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Amanda Palmer Raises Nearly $1,000,000 with KickStarter – Shattering Previous Records.

by John Oszajca on May 28, 2012

Amanda Palmer If you’re a member of the Insider Circle, or even a long time reader of this blog than you’ve no doubt heard me talk about Amanda Palmer. Amanda is a singer songwriter, painter, author and all around rock n’ roll warrior. In my opinion she is hands down the most interesting independent artist out there, on a number of fronts, and if you’re not familiar with her you should go sign up for her mailing list right now.

For several reasons…

Amanda Palmer is ferociously talented, prolific, and whether consciously or not, (I really don’t know), she is marketing and promoting her music in some extremely innovative and exciting ways. In short, this chick kicks ass!

I’ve actually been trying to organize an interview for many months now (hint, hint) and despite being unsuccessful at doing so thus far, I couldn’t NOT share recent events in her career with you guys.

In short Amanda Palmer has just blown past a number of the Kickstarter fundraising records by raising almost $1,000,000 dollars which she plans to use to promote her next independent release.

Here are the stats as I write this article:

19,173 Backers
$909,607 Pledged
4 Days to go

UPDATE: Amanda Palmer has now surpassed the 1 Million Dollar mark.

Here’s a quick video from Amanda which breaks down exactly what she is trying to accomplish…

To be honest, I’ve been on the fence about KickStarter. In short, I just have not been convinced that this was the right way to go for independent artists. It’s safe to say that those reservations just got thrown out the window, where they then fell 20 stories and shattered into a 909,607 tiny little pieces. I honestly did not know that this kind of thing was possible with “fan funding”. I’m excited to see that it is.

If by some chance you are unfamiliar with Kickstarter, they are an online threshold pledge system for funding creative projects. Kickstarter has funded a diverse array of endeavors, ranging from indie film and music to journalism and food-related projects.

Needless to say, many musicians have successfully been using KickStarter to “fan fund” their albums. The typical arrangement goes something like this…

1. An artist offers creates a project and sets a funding goal. A project must reach its funding goal before the set time limit runs out or no money changes hands. Projects can always raise more money than there stated goal and often do.

2. In exchange for their pledge each benefactor gets a reward. Typically the project creator creates multiple rewards packages which often range from a single dollar to many thousands of dollars.

For example, in Amanda’s case donations start as low as $1 for a digital download of the album and shoot all the way up to $10,000 for a personalized painting by Amanda, along with a quiet dinner with the artist. And YES, people are snapping these up.

In fact her $5000 house concert package has now sold out with 35 backers.

And while you certainly can’t argue with the effectiveness of her campaign, it hasn’t all gone as she expected. As she recently posted on her blog…

“What I did NOT expect to happen was to come under fire from so many sides. While 90% of people out there are so supportive I want to cry most of the day, there’s a lot of bitching. The bitching can be broken down into three categories, in order from least ridiculous to most ridiculous:

- People bitching that I shouldn’t be using KickStarter and I should leave it “to the artists who need it”.
- People bitching that I’m just shameless and tasteful in general and “begging” for money for my record.
- People bitching that my KickStarter campaign is actually a front to siphon money into the church of scientology.”

Amanda’s done a fantastic job of addressing the many questions about why she needs such a large amount of money to promote her album on her blog. She breaks down the costs associated with promoted an album internationally and shows that approximately 90% off it is going directly into hard costs associated with promotion, touring, manufacturing, etc.

There’s a really interesting break down of the costs associated with her album which many of you might find interesting. You can Read it here <==

I don't personally know Amanda Palmer and so all I know about what she's doing is that which I've been able to observe by following her career, both from a marketing perspective and now as a fan of her music. But from what I'm able to discern she relies heavily on many of the same techniques we talk about here: Cultivating her tribe via email messages, blog posts, and social media, and by using scarcity and product packages to drive sales quickly.

Amanda has a long history as a successful artist and she certainly has a large and healthy base to call upon when it comes to something like fan-funding (an important factor for anyone thinking of trying this). However I wanted to share her story with you because this is one of the most impressive things I've ever seen in the world of independent music.

She's taken a platform that is typically used to generate four figure investments, and changed the playing field entirely by generated enough capital to truly compete along side major label artists. It will be exciting to see what she is able to do with this money and her upcoming release.

