While Kickstarter has certainly sparked a new revolution of DIY funding for creative whims, musician Amanda Palmer showed this week that a robust, rabid fanbase and a massive amount of artistic offerings under just one album can raise some serious cash. On Monday, she launched her second Kickstarter project, this time to fund her newest solo album — which has already been recorded. Thus far she’s raised close to half a million dollars in just five days. That, folks, is staggering.
For her new set, Palmer assembled a band called “The Grand Theft Orchestra,” and along with an album of all new material, she’s offering an art book that includes original work for more than 30 different artists. She’ll also be touring this year and opening art shows, all possible with her Kickstarter funding. Hive emailed with Palmer yesterday about her Kickstarter success, her new album’s sound and how she’ll crowdsource live musicians for her upcoming tours.
You recorded first, then Kickstarted. What are the advantages of that? Most folks try to raise the money first, from what I’ve seen.
I actually hadn’t planned it that way. I had originally wanted to launch this Kickstarter in late January, right before hitting the studio. But there was one huge problem: My other Kickstarter was behind schedule. This past fall, Neil Gaiman and I Kickstarted a tour recording to make a live three-CD set of our West Coast tour together (it went really well, we were 666% funded at about $130k). Selecting the tracks and manufacturing that record took way longer than we thought it would, and by January people still hadn’t gotten their stuff. There was no way I was going to go back to the fanbase and ask them to support the next project before they’d gotten the first one in the mail. So I waited.
What’s the new album like?
The new album is absolutely amazing, and a totally new sound for me. This is a fact I keep reminding myself of — that this project won’t go truly epic until the music comes out and people find out what I created in the studio. This Kickstarter would have gone mental anyway: I’m riding on faith and my reputation right now, I’m very aware of that. But just like the fans have faith in the fact that I couldn’t try to get them to back a sub-par record, I have my own personal faith in these songs that nobody has heard yet. One of the tracks, “The Bed Song,” is hands down the best song I’ve ever written. And enough of my friends have agreed with me that I don’t think I’m deluded. That’s a solo piano tune; most of the record is bombastically arranged and dripping with synth and guitar and loudness. The band I put together, the so-called “Grand Theft Orchestra,” is a core of three people but also alludes to the fact that we’ll be crowdsourcing the horns and strings in every city we tour through, via twitter and blogging. The band is literally everybody. I love that.
The Kickstarter has a vast reward system depending on what people will donate. Serious question: Will you have to hire an Amanda Palmer Staff to help full fill everything? (And if so, what would their staff uniforms look like?!)
Ha! My management staff at Girlie Action actually fulfilled the Neil & Amanda Kickstarter from their office, but it was only a few thousand packages. And since they were all New Yorkers, I assume they were wearing hip vintage dresses and skinny jeans and stuff. But the scale of the new record is way too huge for them to deal with. We’ll be working with an off-site fulfillment company to do all the mailings. But that’s not new for me … I’ve been working with a merchandiser like that since the dawn of the Dresden Dolls. I don’t miss burning CDs and stuffing padded envelopes in my kitchen. We did it that way for a long time in the early days.
“The band I put together, the so called “Grand Theft Orchestra”, is a core of three people but also alludes to the fact that we’ll be crowdsourcing the horns and strings in every city we tour through, via twitter and blogging. The band is literally everybody. I love that.”
You’ve got nearly $500k raised. That has to be more than what you originally estimated you needed. What other opportunities could this afford? Could you in theory, record four more records with this?
Not at all. I don’t think most people understand that $500k is a very fictional number. Every time somebody spends $125 on an art book and vinyl set, it costs about half of that to manufacture all the stuff they’re ordering plus pay the shipping to where they live (and they might live in Siberia). And whatever’s leftover is going straight back into promoting the actual record when it comes out to the public. Now that I have no label, every single marketing cost comes out of my pocket. Making videos. Hiring publicists. Paying the band. Getting everybody around. Shipping the art to the galleries as we tour. All that costs a shit-ton, and this is where the dough is coming from.
Could you talk about what DJ Spooky, Kristin Hersh, Robyn Hitchcock and Shepher Fairly contributed on the album?
Yes! All of them created visual art that’s going to be going to be hung of the walls of our special gallery tour (we picked six cities) and will also be reproduced in the art book that’s part of the Kickstarter packages. I’m so thrilled they all came on board — and there’s 30 other artists besides them. That was another one of my start-up expenses: paying all of these artists.
Any new ukuleles? Any new instruments on this album that you’ve never had before?
I put down the ukulele for this record, and picked up a Moog. There’s a ton of instruments that won’t sound very familiar — full horn sections, full string sections, lots and lots of synth and a real shocker for Amanda Palmer fans: SLIDE GUITAR. Trust me, it sounds incredible.
In a perfect world, when would this record come out? Do you have a time table for release?
We’re aiming for early September. I can’t fucking wait.