually want to reward and thank you.
Palmer feels so strongly about his concept that she actually wrote a book called The Art of Asking **and gave a TED talk on the same topic. And it’s not just money that Palmer believes in asking for. She also has created posts to her private Patreon page asking her fans for creative input and to share their experiences to add to her own creations, like one of her songs about abortion. Over 500 of her patrons responded to her, with a collective message of hope and safety. Palmer’s community provides a safe space not only for her to share creatively but for her fans to share their experiences as well.
It’s immediately obvious when you visit Palmer’s Patreon page that her personality and voice are consistent with her published work. Her posts are raw and unedited, both in grammar and her trademark preference for some rough language. Her reward descriptions are similar, but they have one important commonality through all reward tiers: gratitude.
Palmer is unfailingly thankful to her supporters. Her lowest contribution is $1 per “thing”, but she’s quick to tell you that she appreciates that contribution just as much as those who contribute more. And the way she says it is so candid that you can’t help but smile:
“i treasure my $1 patrons as much as my $1,000 patrons. it’s like the obama campaign: every goddamn dollar counts. it’s also sort of like NPR (that’s american for “National Public Radio”, for you foreigners): even though you donate, nobody expects you to be glued and tuned into the radio 24/7 just because you made an annual donation. you donated BECAUSE YOU WANT EVERYONE ELSE to be able to enjoy the top-quality (and free) content that NPR provides. this is a community. everybody pitches in what they can, and i try to keep my content as free as possible, so that EVERYBODY, even the people who cannot afford to be part of this patreon, can enjoy my songwriting and my other artistic undertakings.”
Her genuine voice and conversational tone, make it obvious that there is a real person who cares about their art behind the Patreon page. Isn’t type of person you’d be more inclined to support? Over 15,000 people have already made themselves part of Palmer’s powerful fandom.
When asked at SXSW what the best part of her work now is, Palmer doesn’t hesitate to identify the partnership with her community as the greatest reward of her work. Being brave enough to leave the conventional methods of producing music, asking her community for the support she needed to create what they love, it’s all lead to a mutually beneficial relationship that supports her first instinct about music: that communication and engagement with fans is the most important part.
“Watching the pleasure people take in supporting an independent artist is one of the things I love the most. It’s this beautiful symbiotic relationship. It’s not just a bunch of faceless people giving me money. It’s a bunch of people knowing that when they stand at a show and they know that they’ve made it all possible, and they turn and see someone having a really emotional experience, they know that they actually gave me the power to do that. It’s a really incredible collective experience.”