Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When the Rock Star Invites You to Her Party

Quite a few people have picked up on Amanda Palmer's story.
Amanda Palmer Made $19K in 10 Hours on Twitter

Some people are excited because she appears to validate that idea artists don't need major labels anymore.

Others are excited because her experience appears to validate social media, and Twitter in particular.

And still others see it as a model for the music business of the future. I've got some thoughts about that. But since this is a short week and people are still processing Michael Jackson's death, I'll save those comments for a future blog entry.

For now I'd just like to toss out my take on the Amanda Palmer experiment.

Palmer sold T-shirts. Lots of artists sell T-shirts, so that part of her money-raising effort wasn't unique. People buy T-shirts to (1) show support for the artist, (2) because they like the design, (3) to show they attended a show, or some combination of those reasons.

What made Palmer's spur-of-the moment T-shirt sale work, I think, was that it was an insider's club formed by people staying home on Friday night cruising Twitter. And what gave the club status was that a music celebrity created it and invited people to join.

Think about it. How many times do people who are home on a Friday night get to say they were cooler than the folks who went out? Now, rather than missing all the action, they were part of a party. And they have their very own T-shirt to prove it. And even more important, the T-shirt comes with a story: the night they hung out with Palmer online. This was not a T-shirt sold by some roadie at a show. This was a T-shirt they helped to create, or at least inspire.

Similarly, the online auction was also an insider's club. Fans got to make suggestions about what Palmer could sell (like chewed postcards). I'd venture to say that people were buying the stuff primarily to interact with Palmer. If someone else was selling Palmer's stuff, I doubt there would have been nearly as much interest.

And then finally the studio party. The first 200 to respond on Twitter got in. Since Palmer is often announcing short notice gatherings, fans who want to participate in them need to keep tuned into Palmer's messages. Again, an insider's club for those who want to play.

The Amanda Palmer experience is kind of like a reality TV show that the fans get to join.

Suzanne Lainson
@slainson on Twitter


  1. Amanda Palmer is one of the first people to prove that Twitter really is a communication powerhouse, and while she didn't need to sell T-Shirts to do that, it made headlines.

  2. The problem, which I will discuss soon, is that whenever a marketing technique works, just about every band jumps on the bandwagon and it dilutes its effectiveness. So either you are always ahead of the pack, constantly innovating, or you need to focus on what actually works for your group of fans. And even then, you are competing with other bands and forms of entertainment for their attention.

    By the time every band is on Twitter, my guess is that Palmer will have moved on to something else.

  3. Yes! As soon as a pack of people find the stream of water, everyone crwods it and there's no other way to reach it. So you gotta go off on your own and find your own suroce of water. Same with this internet market BS. A lot of these things are one time deals. Not repeatable.

  4. Yet, what are you arguing as the alternative? Put up legal roadblocks with government enforcement to continue a business model that specifically hinders massive efficiencies brought on by new media?

  5. I'm not arguing anything about government enforcement. I assume you are talking about the RIAA, which isn't a government entity.

    Free music is a given. I don't even see any reason to discuss it anymore.

    I just wanted to look more closely at what made Amanda Palmer's money-raising techniques a success. My theory is that her fans like to feel they are part of the party and will buy stuff from her because of that. Musicians who can throw great parties, either on or offline, should have success. I've seen local bands who aren't necessarily great musicians but know how to get people dancing, pack their venues.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.