If you'd like to get behind Amanda and help her reach her $1,000,0000 goal (I did and I really think you should as well), you can do so here. I think we should all rally behind her if for no other reason than to help drive a few more nails in the coffin of the major label system and get behind an artist who is doing some truly inspiring things.

And if nothing else you’ll get to see how the campaign is structured and just how good she is when it comes to blogging and communicating with her fans. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering just what the heck you should be blogging, posting, or Tweeting about, take a few cues from Amanda.

So check her out, take notes, and enjoy the music.

What’s your experience been with KickStarter?

KickStarter has certainly been a love-it our hate-it topic for many musicians. Some generate thousands and some generate nothing at all. What’s been your experience? Has KickStarter worked for you? If so, how much were you able to raise? If not, what were the drawbacks and what do you think went wrong?

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

david June 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Hi John,

I have not personally tried Kickstarter. Amanda certainly had an enthusiastic group of followers with her theater background, but I am sure like anything, that is only part of the story. Here is an interesting link with some Kickstarter “facts”. Maybe interesting?
http://music3point0.blogspot.com/2012/06/kickstarter-behind-numbers.html

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Dan Jost May 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Great article John.

Just wanted to point out that Tim Schafer of Double Fine Games raised over #3.3 MILLION on Kickstarter:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/doublefine/double-fine-adventure

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John Oszajca May 30, 2012 at 10:00 pm

That’s really interesting, thanks for bringing this to my attention. What’s odd is that I’m also seeing quotes from Kickstarter like this “the project already holds the site’s record for value of pledges and number of pledges.” So I’m not sure what’s up there. I’m certainly seeing your story out there as well. I’ll need to look into it more to get to the bottom of the actual record.

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Sean Clever May 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm

This is rather comical to me because of the quote you printed from her. This “can” be a great thing for artists especially ones surrounded by a strong support group. My band LOVEHATETHING started one of these a few months ago and quickly stopped promoting it in about 2-3 days. Apparently it is so looked down upon as “begging” in our area of the US, that it struck up debate on facebook pages and message boards everywhere by vengeful and jealous musicians alike. It was funny in some arcane way, but I think hurt us a bit locally that we started it.

We stood up for ourselves on these message boards and said things like, “This is for people who like the band and want to help and support our project. If you don’t like it, just ignore it. We are not asking money from people we do not know or people who don’t respect our music.” Apparently this wasn’t good enough. We continued to be ridiculed and spat at.

Bottomline…. This can be risky too. We were only trying to raise 5 grand…. LOL… which we even gave a breakdown of what we needed that 5 grand was only about one 5th of what we actually needed, but it was an amount to help us get along with our album till we had more money saved for promotion and distribution. Now our attempt at a national release is once again pushed back because of money. Another few months here and a few months there, when we gig out and work hard as hard as we can as much as we can. Alot of people go see us play and love our band and never pay a dime to see us. This was an opportunity for them to support the hard work we “actually do”…. Or was it just begging?

LMAO, what a joke…. It is hard to be an artist these days. Or probably always has been hard. There are alot of people that suck out there.

I am genuinly happy for Amanda and she is obviously thick skinned. Oh…. and PS. alot of people didn’t like the fact that they needed a paypal account and they had to set up a kickstarter account to donate. we head that alot in the 1st couple days too….

thx, sean c.

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John Oszajca May 29, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Hey Sean,

Thanks for raising the point. I’m surprised to hear you got that intense of a reaction. I can’t help but wonder if it was just a few sour apples that made it seem like that was the consensus. With any kind of direct response marketing you are always going to get some haters. It’s just human nature. You can’t let them get you down. I choose to look at the positive reaction to everything I do and make sure it’s on par with what I expect. If it is, I feel like I’m on the right path. If it’s not then I recalibrate. But I never let the negative people dictate what I do. For every email I send out I get about 2 shit heads for every 50 fantastically supportive people. If I listened to the negative feedback I’d be paralyzed. Beyond that, I think the only thing to mention is that it’s all in the positioning. You can use Kickstarer to allow people to get in early on something cool and get more for their money as a result. But if you position it as charity, then you might have more of an uphill battle. It’s always about the “what’s in it for them” factor.

