Catching Up With Amanda Palmer
“THIS IS THE FUTURE OF MUSIC” is a grand statement, and that’s exactly the one singer, songwriter and performance artist Amanda Palmer is making with her current Kickstarter campaign. Like thousands of independent artists before her, Palmer turned to Kickstarter, a website that greenlights an array of artistic endeavors and then offers them a platform to raise money their projects through “crowd funding” for a set amount by a non-negotiable deadline, to finance her new album and its subsequent promotion and tour.
Unlike thousands of her peers, Palmer—whose initial goal was to raise $100,000 by May 31—met her goal within hours of launching the project and has since reached the ideal sum six times over, having just over $670,000 pledged by her backers with another 16 days on the clock to go. Sure, this tidal wave of support from her fans will make the record happen, but will it change Palmer’s plans for the creation of it? Paste caught up with her to find out.
Paste: In your Kickstarter video, you specifically mention that you’re thrilled to be doing this record independently, that this way of doing things—fan-funded, no major label—is the “future of music.” What’s the most exciting aspect of this upcoming endeavor for you now that you’re funded six times over (and counting)?
Amanda Palmer: That’s like asking what the best part of having sex or eating is. It’s
impossible to give a general answer. But I’ve learned this much about myself over the
past decade or so as a recording artist: I absolutely despise being told what to do. The
hardest part of being on a label was the lack of control; the mystery about what all the
money was being spent on. I’m really enjoying the fact that every single thing that will
promote this album, from the videos to the publicists in different countries, will all be
paid out of my pocket.
Paste: As you’re well over your goal for recording, does this mean that the approach for recording the album is going to be different?
Palmer: Well, there are a bunch of things that were hanging in the balance depending how the Kickstarter went. To be totally honest: we set $100,000 as our “goal” but we expected to hit it and go way over. But since you don’t get funded if you don’t hit your goal, there was no need to endanger ourselves by setting a realistic goal. When I line-budgeted our year, I think I put $480,000 as a “hopeful” Kickstarter fund. So we’ve clearly beat that, and it makes me really fucking happy. I just got off the phone with Tim Pope, a brilliant video director who’s done most of The Cure’s videos. Until this past week, I haven’t been certain what our video budget would be. But now instead of telling him he’s going to have to work on a shoestring budget, he can let loose and write a more creative treatment. Stuff like that becomes easier, but things aren’t going to change dramatically. You have to remember that every time someone spends $25 on the Kickstarter, that’s about $15 or more I have to spend on manufacturing and shipping their item. So it’s not as miraculous as it seems.
Paste: Approaching the music, what was different this time around with the writing or the arrangements for this album?
Palmer: I think I’ve gotten to the point in my career that I can do what I want without being afraid. As crazy and backwards as it sounds, I think I was afraid for a long time to allow myself to write the songs that came into my head—I edited a lot, especially if I thought things were too standard, too normal, too poppy. Then I got to a point where I’d get songs in my head and I’d say, “Well, it’s poppy, but it’s DAMN good " and I’d allow myself that indulgence. When I was younger I was afraid to do that, I was always going in a sabotaging my simpler songs, and complicating everything on purpose. Now I don’t. And the band I’ve put together is an absolute miracle. We had a blast in the studio and we’re going to have a blast on tour. I have a band of art soul brothers.
Paste: Vinyl—you’re not just pressing it, you’re beautifying Crosley tables for some of the backer packages. Why the wax?
Palmer: I love vinyl. I grew up on records and have always continued to buy them. The thing I really like about it is the commitment of putting a record on a turntable and listening to it, as an act. No shuffling on your iPad while you also read your New York Times app on the Subway; no skimming through tracks: a ritual of music absorbing. I hope that the act of listening to the A and B (and in my case, C and D) sides of an entire record will be something that stays sacred. I’m happy to have people downloading my music en masse—it’s fantastic. But vinyl is special. It’s an Act, a Ritual, A Thing You Can Hold. And on the right system, it sounds so beautiful. The sound of a needle dropping on a record and the first few minutes of crackle … it’s like a drug to me.