Friday, August 21, 2009

The Artist and Her Fans

Another sidetrack from the "selling stuff" series, but I saw a quote last week from Amanda Palmer, which I wanted to address.

Let me start off by saying Amanda Palmer is important.

Not because she is reinventing the music business. (She isn't. What she does works for her, but won't work for many others.)

Not because she has made some money using Twitter. (There are more lucrative ways to make money.)

But because she makes insightful comments about her life as an artist in an age where technology allows her to have some semblance of intimacy between herself and thousands of fans. She's not actually having a real dialogue with thousands of fans, but she's giving enough of herself to a few, and allowing everyone to watch, that it approximates intimacy.

She's also less guarded than many. She lets fans come to her gatherings. She gets rides from them when she's in their towns. She crashes at their houses. Most people would have trouble doing that, and celebrities have run into enough crazy fans that many won't go out into the world without a protective entourage, but Palmer appears to be comfortable with it.
... there's a real implicit sense of trust and honor. I trust my fans so much it's almost absurd. I just know that they're good people. I meet them. I hang out with them. I know them. And when a creepy one shows up, it doesn't take long before the crowd calls them out and rejects them from the pit. It's self-policing. "Interview: Amanda 'Fucking' Palmer, Part 2," hypebot, 7/21/09
She has thought about her relationship with her fans quite a bit.
Why are we so connected at all times through text and twitter, with our artists, with our friends, with THE WHOLE WORLD? To what end? "Interview: Amanda 'Fucking' Palmer, Part 1," hypebot, 7/20/09
And her conclusion:
i started making the music in the first place not because i wanted music, but because i wanted human connection.
music was the bridge there.

(it took me a long time to admit this to myself, because i felt guilty and like a naughty/bad/inauthentic artist when i truly discovered this, in my mid-twenties, classic crisis time).

BUT this is, hands fucking down, also why people listen, why they search, why they want art.

connection = primary.
music/art = secondary.

"AFP Responds to Bob Lefsetz re: Imogen Heap/music as a means of connection," The Shadowbox, 8/15/09
This triggered a response from fans about whether they just need the art to connect to the artist, or whether they need a direct connection to the artist as well. (You can read some of their comments at the above link.)

Bob Lefsetz also wrote about connecting.
The new Joni Mitchell is not a musician, but a blogger, detailing his or her own truth in the hope that someone, somewhere, will read the words and the writer will not feel so alone. "The Lost,"Lefsetz Letter, 8/2/09
He's talking about the writer seeking fans to connect. But his thoughts also apply in reverse: the fan seeking the artist to connect.

It's a topic we can explore at length when discussing the future of the music business and, even further, how the entire world of art is changing as new communication tools develop. Look for more blog posts from me on the subject.

Suzanne Lainson
@slainson on Twitter

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