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We Are The Media: Amanda Palmer and the Online Revolution

By Sophie Lasken

AP

The democratizing power of the internet and new media has been the subject of both praise and debate in the past decade. We hear stories of overnight internet celebrities, while being bombarded by complaints of the utterly unintellectual nature of the latest YouTube sensation. This might lead one to wonder whether any true artists have managed to make the internet live up to its potential. Amanda Palmer is one such artist, having gained a reputation for using new media as a revolutionary tool to change the future of the music industry.

Amanda Palmer first rose to fame in the early 2000s with her two-person band The Dresden Dolls, and quickly became known for her outspoken feminism, theatrical live shows, and unique musical style which she calls “punk-cabaret”. Since ditching her major label and striking out on her own, Amanda Palmer has adopted a philosophy towards media that gives power back to audiences and artists, epitomized in the slogan “we are the media”, a line taken from her song “Map of Tasmania”.  The video for the song, true to Palmer’s philosophy, was filmed by her friend Michael Pope, populated with volunteer backup dancers, and released directly to YouTube and Vimeo. The video never went on TV and, as the lyrics say, “they don’t play the song on the radio.”

Palmer maintains a unique connection with her fans through email lists, Twitter, her blog, and other new media avenues. This connection is essential, because her success as an artist working outside of the established music industry depends on fan collaboration and support. These new media outlets allow Palmer to organize flash mob concerts, and produce music videos with the help of her fans (Potts, 371-2). With her newest band Palmer’s projects have also been funded in part by fan support through new media devices such as Kickstarter, and in return she allows them to download her albums from her website using a “name-your-own-price” format (Glide).

Palmer has been outspoken about her philosophy towards media, and she has been duly recognized for it as well. Her philosophy on art, media, and business stems from her background as a street performer, and in 2009 she wrote a manifesto of sorts on her blog outlining these views. In it, she describes becoming a “virtual street performer” and writes that “it’s about empowerment and it’s about SIMPLICITY: fan loves art, artist needs money, fan gives artist money, artist says thank you” (Not Afraid). The following year Palmer gave a speech at Harvard University on the subject, again emphasizing how the supposed downfall of the music business brought on by new media is actually good for fans and artists. While media corporations bemoan the increased opportunity for piracy provided by the internet, Palmer welcomes it precisely because it nixes these corporations from the picture. According to Palmer, this allows artists more creative freedom and fans more power to endorse the art they want (@Harvard).

Palmer emphasizes that without a label as a middleman, fans and artists have an increased responsibility to each other, and the interdependency of fan and artist created by new media brings a kind of intimacy to the art. She notes that “if you’re moved . . . you can put in a dollar, and you can know that you’ve had a very real exchange with me, with no middlemen, and no label and no promoter and no nothing, it’s just you and me” (@Harvard). In 2011 she was invited to give a speech to the graduating class of The New England Institute of Art, and in her advice to young artists she described not just how the internet is changing the music business, but art and society in general; “. . . there is an unwritten code out there right now, especially online, that we’re all helping each other to build a beautiful, crazy, lawless new world, where there are no rules about how it gets built, we are making the rules up as we go along, and we are changing them every single day” (“Fraud Police”). Once again, for Palmer the internet is about freedom.

Earlier this month, Palmer synthesized all of these ideas on new media in a TED talk titled “The Art of Asking”. In it she asserts that in the wake of the piracy threat, the wrong question is being asked. Instead of asking “how do we make people pay for music?” she says, we should be asking “how do we let people pay for music?” This again refers to Palmer’s view of fan and artist as existing in a kind of symbiosis—when fans truly connect with an artist, they want to help that artist. This connection, in Palmer’s opinion, is making artists a part of the community again, rather than untouchable celebrities. And the reason this connection is now possible beyond the realm of street performances and live shows, is largely because of new media (The Art of Asking).

Amanda Palmer is living proof that new media can be a powerful and radical tool for artistic and social change, and not merely a space for the celebrity mishaps and sneezing pandas of the world. As stated at the end of “If You Want to Sing Out, Log In,” her spontaneous, Twitter-organized, fan-produced video: “don’t fear the twitter”.

Sources:

“Amanda Palmer Releases Video for ‘Polly (Nirvana Cover)’.” Glide Magazine. 08 Feb 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

Palmer, Amanda. Amanda Palmer: The art of asking. 2013. TEDWeb. 4 Mar 2013.

Palmer, Amanda. “The Fraud Police” – AFP’s Commencement Speech to NEIA’s Class of 2011 . 2011. Video. Web. 10 Feb 2013.

