One-man brands: Amanda F’n Palmer and the age of the “social artist”

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If you have been watching the tech and social media blogs, tuning into The Rachel Maddow Show, listening to indie rock radio or just happen to be one of the thousands of former Dresden Dolls fans turned grown-up executives with gothic tattoos poking out from under a relaxed J. Crew blazer, then you know. But if you are like everyone else, you might have missed the busker-turned-hippy-punk-goth evolution of Amanda F’n Palmer, (who has adopted an expletive as a brand differentiator/middle of her official stage name).

And she is a brand. A record-breaking, indie music, multi-media contemporary art brand. Some say a cult. Some say a guru, a leader, a style-maker, a cultural phenom. She understands synergy, pairing on stage with an international who’s who of freaks and geeks who compliment her American cyber-kabaret (with a k) aesthetic.

She also understands the power of a consistent voice, constant contact, strong visuals and most recently, social media. She is a brand that delivers a recognizable, seamless experience.

Palmer has now broken records on Kickstarter, the indie crowdfunding site that is a haven of artists and inventors looking for seed money directly from the audience. As of this writing, the campaign for a new record, book and tour has raised more than 982K in four weeks from 20,000 backers, with contributions ranging from 1 dollar to 10k.

On the night the MSNBC story broke about her indie-goddess funding achievement, here are three things Amanda Palmer said over cocktails about her brand:

1. This is the age of the social artist. I spend literally five hours a day on email, Twitter, Facebook and blogs. You have to. It’s not the 80s and 90s where you could act all aloof and roll out an album a year with a new haircut and everyone sort of waits for it. You have to be out there, in it, using social media, putting out ideas, connecting to survive.

2. The secret is hard work. Everyone wants to hear an easy answer, a formula, a catchphrase, one thing you did to make it work. This is 12 years of handshakes and signings and one-on-one contact after shows. This is thousands of personal interactions, one at a time. That is how a career is made—a thousand of one-on-ones.

3. I write from a place that is emotional. I think that’s a part of the loyalty. And today, execs and VC owners are saying “Thank you, it is because of you that I am alive. Your music saved me because I wasn’t alone.” And I try to work from a place of love, of offering, of hugging people with my songs, not from fear. The brand is emotion. That is my brand.

Kate Rigg is a senior writer for the Siegel+Gale New York office.

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