Crowdfunding and Amanda Palmer #iaspm2017

Beatriz A. Medeiros and Natalia Dias: Universidade Federal Fluminense

Crowdfunding is not for everybody: Performance in the Art of Asking

Amanda Palmer: previously signed to Roadrunner, and now an independent crowdfunded artist.

ABSTRACT: This paper had as main goal to understand the importance of performance inside a process of crowdfunding, from the video produced by the independent musician Amanda Palmer, for the platform Kickstarter, to promote the project for launching her album, Theater is Evil. One of Kickstarter’s main requirements are audiovisual productions that assist in the dissemination of artists and their projects. Such videos seem to be the leading engagement products to attract “backers”. However, the hypothesis is that this is not the ultimate persuasion of this model. Resorting to Reception Studies as methodological basis and using internet ethnographic as inspiration, comments relating the video of Palmer’s project, present at the Youtube and Kickstarter platforms, were analyzed. Thus, it was possible to observe that not only the audiovisual performance is important to move “backers”, but also there’s a need of previous knowledge of the artist by these financers.

[Beatriz presents this jointly-authored paper on behalf of both authors].

The research subject is Amanda Palmer, a US-based independent artist who started her career in a piano/drums punk duo (signed to Roadrunner until 2011) and is now a solo independent artist. Her first album ‘Theatre is Evil” was crowdfunded via Kickstarter and later Patreon; Beatriz shows us a screenshot of the funding page, which shows pledges of $1,192,793 against a target of $100,000.

[Beatriz now explains crowdfunding and provides its social and economic context, which may not be necessary for most IASPM attendees, although I note some people taking photos of this slide, so I may be wrong]. The theoretical framework is Pierre Bourdieu, and she describes crowdfunding as a ‘symbolic capital exchange’ (referring to ‘capital’ presumably in the Bourdieu sense of ‘cultural capital’ in exchange for literal capital). Palmer’s approach is characteristically unapologetic – it is clear she is providing an opportunity for fans to participate in an excahnge, not begging patrons for charity.

Here’s Amanda’s video, with Dylanesque cards describing the campaign, and music instead of voiceover. [One card states ‘when I was on a major label…’ – I hope Beatriz discusses this point later]

[JB comment: It’s also interesting to note that the album was complete at the time of the start of the crowdfunding campaign, so the funding is intended to fund the promo, packaging, distribution and tour, not the actual recording costs – another departure from many crowdsourcing campaigns].

Beatriz now asks her core research questions: how influential was the video in influencing patrons to donate? She asked various online groups (and analysed YouTube comments) to divide people into three categories: people who knew about Palmer’s work but were convinced to donate by the video (28%), people who donated because they were fans of Palmer anyway (61%), and people who talk solely about the new songs in the video (11%).

The conclusion is, of course, that the key is a large fan base that is engaged with the artist. [JB comment – to extrapolate from Beatriz’s conclusion, could Amanda Palmer have been a successful crowdfunding artist if she had not already been signed to a traditional label in the past? [I ask this question at the end, and Beatriz’s opinion is that the 61% is significant – that is to say, she believes it would not be easily possible for a new artist to launch their career using crowdfunding.]

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