Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Song of the Day: Amanda Palmer - Astronaut, and "The Art of Asking"

How was Amanda Palmer kept a secret from me for so long?  Seriously, there are so many good artists out there that you and I have never heard of, it's amazing.  Once again I say: Why bother listening to the radio anymore?

First the song.  Then keep reading below, past the lyrics, for the "business" part of this post.

Okay, back to Amanda. Here's a great song, live:
Amanda Palmer "Astronaut" Live at Paradise Rock Club Boston

Studio version, which I don't find as compelling as the live versions.  I find it a little overproduced, a little too dramatic
Astronaut - "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" Video Series: Part 2

"And I am still not getting what I want
I want to touch the back of your right arm
I wish you could remind me who I was
Because every day I'm a little further off"

I see this song either as a long distance relationship or, more likely, as a relationship where the couple is growing distant.  Something many of us can relate to, sadly.

It could also mean being with someone who is growing distant due to a substance addition, I suppose, but I wouldn't know about that, fortunately.

Lyrics, from AZ Lyrics:

Astronaut: A Short History Of Nearly Nothing

Is it enough to have some love
Small enough to slip inside a book.
Small enough to cover with your hand
Because everyone around you wants to look

Is it enough to have some love
Small enough to fit inside the cracks
The pieces don't fit together so good
With all the breaking and all the gluing back

And I am still not getting what I want
I want to touch the back of your right arm
I wish you could remind me who I was
Because every day I'm a little further off

But you are, my love, the astronaut
Flying in the face of science
I will gladly stay an afterthought
Just bring back some nice reminders

And is it getting harder to pretend
That life goes on without you in the wake?
And can you see the means without the end
In the random frantic action that we take?

And is it getting easy not to care
Despite the many rings around your name
It isn't funny and it isn't fair
You've traveled all this way and it's the same

But you are, my love, the astronaut
Flying in the face of science
I will gladly stay an afterthought
Just bring back some nice reminders

I would tell them anything to see you split the evening
But as you see I do not have an awful lot to tell
Everybody's sick for something that they can find fascinating
Everyone but you and even you aren't feeling well

Yes you are, my love, the astronaut
Crashing in the name of science
Just my luck they found your upper half
It's a very nice reminder
It's a very nice reminder

And you may be acquainted with the night
But I have seen the darkness in the day
And you must know it is a terrifying sight
Because you and I are living the same way

Not only is Palmer a great singer, but she is a tremendous communicator and shrewd, perceptive businesswoman in general.  There are a lot of lessons here for salespeople or any businessman, really.  There have only been two other posts on this blog that I have cross-labeled with both "Business" and "Music" labels.

One such cross-labeled post is:
Mick Jagger, Businessman, from Friday, February 4, 2011
Jagger focuses on his fans, and his most direct source of income, by touring.

Here is another such post:
Music Economics, from April 15, 2010

Note this link in that post...
...which shows the many ways musicians make money.  But it doesn't show one particular way.  Read on...

Let's take a look at what Palmer does.  Her business model includes touring, like Jagger and like most singers.  But it also involves letting her fans download her music for FREE!

From her web page:
"Free Music | Mission Statement"

Palmer describes her approach in this TED Talk:
"Amanda Palmer: The art of asking"
And the media asked, "Amanda, the music business is tanking, and you encourage piracy!  How did you make all these people pay for music?"  And the real answer is: I didn't make them, I asked them.  And through the very act of asking people, I connected with them.  And when you connect with them, people want to help you.
Palmer completely trusts her fans, and that trust has apparently been repaid in full.  Check out the video at 10:50 onward.
This was a Ninja master level fan connection.  Because what I was really saying here was: "I trust you this much.  Should I?  Show me."

Some people are scared of Palmer's approach.  She is giving away her music for free, and asking them to pay what they want to pay.  But Palmer takes a different approach.  In Palmer's words:
Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance.  But the Internet, and the content that we're freely able to share on it, are taking us back.  It's about a few people loving you up close, and about those people being enough.
You can be successful if you have a few deep connections.  It's about quality, not quantity.
So a lot of people are confused by the idea of no hard sticker price, they see it as an unpredictable risk.  But the things I've done--the kickstarter, the street, the doorbell--I don't see these things as risk, I see them as trust.
The perfect tools aren't going to help us if we can't face each other.  And give and receive fearlessly.  But more important, to ask.  Without shame.  My music career has been spent trying to encounter people on the Internet the way I could on the box.
When we really see each other, we want to help each other.  I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is: "How do we make people pay for music?"  What if we started asking: "How do we let people pay for the music?"
Wow.  Powerful stuff.

Here is how the New York Times described her approach:
"Giving Love, Lots of It, To Her Fans"
“It doesn’t feel like a windfall,” Ms. Palmer said in an interview before the party. “It feels like the accumulated reward for years and years of work.”
“It’s not about fame,” said Yancey Strickler, a founder of Kickstarter. “Fame is a lot of people caring about you a little. What Amanda has is something different. It’s a few people caring about her a lot.”

And I would be remiss if I didn't post a link to her Kickstarter video pitch:

This is "the art of asking" at its very finest.  Extremely well done.  The "ask" is very clear and very well-tailored to her audience.  I was amazed at how well it was done.

Finally, here is a picture illustrating one of the things she mentioned in her TED talk.  I have to admit, I don't believe I could do this!  Well, maybe if I were doing the signing, but not the one being signed!