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Sean Clever May 30, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Agreed… to almost everything. I would have went on with it if I had seen more of a positive response. I do agree that it only takes about 10% of the the people being “shit heads” to make it seem like the the other 90%(of cool people) are half shit heads too. We just got such a terrible reaction from “the locals” that don’t know us, and it made us stop. We thought, “there has to be a better way”. We were getting ready to do a press release on it in the local papers and online. We were also going to drop some radio ads too. It could have been a cool thing, and I don’t knock anyone trying it and hope they are successful.

Some friends of mine (touring) raised 15,000 to buy a new van on Kickstarter. it can work. They didn’t get any flack at all. They just had a better support group and less of the pompous guys that say “I’ve been in this business a thousand years” surrounding them.

Infact, I still have people asking me how they can donate, and I just tell them that we are still working that out. Aside from doing something “illegal” with the gaming commission, it is tough. The state government of PA has made it extremely hard to have fundraising events…. but that is a whole other rant…. lol.

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Olga May 29, 2012 at 11:52 am

Did I read the information in the Kickstarter website correctly? You have to be a US resident to start a project on the site?!?! Man, that sucks!!! What about the rest of the world? What are our options for raising funds online for a music project?

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John Oszajca May 29, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I’m not sure about that one. I’ll have to look into it. Interesting though. My guess is that it’s a liability issue, but I really have no idea. Good catch though.

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Cary T. Brown May 29, 2012 at 7:05 am

Hi John and everyone else,
This is an interesting thread that has raised a question or two on how to apply “fan funding” to my project. The album has already been recorded and released (physical and digital), we even produced the first video with our own funds (visible on our home page http://www.ctbab.net )… My questions are: 1. What can we propose in return for a a donation if we use “fan funding” to produce a new video? Knowing that it will be available on You Tube for free, I’m not sure what to give as a “reward”. Around 50% of the people on our mailing list already have the physical CD (besides we can’t give them away, that’s what’s funding the original project)…
2. Anyone out there already try Kickstarter in Europe?
Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated…
Thanks,
Cary T. Brown

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buck baran May 28, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I have mixed reactions to this process. Myself, I do not accept donations and have turned down an investor. There’s something about being held accountable and responsible. Over the years I have managed to save and made some good investments. But now instead of investing in Wall Street I am investing in myself. With a background as a media specialist and being a DIY ProTooler, my production costs are embarrassingly low. But being a DIY I am aware I have much to learn, especially in mixing and mastering, and self-producing has its challenges. But the products do not suck! (Of course that is a matter of opinion.) In the recent past people have proven themselves incapable of controlling large sums of money, I think I’ll steer clear, for now.

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Robert Lopaka Souza May 28, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Hey guys and gals, there’s no doubt this chick is super talented, but as was earlier noted she already had a fan base and I’d like to add finances to tour with, regardless of record company financial support. Lets put this in context: she was a member of the Dresden Dolls and married to award winning novelist and screen writer Neil Gaiman, hence, lots of cash for costumes, high end recordings, videos and even perhaps more importantly TIME to craft her art. Again power to her. No need for anyone to feel envy, it’s a waist of energy. Work hard, work harder and have gratitude for the gifts you have. Life is short. Power to you all. I’m a newbie at this whole thing, but since were all artist and like to share our gifts, go check out my sight and drop me aline if you like. Power to 99%! Peace out.
http://www.sonicbids.com/RobertLopakaSouza

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John Oszajca May 28, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Hey Robert,

Thanks for the comment. Your sentiment seems to be a popular one. here’s my take on this…

The fundamental strategy that I teach here is to build a list, use proven copywriting strategies to deliver your messages in a way that get people to take action, and then increase your average subscriber value by adding additional products to your funnel.

From what I can tell this is exactly what Amanda is doing. Yes, she has a big list, but anyone can do that. It takes some time and some work, but that is all that is standing in anyone’s way from making something like this happen.

I feel like there is this tendency to dismiss any marketing strategy that a successful person uses as working for no reason other than the fact that they were successful. My feeling is that it’s the strategies that the person is using that made them successful in the first place.

I can tell you first hand that i have worked with a number of former major label artists that have no existing base and no ability to command the kind of results that Amanda Palmer has. The key here is that she is using a successful strategy to build that base, communicate with them, and monetize the list over and over again.

