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Amanda Palmer and the art of being

Musician Amanda Palmer gave her first Ted.com talk recently on “The Art of Asking.” You can view the 13-minute video here:

Amanda describes her type of music as a mix of punk and cabaret and says that it may not be for everyone. When I went to my first Amanda Palmer concert in Seattle a few years ago, I didn’t know what to expect.

I’ve never pigeonholed myself as one type of music listener—I enjoy everything from classical to rock to country to blues to alternative—depending on my mood and what I want from my listening experience. And, I have to confess, I mainly went to her concert to hear her husband, author Neil Gaiman, read.

The concert/reading turned out to be the perfect way to introduce myself to her music. I was hooked. As I mentioned in a previous post “Inspire Your Inner Artist” it was Amanda’s passion and obvious love for her music, her musicians, and her fans that also hooked me.

Here is a woman living her passion; a woman living and growing her dream. Though I’m not a musician (other than playing pathetic guitar for my cats when everyone else is asleep), her passion connected me to that part of myself that yearns for the same thing—that connection between my own unique gifts and the desire to share them with others.

Her concert was one of the highlights of my life—not necessarily because of her music—but because of what she stirred up inside me, the desire to be better and grow my art and connections with others. She and Gaiman reignited my passion and showed me what was possible.

In her Ted talk, Palmer shares her journey of connecting with others—starting out as a living statue, giving love and connection (seeing others and being seen)–in exchange for donations. As she grew as an artist and musician, she never stopped giving of herself, she never stopped seeing others and being seen.

This is why Amanda’s fundraising experiment—where she gave away her music and set up a Kickstarter site asking for donations—was so successful. Intending to raise $100,000, her fans ended up donating nearly 1.2 million dollars.

Critics of Amanda’s methods claim, among other things, that hers is not a working model, that it wouldn’t work for many other artists. And, I agree–it might not work for everyone. I think Palmer was so incredibly successful because she spent years giving of herself and connecting with her fans. She paid it forward.

Amanda Palmer perfected not just the art of asking but the art of being.

If one artist can be successful using this model, why not others? I would love to see a writer or poet try it. When you think about it, artists, including writers, have been subsidized throughout time. There have been many patrons of the arts.

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the word “patron” is defined as “a wealthy or influential supporter of an artist or writer.” Palmer’s fans may not (all) be wealthy but they are influential. They are willing to stand up and say, “I value what you have given me.”

As a business owner, I know from personal experience that the most successful businesses in the world focus on what they can give their customers, not on what they can get from them. Some might call it a Zen way of doing business. Palmer has found a working model for doing just that.

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