Why Amanda Palmer Is Like a Farmer

Via Creative Commons. If you read the book you’ll get it.


I just finished The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer last night. I’ll try to tell you about it without spoilers. You should read this book, especially if you are someone working in the creative economy right now. If you don’t know who Amanda Palmer is, read her wiki. I’ll wait. Also, watch her TED talk.

Her  book is part autobiography, part expansion on her TED talk. She explains in depth  how she’s made a living as a musician making some pretty bold choices, like: ditching her label, not charging for music, creating a Kickstarter to fund making a record. She’s gotten a lot of flack from these choices from other artists and just the general public. A lot of people seem to have a big problem with crowdfunding, and I have mixed feelings about it, in certain cases. However, the way Palmer, and many reputable Kickstarters set-up their ‘asks’ is not unlike the CSA I join each year for vegetables. I prepay a certain amount of money in the spring, and then throughout the summer I get vegetables. The prepayment allows for the farmers to have money when they need it to buy seeds, equipment etc. This is exactly how Palmer’s Kickstarter worked. She needed money to make a record. People prepaid for the record and other goodies (some even bought private concerts) when the record was done, she sent it to them. That said, she already had a really good fanbase and was vetted as a known and reputable artist. She made sure to give some examples in her book of Kickstarters that have failed, what went wrong, and how it could have gone better.

This book is not entirely about Kickstarter, it touches a lot on her personal life, more than I was expecting actually, and I learned a lot about her life and her marriage to Neil Gaiman (who is an amazing writer). But she also speaks volumes about trust and how in her experience people are willing to help, if they are simply asked.

Finally, another thing that stuck with me from this book is that there are, as you know, lots of haters out there. People who were just generally shitty and said horrible thing to her and about her in the press and directly via her website, on many various topics. Palmer is very frank about this. People say mean shit and it hurts. She hears it, she sees it. What I want to know is, what do people gain from it? In this lovely book about trust and empathy, the trolls sneak in. Just as they do in real life. Of course not everyone likes Palmer’s music or how she dresses or how she looks or how she makes her living. That’s OK. We don’t all have to like each other. However, what is gained by being mean to her, just for the sake of being mean? Does it make people feel better when they write shitty things? One of my final thoughts, and I had many while reading this book, is that we all need to do better to just keep our mouths shut. If you don’t like something and it’s not hurting you or anyone else – especially if it’s art or music or writing, just shut up about it. Nothing good is coming from personally attacking the creator.

In conclusion, no matter what you think about Amanda Palmer personally, or about her music, this is a great book. Highly recommend.


6 thoughts on “Why Amanda Palmer Is Like a Farmer

  1. I don’t have a problem with crowd sourcing or with using Kickstarter, but I do have an issue with Amanda Palmer presenting herself as the poster child for that. This is a woman who raised $1.2 million dollars using these resources, and then fucked other artists by requesting “professional-ish” musicians from her fan base to serve as her back-up band *for free*. Then, she sidestepped valid criticism for this by labeling her critics – many of whom were part of her fan base! – as trolls. So, fuck Amanda Palmer’s trust and empathy, which with her are merely a marketing ploy. (Which works – you bought her book, didn’t you?)

    1. This is exactly the kind of vitriol I was talking about. She didn’t label the people who had a problem with that particular incident trolls, I did. She actually explains in great detail the circumstances behind the unpaid musician bruhaha. Musicians, performers, and other artists providing entertainment in exchange for exposure, free stuff, and crowd donations was something that she had been doing for a long time. No one had any problem with it until after Kickstarter. She didn’t set out to present herself as the poster child for Kickstarter. She didn’t set out to raise a million dollars, she set out to raise $100K and her fans blew it out of the water. After her success, TED approached HER to do a talk, after her talk had over 8M views, she was approached to write a book. But, you would know all this if you read her book, right?

      1. Amanda Palmer has repeatedly labelled thoughtful, valid criticism the work of trolls, referring to that particular incident, amongst others. You sound just like her.


        And, yes, I have read her book. She comes off like a narcissist, but also definitely invested in the lovely ideas of peace and love and empathy. As long as the people who offer her their couch aren’t too bothersome, that is (because, don’t they know, it’s all about Amanda?). Yes, her book is a feat of storytelling, especially when revealing Neil Gaiman’s ideas about love. It leaves out rather a lot though, doesn’t it?

        So what if I read or didn’t read her book though? As with all narcissists, what she says and what she does are galaxies apart. You clearly believe what she says, that she is just full of love and empathy and everything nice. Like all the fans from twitter who she retweets (you have company, to be sure). And, meanwhile, the rest of us (and her mother and her ex-bandmates and Neil Gaiman’s ex-wife) are looking at what she’s actually doing, and retching.

        1. My mistake, I left out the question mark at the end of “her mother and her ex-bandmates and Neil Gaiman’s ex-wife?” since I can only make an informed assumption, in these cases.

          Hope Amanda Palmer works out for you as your heroine though. She does her best to present herself as a good one. As I’m sure you realize, she’s been a big disappointment to many. Her flame sputters and burns over time.

        2. Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog, especially since you just totally proved my point! I broke my own rule by not engaging with negative people, oh well. Have a peaceful day! I’d love the link to your blog, if you have one so I can check it out.

  2. I think everyone makes mistakes, and is not perfect. She has the courage to live very open and transparently, and to show her warts, and I think that’s absolutely wonderful. The goal isn’t to be perfect. Just brave and willing to try. What she’s done wrong is certainly no worse than what any of us have ever done wrong before we knew better. So there is little reason to judge her extra harshly for it.

    I haven’t seen too many examples of wrongs she’s committing that she hasn’t been willing to examine at least in what seems to be a good faith effort to improve herself. Isn’t that all we can ask of anyone?

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