Palmer, Amanda. AMANDA PALMER @ HARVARD: TOWARD A PATRONAGE SOCIETY . 2010. Video. Web. 10 Feb 2013.

Palmer, Amanda. if you want to sing out, log in (amanda & co. in L.A.) . 2009. Video. youtube.comWeb. 10 Feb 2013

Palmer, Amanda. “MAP OF TASMANIA VIDEO & REMIX CONTEST!!.” amandapalmer.net. 14 Jan 2011. Web. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

Palmer, Amanda. “Why I Am Not Afraid to Take Your Money, By Amanda Fucking Palmer.” amandapalmer.net. 29 Sep 2009. Web. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

Potts, Liza. “Amanda Palmer and the #LOFNOTC: How online fan participation is rewriting music labels.” Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies. 9.2 (2012): 361-382. Print.

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  169. Posted May 5, 2014 at 2:21 am | #

    We need more insights like this in this thread.

  170. Posted May 5, 2014 at 8:29 am | #

    A wonderful job. Super helpful information.

  171. Posted May 5, 2014 at 11:09 am | #

    That’s a wise answer to a tricky question

  172. Posted May 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm | #

    That’s really thinking of the highest order

  173. Posted May 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm | #

    At last, someone who comes to the heart of it all

  174. Posted May 5, 2014 at 11:07 pm | #

    I was really confused, and this answered all my questions.

  175. Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:22 am | #

    You have the monopoly on useful information-aren’t monopolies illegal? ;)

  176. Posted May 6, 2014 at 9:04 am | #

    Thanks for being on point and on target!

  177. Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:28 am | #

    Boom shakalaka boom boom, problem solved.

  178. Posted May 7, 2014 at 1:03 am | #

    Stay informative, San Diego, yeah boy!

  179. Posted May 7, 2014 at 4:08 am | #

    If only there were more clever people like you!

  180. Posted May 7, 2014 at 11:39 am | #

    The genius store called, they’re running out of you.

  181. Posted May 7, 2014 at 11:42 am | #

    Extremely helpful article, please write more.

  182. Posted May 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm | #

    These pieces really set a standard in the industry.

  183. Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:36 pm | #

    That’s a shrewd answer to a tricky question

  184. Posted May 7, 2014 at 9:38 pm | #

    Weeeee, what a quick and easy solution.

  185. Posted May 8, 2014 at 5:22 am | #

    Until I found this I thought I’d have to spend the day inside.

  186. Posted May 8, 2014 at 10:11 am | #

    Hats off to whoever wrote this up and posted it.

  187. Posted May 8, 2014 at 12:34 pm | #

    Thinking like that shows an expert’s touch

  188. Posted May 8, 2014 at 6:40 pm | #

    Why does this have to be the ONLY reliable source? Oh well, gj!

  189. Posted May 8, 2014 at 7:14 pm | #

    If your articles are always this helpful, “I’ll be back.”

  190. Posted May 9, 2014 at 12:54 am | #

    Is that really all there is to it because that’d be flabbergasting.

  191. Posted May 9, 2014 at 3:20 am | #

    Life is short, and this article saved valuable time on this Earth.

  192. Posted May 9, 2014 at 4:17 am | #

    You keep it up now, understand? Really good to know.

  193. Posted May 9, 2014 at 2:20 pm | #

    I really appreciate free, succinct, reliable data like this.

  194. Posted May 9, 2014 at 2:39 pm | #

    It’s spooky how clever some ppl are. Thanks!

  195. Posted May 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm | #

    Information is power and now I’m a !@#$ing dictator.

  196. Posted May 9, 2014 at 7:53 pm | #

    It’s about time someone wrote about this.

  197. Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:57 pm | #

    Hey hey hey, take a gander at what’ you’ve done

  198. Posted May 10, 2014 at 5:04 am | #

    How could any of this be better stated? It couldn’t.

  199. Posted May 10, 2014 at 10:52 am | #

    God help me, I put aside a whole afternoon to figure this out.

  200. Posted May 10, 2014 at 8:17 pm | #

    Ah, i see. Well that’s not too tricky at all!”

  201. Posted May 10, 2014 at 9:58 pm | #

    Thanks for contributing. It’s helped me understand the issues.

  202. Posted May 11, 2014 at 12:35 am | #

    Such an impressive answer! You’ve beaten us all with that!

  203. Posted May 11, 2014 at 3:37 am | #

    Could you write about Physics so I can pass Science class?

  204. Posted May 11, 2014 at 4:54 am | #

    That kind of thinking shows you’re on top of your game

  205. Posted May 11, 2014 at 6:51 am | #

    I like to party, not look articles up online. You made it happen.