I really just want to somehow convey the message to everyone that this is not out of ANYONE’S reach. However I don’t suggest that it won’t take some serious work. But then, I presume we all new that when we chose music as a career path :-)

Incidentally, go to her home page at http://www.amandapalmer.net/ and you’ll see that it all starts with what is essentially a squeeze page. It’s all about the list.

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Morgen May 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm

We should also remember that the very “supportive of Indie artists” Kickstarter.com will give her NOTHING if she doesn’t get the full million pledged. So all that work, publicity and networking will be for nothing.

It doesn’t bother me that she tried to get a million. If people are dumb enough to give their hard earned money to a person who already has backing and a successful career, then good for her. Not a fan of the music at all, but as a marketing person, she’s very good at her job.

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John Oszajca May 28, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Her goal was set at $100,000. Her target was $1,000,000. She has surpassed her goal by nearly 900%

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Will May 28, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I noticed a few people talking about “failing” on Kickstarter and just wanted to point out that there are some other good crowdfunding sites that allow you to keep your money even if you don’t hit your goal. Indiegogo (www.indiegogo.com) is the biggest one like that, and they’ve had musicians raise 10s of thousands of dollars. Not quite a million, for sure, but not too shabby.

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John Oszajca May 28, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Thanks for the suggestion Will.

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Ken Rhodes May 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm

I’ve had friends end up on both the successful and the less-than-successful side of kickstarter campaigns, and I’ve had friends use indiegogo as well. The biggest difference I can see between the two, from my perspective, and that I heard about indiegogo first, I’ve never heard of anyone being diasappointed because they didn’t meet the goal and had to settle for whatever they did get, but I have heard from those who did not meet their goals with kickstarter and were very disappointed that they didn’t get anything, and then needed to individually contact all of the backers that did pledge money and ask them to send the money directly to them. For this reason alone I have been a bigger fan of indiegogo for a few years now.

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Mike Baker May 28, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I think “Amanda Palmer” must actually be two, maybe three separate people; the amount of shit she gets done – blogging, art/design for her recording packaging, band rehearsals, gigs, guest appearances on other peoples’ shows, etc. – is simply staggering.

Honestly, it’s worth joining her Kickstarter at one of the lower levels (as I did) just to get her epic updates on the status of the project. I think she’s posted the equivalent of a pretty lengthy magazine article just in the last week alone. Amazing.

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John Oszajca May 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Totally. I’m constantly impressed as well. I originally started following her for the same reason. She’s so good at what she does I was converted into a fan and I have since bought several of her albums. She’s a really talented chick.

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Jerri May 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I’ve had a couple of friends that do gospel music use KickStarter to fund their CD projects. One of them actually did it twice, since the first try was unsuccessful. I noticed that artists in certain styles of music (rock, pop) do better than artists in other fields (gospel, R&B). I sponsored a project for a radio station that broadcasts out of an old storage container in Brooklyn, and it’s an awesom ideal!

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John Oszajca May 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Thanks for the comment Jerri. I hadn’t noticed that but that’s certainly interesting. In my opinion it really just comes down to having a list. My guess is that few people are browsing Kickstarter just to donate money. But maybe I’m wrong on that. It’s definitely all very interesting.

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Richard May 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Thanks John! My band Enation used a similar website PledgMusic to help partially fund a tour. We over doubled our goal. I think the fans enjoyed the engagement. It’s amazing the support they’re ready to give. I think it’s amazing Amanda is taking that idea to the next level.

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John Oszajca May 28, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Congrats on your success with Kickstarter. It’s definitely something I will be considering for the future, where as prior to this I wasn’t interested. All very impressive.

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Will Black May 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Yup, she’s doing a great job and good for you John to bring this to our attention. I’ve been planning for the past 6 months to do a fan pledge record for album #2 in early 2013… of course it all starts with building a keen fanbase via social media and growing an opt-in email list to send cool, interesting fan newsletters to!

Rock on.

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John Oszajca May 28, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Thanks Will, it’s definitely all about that list.

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pixxy May 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Thanks for posting this. I tried a KickStarter project myself and it helped towards my MUCH more modest budget. Nothing even in the same ball park as this though, Maybe I should have asked for more, lol.

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John Oszajca May 28, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Thanks for the comment. Glad to hear your project was a success.

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Alex Howard May 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm

This was a great read John, really inspiring.

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John Oszajca May 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Thanks Alex.

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