Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter and Good Art
Let’s talk about art, specifically music. Even more specifically, Amanda Palmer and her forthcoming album. Here’s the background for anyone who needs it: Amanda’s funding her album through Kickstarter. She dropped a track the other day, and I spent days listening to it obsessively. (It’s here.) Amanda is one half of the Dresden Dolls, EvelynEvelyn, and she made a ukulele record of Radiohead songs. She has been a working musician for a long time now, and if you’ve ever seen her play live (I haven’t had the pleasure yet) or checked her out on Youtube (DO IT), you’ll learn one very important thing: she lives the music. It’s never just a song. It’s everything she is and everything is has, pouring right out of her like magic. Rough magic – the kind of magic that takes a piece of you and puts it out there.
A while back, Amanda parted ways from her record label. Why did she do that? There was a bit of controversy over (I shit you not) her stomach. They didn’t want it on the album cover, because it wasn’t perfect. Now, let me say this: she isn’t even remotely fat. That whole debacle, even though I discovered it post-problem, pisses me off.
So, how does a musician fund an album without a label, today? Kickstarter. It is especially helpful if one has an base audience and realistic goal, which you can see via the fact that her Kickstarter was fully funded very fast. I supported it, and that was my first time. Kickstarter virgin no more, people.
There’s your background. Here’s the meat of this post: the music itself. If you’re following along with Amanda’s updates, or her blog, you’re chockfull of knowledge. If not, even if you’re not a singer/songwriter, read them. You’ll learn a lot about art, its cost, connecting with fans, how to put on eyeliner as eyebrows, and you might even begin to suffer from Kimono Envy (I have an obsession with Kimonos).
This morning, I was reading the latest update, and Amanda wrote, “i don’t want this album to be remembered as “the kickstarter record.” i do want this record to explode. and i want this record to explode because it is awesome.”
Here’s a bit of anxiety, right? It’s not what I’d call anxiety of influence, but perhaps anxiety of origins. The whole reason behind this endeavor is art. It’s why so much has gone into everything about it, from the people involved (seriously, there’s so much talent all across the board that it’s almost shocking) to the what’s included in each donation tier. One dollar gets you the digital download, folks. ONE DOLLAR. What the frakkin’ hell can you buy for a dollar, anymore?
But I want to speak to Amanda’s concerns about the album being remembered, or received, based on the funding source and not for the art itself. The art is what counts. And here’s my confession: up until a few years ago, I didn’t know who Amanda F. Palmer was. I had listened to the Dresden Dolls music, but not a whole lot. I wasn’t paying attention. It wasn’t until she started dating Neil Gaiman that she caught my attention. My first reaction was something like, “Who IS this chick?” Eloquent, I know. From Gaiman’s Twitter, I started reading her blogs. From there, I checked out her music. Then, I followed her on Twitter. And hell, I found myself liking the hell out of her. Because she is HERSELF, without an agenda. She doesn’t shave. She paints on her eyebrows. She wears awesome stage clothing. (She is solely responsible for making me love/want corsets.) She does her thing. She makes her art. And that, right there, solidified my appreciation for her and what she does. (I should point out that I’m currently wearing her “Haters exit, pursued by bear” t-shirt, which I love.)
I learned about Amanda Palmer slowly, in bits and pieces, in pictures and words. The internet is a wonderful thing, because without it – maybe I wouldn’t have. Maybe I would’ve missed out on it (her art) and her. Perhaps I wouldn’t have known about her statue wedding to Neil Gaiman in New Orleans, while he wore a top hat. Or their real wedding at Ayelet Waldman’s house. These are details and moments that make people (whoever they are) real and solid, glimpses into life and love. Most of the time, it’s the art that draws me in first. In this instance, it was the opposite: it was person first, art second. Either way, I’m glad.
Here’s the other thing – from what I’ve heard of this album so far, it’s kickass to the Nth degree. What solidified it for me is something called The Bed Song.
I’ve been playing it on repeat, for days and days, whenever I’m at my computer (it’s currently on YouTube, but it’s a track on the new album). The music score alone is hauntingly beautiful. It’s one of the best piano arrangements I’ve ever heard. But the lyrics: holy fuck balls. They broke my heart into a thousand little pieces of sadness. (Dramatic? Oops.) Because the picture painted was so intense, so real, so relatable – and so infinitely sad.
It’s good art.
That, right there, is why the album will be remembered. Not because of its genesis. Not because a record label didn’t put it out into the world. If only for THAT song along, the album is worth it. It’s good art. (Which circles around to Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech; you’ve all probably watched it by now.)
One more time: it’s good art. Delivery system irrelevant.