Amanda Palmer Gives Kickstarter Tips, Talks Haters, Feminism & Miley Cyrus at Bigsound

Focus on creating a clear, concise pitch video. And set a small, achievable financial target.

Take note, because those are Amanda Palmer’s top tips for a winning Kickstarter project. 

The Dresden Dolls co-founder, who became the crowd-sourcing standard-bearer when her campaign raised $1.2 million, was in a sharing mood for her keynote interview Thursday at Australia’s Bigsound conference.

“I look at a lot of campaigns and see people making common mistakes. The video to pitch the project is really important and it should be short and it should explain what you’re giving,” she told delegates. “There are a lot of videos that get off-topic. Keep the video very short and direct and about your project. The other thing is that people should keep their number announcement incredibly conservative. It’s fine to over-fund your project, but if you don’t make your target you’re screwed. Pick the amount you absolutely know you can get. Even if it’s small or humble.”

Palmer admits she “made a lot of mistakes” with her campaign. One of those was her “whimsical” decision to wave costs for shipping product to her backers. The shipping bill came in at over $300,000. “Oh well, there goes the video budget. Learned lesson,” she said with a smile.  The $1.2 million pretty much spent itself. It had “vanished,” she said, “it was already gone by the time I cleared the check.”

The alternative rock maverick also addressed criticism for her initial decision to ask for volunteers to play without pay. “After Kickstarter there was a lot of eyes on me, but I had just kept operating the same way I had for 10 years,” she explained. 

Palmer also took a lot of flack for "A Poem for Dzhokhar," which she wrote following the bombing of her hometown, Boston. “It was a really slapdash stream of consciousness poem,” she explained. “As an artist, you pull together all the elements that are around you. Everything becomes ingredients for the stew. It wasn’t so much for him (the bomber), but the mishmash of the experiences…I don’t regret at all publishing that poem, even though I don’t think it was particularly good. It allowed me to work through what was going on in my life."

Bono reached out to Palmer with words of support. “He wrote a nice email saying ‘don’t let the bastards drag you down’.”

In turn, Palmer has reached out with some support of her own for another artist who has been facing a torrent of criticism -- Miley Cyrus. “Let her be. There has to be an allowance for that, otherwise art becomes safe and sanctioned. And it shouldn’t be.”

Amanda Palmer Q&A: Why Pay-What-You-Want Is the Way Forward, and More

When asked whether feminism was at the heart of her work, Palmer had this to say: “Feminism winds up playing an accidental role in my work. I never deliberately write, attack or perform anything as a feminist. My agenda and my motivations are such that the fallout is very feminsty. I don’t think very much about what I do. I do it, and I figure it out.”

The alternative rock maverick appeared on stage with a red ukulele. It wasn’t just a prop. She closed out her hour-long chat with a boisterous, unplugged performance of "Ukulele Anthem".

Palmer, a polarising talent, admits she avoids reading criticism of her work. “I read reviews when they come my way, I don’t obsessively Google. That can just get dangerous and exhausting. I am very envious and in-awe of artists who just stop reading their press or have gotten to that point. It does feel like it can poison you artistically, if you get into a volleying match. If I made my purpose in life to desperately make music to make you happy, it would suck. It probably wouldn’t be a good record. I make the record that I want to make, and write the songs I want to write. “

And will she ever hold her tongue? Fat chance. “The fear I always have is that I get embroiled in enough controversies and that I will say, ‘fine, I’ll just stop saying shit.’ That would be awful.”