  206. Posted May 11, 2014 at 10:58 am | #

    Wow, your post makes mine look feeble. More power to you!

  207. Posted May 11, 2014 at 4:19 pm | #

    Whoever edits and publishes these articles really knows what they’re doing.

  208. Posted May 11, 2014 at 4:59 pm | #

    Was totally stuck until I read this, now back up and running.

  209. Posted May 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm | #

    Knowledge wants to be free, just like these articles!

  210. Posted May 11, 2014 at 11:08 pm | #

    So true. Honesty and everything recognized.

  211. Posted May 12, 2014 at 1:50 am | #

    Hey hey hey, take a gander at what’ you’ve done

  212. Posted May 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm | #

    No more s***. All posts of this quality from now on

  213. Posted May 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm | #

    This site is like a classroom, except I don’t hate it. lol

  214. Posted May 12, 2014 at 5:17 pm | #

    This posting knocked my socks off

  215. Posted May 12, 2014 at 5:33 pm | #

    All of these articles have saved me a lot of headaches.

  216. Posted May 12, 2014 at 8:00 pm | #

    More posts of this quality. Not the usual c***, please

  217. Posted May 13, 2014 at 12:13 am | #

    A few years ago I’d have to pay someone for this information.

  218. Posted May 13, 2014 at 4:30 am | #

    It’s much easier to understand when you put it that way!

  219. Posted May 13, 2014 at 11:54 am | #

    That’s not just logic. That’s really sensible.

  220. Posted May 13, 2014 at 2:43 pm | #

    How neat! Is it really this simple? You make it look easy.

  221. Posted May 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm | #

    This is an article that makes you think “never thought of that!”

  222. Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:32 pm | #

    This article is a home run, pure and simple!

  223. Posted May 13, 2014 at 10:04 pm | #

    That hits the target perfectly. Thanks!

  224. Posted May 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm | #

    That’s a wise answer to a tricky question

  225. Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:07 am | #

    Ppl like you get all the brains. I just get to say thanks for he answer.

  226. Posted May 14, 2014 at 2:06 am | #

    If I were a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, now I’d say “Kowabunga, dude!”

  227. Posted May 14, 2014 at 3:48 am | #

    That’s really thinking out of the box. Thanks!

  228. Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:49 am | #

    One or two to remember, that is.

  229. Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:09 am | #

    That’s a subtle way of thinking about it.

  230. Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm | #

    A really good answer, full of rationality!

  231. Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:47 pm | #

    I guess finding useful, reliable information on the internet isn’t hopeless after all.

  232. Posted May 14, 2014 at 7:03 pm | #

    I had no idea how to approach this before-now I’m locked and loaded.

  233. Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:52 pm | #

    Finding this post. It’s just a big piece of luck for me.

  234. Posted May 15, 2014 at 12:55 am | #

    That’s an ingenious way of thinking about it.

  235. Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:41 am | #

    HHIS I should have thought of that!

  236. Posted May 15, 2014 at 4:35 am | #

    We need a lot more insights like this!

  237. Posted May 15, 2014 at 6:08 am | #

    Awesome you should think of something like that

  238. Posted May 15, 2014 at 9:53 am | #

    Hey, that post leaves me feeling foolish. Kudos to you!

  239. Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:33 pm | #

    What a great resource this text is.

  240. Posted May 15, 2014 at 5:13 pm | #

    That’s a smart way of thinking about it.

  241. Posted May 15, 2014 at 6:08 pm | #

    Going to put this article to good use now.

  242. Posted May 15, 2014 at 8:26 pm | #

    The genius store called, they’re running out of you.

  243. Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:35 am | #

    More posts of this quality. Not the usual c***, please

  244. Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:53 am | #

    Apparently this is what the esteemed Willis was talkin’ ’bout.

  245. Posted May 16, 2014 at 7:44 am | #

    I’ve been looking for a post like this forever (and a day)

  246. Posted May 16, 2014 at 7:57 am | #

    Smack-dab what I was looking for-ty!

  247. Posted May 16, 2014 at 10:20 am | #

    You’re a real deep thinker. Thanks for sharing.

  248. Posted May 16, 2014 at 2:28 pm | #

    If you wrote an article about life we’d all reach enlightenment.

  249. Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:45 pm | #

    Posts like this make the internet such a treasure trove

  250. Posted May 16, 2014 at 5:00 pm | #

    Great stuff, you helped me out so much!

  251. Posted May 16, 2014 at 7:22 pm | #

    I was drawn by the honesty of what you write

  252. Posted May 16, 2014 at 9:50 pm | #

    Yours is a clever way of thinking about it.

