Does Amanda Palmer have all the answers?
Amanda Palmer, fresh from her run-in with the Daily Mail, plays Dublin's Academy tonight. The feminist musician has become an oracle for a frantic music business treasure-hunting for answers. The street performer turned-Dresden Doll-turned-solo act-turned-Kickstarter million dollar fundraiser-turned TED talk sensation talks about her DIY philosophy with Una Mullally
It’s hard to avoid two words when the future of the music industry is being discussed. As labels, artists, distributors, agents, A&R, promoters, commentators, tech gurus, and everyone else with a finger in a pie that nobody knows the flavour of, never mind the recipe for, debate, one name surfaces again and again: Amanda Palmer. The American musician has almost become the oracle for a frantic music business treasure-hunting for answers in the matrix, with the industry as Neo, sitting in a kitchen asking the lady-who-knows-all where this fractured, rotten thing is going.
“I always feel conflicted about it because, you know, I don’t think I have it all figured out,” Palmer says. “ I don’t think anybody does. It can feel like a lot of pressure. I mean it is a lot of pressure, especially when everybody is arguing about you as a concept.”
Palmer is spilling her guts over the phone from New York, before getting on a flight to play a gig with an orchestra in Denver. “I always preferred to identify as an artist, so it does get a little taxing. What people seem to collectively forget is the reason I’m doing all this fucking shit in the first place is to connect to fans and make music . . . It’s a really fascinating time, and I’m just as fascinated about the movements of the industry as every other person.”
Dear Daily Mail
Born in New York and raised in Massachusetts, Palmer attended Wesleyan University, before decamping to Harvard Square in Cambridge where she busked as an eight-foot-bride, one of those street performance artists who only move when you give them a coin. It’s a gig that taught her skills. “I’ve thought a lot about that. I learned an incredible amount of patience. It was a totally reactive job. Also some really interesting things happened, like my peripheral vision got incredibly keen. I could see someone’s body language when they were 25 feet away.”
Perhaps it’s that keen perceptiveness (“because I acted as a mirror for so many people and had to observe,” she says) that helped her figure out how to use technology so astutely.
Her ubiquitous online presence has consequences. The ink is still drying on a book deal she has signed about such themes, but she admits being online so much has also had an impact on her creativity: “If I look at the patterns of my life over the past 10 years, I would be absolutely pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes if I said social networking doesn’t come with a heavy energy tax.
“At any given moment where does your brain go? And if at any given moment your brain is going to Twitter or Instagram or Facebook or Tumblr and not to the song lyrics you’re working on? That’s just a question of how the pie chart of your brain is divided. I think a lot of musicians really struggle with this.