  253. Posted May 17, 2014 at 4:30 am | #

    I feel so much happier now I understand all this. Thanks!

  254. Posted May 17, 2014 at 5:16 am | #

    No more s***. All posts of this quality from now on

  255. Posted May 17, 2014 at 6:22 am | #

    You make things so clear. Thanks for taking the time!

  256. Posted May 17, 2014 at 11:53 am | #

    If your articles are always this helpful, “I’ll be back.”

  257. Posted May 17, 2014 at 4:31 pm | #

    Please teach the rest of these internet hooligans how to write and research!

  258. Posted May 17, 2014 at 5:32 pm | #

    This is way more helpful than anything else I’ve looked at.

  259. Posted May 17, 2014 at 6:41 pm | #

    You really found a way to make this whole process easier.

  260. Posted May 17, 2014 at 8:28 pm | #

    Now I’m like, well duh! Truly thankful for your help.

  261. Posted May 17, 2014 at 8:51 pm | #

    Well I guess I don’t have to spend the weekend figuring this one out!

  262. Posted May 18, 2014 at 3:00 am | #

    I was looking everywhere and this popped up like nothing!

  263. Posted May 18, 2014 at 6:11 am | #

    This site is like a classroom, except I don’t hate it. lol

  264. Posted May 18, 2014 at 10:50 am | #

    The truth just shines through your post

  265. Posted May 18, 2014 at 10:54 am | #

    A simple and intelligent point, well made. Thanks!

  266. Posted May 18, 2014 at 12:12 pm | #

    Very true! Makes a change to see someone spell it out like that. :)

  267. Posted May 18, 2014 at 3:07 pm | #

    Your article was excellent and erudite.

  268. Posted May 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm | #

    Kick the tires and light the fires, problem officially solved!

  269. Posted May 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm | #

    I might be beating a dead horse, but thank you for posting this!

  270. Posted May 18, 2014 at 8:52 pm | #

    Finding this post. It’s just a big piece of luck for me.

  271. Posted May 19, 2014 at 12:10 am | #

    I’m shocked that I found this info so easily.

  272. Posted May 19, 2014 at 4:16 am | #

    This is a neat summary. Thanks for sharing!

  273. Posted May 19, 2014 at 4:41 am | #

    Thanky Thanky for all this good information!

  274. Posted June 18, 2014 at 7:57 am | #

    That’s not just logic. That’s really sensible.

  275. Posted June 18, 2014 at 11:00 am | #

    A simple and intelligent point, well made. Thanks!

  276. Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:38 pm | #

    Weeeee, what a quick and easy solution.

  277. Posted June 18, 2014 at 2:15 pm | #

    Awesome you should think of something like that

  278. Posted June 18, 2014 at 4:11 pm | #

    Keep it coming, writers, this is good stuff.

  279. Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:16 pm | #

    An answer from an expert! Thanks for contributing.

  280. Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:01 am | #

    I was struck by the honesty of your posting

  281. Posted June 19, 2014 at 3:12 am | #

    Kudos to you! I hadn’t thought of that!

  282. Posted June 19, 2014 at 3:45 am | #

    You couldn’t pay me to ignore these posts!

  283. Posted June 19, 2014 at 5:59 am | #

    I’m so glad I found my solution online.

  284. Posted June 19, 2014 at 6:08 am | #

    Thanks for sharing. Always good to find a real expert.

  285. Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:54 pm | #

    Wow! Talk about a posting knocking my socks off!

  286. Posted June 19, 2014 at 6:49 pm | #

    Articles like this really grease the shafts of knowledge.

  287. Posted June 19, 2014 at 10:55 pm | #

    With the bases loaded you struck us out with that answer!

  288. Posted June 20, 2014 at 12:49 am | #

    Enlightening the world, one helpful article at a time.

  289. Posted June 20, 2014 at 3:39 am | #

    Umm, are you really just giving this info out for nothing?

  290. Posted June 20, 2014 at 3:40 am | #

    That’s a crackerjack answer to an interesting question

  291. Posted June 20, 2014 at 7:02 am | #

    Posts like this brighten up my day. Thanks for taking the time.

  292. Posted June 20, 2014 at 7:03 am | #

    If you’re reading this, you’re all set, pardner!

  293. Posted June 20, 2014 at 9:01 am | #

    AFAICT you’ve covered all the bases with this answer!

  294. Posted June 20, 2014 at 9:43 am | #

    That’s a knowing answer to a difficult question

  295. Posted June 20, 2014 at 12:26 pm | #

    And I was just wondering about that too!

  296. Posted June 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm | #

    Oh yeah, fabulous stuff there you!

  297. Posted June 20, 2014 at 6:24 pm | #

    A few years ago I’d have to pay someone for this information.

  298. Posted June 20, 2014 at 11:10 pm | #

    And I thought I was the sensible one. Thanks for setting me straight.

  299. Posted June 21, 2014 at 1:01 am | #

    Free knowledge like this doesn’t just help, it promote democracy. Thank you.

  300. Posted June 21, 2014 at 2:12 am | #

    I could read a book about this without finding such real-world approaches!

  301. Posted June 21, 2014 at 5:52 am | #

    Great insight. Relieved I’m on the same side as you.

  302. Posted June 21, 2014 at 9:05 am | #

    Information is power and now I’m a !@#$ing dictator.

  303. Posted June 21, 2014 at 9:18 am | #

    Very valid, pithy, succinct, and on point. WD.

  304. Posted June 21, 2014 at 10:20 am | #

    The honesty of your posting shines through

  305. Posted June 21, 2014 at 11:12 am | #

    Thanks for starting the ball rolling with this insight.

  306. Posted June 21, 2014 at 11:24 am | #

    It’s spooky how clever some ppl are. Thanks!

  307. Posted June 21, 2014 at 5:39 pm | #

    That’s a mold-breaker. Great thinking!

  308. Posted June 21, 2014 at 7:31 pm | #

    I wanted to spend a minute to thank you for this.

  309. Posted June 21, 2014 at 10:09 pm | #

    Free info like this is an apple from the tree of knowledge. Sinful?

  310. Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:28 am | #

    This insight’s just the way to kick life into this debate.

  311. Posted June 22, 2014 at 1:22 am | #

    Time to face the music armed with this great information.

  312. Posted June 22, 2014 at 4:54 am | #

    Well I guess I don’t have to spend the weekend figuring this one out!

  313. Posted June 22, 2014 at 6:01 am | #

    That insight’s just what I’ve been looking for. Thanks!

  314. Posted June 22, 2014 at 6:26 am | #

    What a pleasure to find someone who thinks through the issues

  315. Posted June 22, 2014 at 7:04 pm | #

    If you wrote an article about life we’d all reach enlightenment.

  316. Posted June 22, 2014 at 8:48 pm | #

    If you wrote an article about life we’d all reach enlightenment.

  317. Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:27 pm | #

    All of these articles have saved me a lot of headaches.

  318. Posted June 23, 2014 at 1:44 am | #

    AFAICT you’ve covered all the bases with this answer!

  319. Posted June 23, 2014 at 3:31 am | #

    You’ve got it in one. Couldn’t have put it better.

  320. Posted June 23, 2014 at 3:55 am | #

    How neat! Is it really this simple? You make it look easy.

  321. Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:14 am | #

    Great hammer of Thor, that is powerfully helpful!

  322. Posted June 23, 2014 at 7:05 am | #

    It’s about time someone wrote about this.

  323. Posted June 23, 2014 at 8:30 am | #

    You’ve really helped me understand the issues. Thanks.

  324. Posted June 23, 2014 at 10:40 am | #

    The honesty of your posting shines through

  325. Posted June 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm | #

    Shoot, who would have thought that it was that easy?

  326. Posted June 23, 2014 at 12:31 pm | #

    Normally I’m against killing but this article slaughtered my ignorance.

  327. Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:29 pm | #

    Ya learn something new everyday. It’s true I guess!

  328. Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:31 pm | #

    So true. Honesty and everything recognized.

  329. Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:54 pm | #

    Pleasing to find someone who can think like that

  330. Posted June 23, 2014 at 11:09 pm | #

    Life is short, and this article saved valuable time on this Earth.

  331. Posted June 24, 2014 at 1:00 am | #

    Appreciation for this information is over 9000-thank you!

  332. Posted June 24, 2014 at 1:46 am | #

    Everyone would benefit from reading this post

  333. Posted June 24, 2014 at 2:12 am | #

    Thanks for contributing. It’s helped me understand the issues.

  334. Posted June 24, 2014 at 3:30 am | #

    Just what the doctor ordered, thankity you!

  335. Posted June 24, 2014 at 10:00 am | #

    You’ve managed a first class post

  336. Posted June 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm | #

    You really saved my skin with this information. Thanks!

  337. Posted June 24, 2014 at 4:31 pm | #

    That insight’s perfect for what I need. Thanks!

  338. Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:11 pm | #

    Weeeee, what a quick and easy solution.

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