There's much more to crowdfunding than meets the eye, and that requires partnering with companies for distribution to reach retailers and fans, music Amanda Palmer said at SXSW on Wednesday. But Palmer could not say if this exciting new business model could work for the less socially inclined artists.
"There still is a market for people to buy things not directly from me, and we will need help with that from someone," Palmer told a packed room at the Austin Convention Center. "People still do go into stores to buy stuff. They buy vinyl. They buy books. Distribution partners will be needed, especially as artists climb the ladder and make more and different kinds of things and distribute further and wider."
Last year Palmer leveraged her social media might to raise $1.2 million for an album, companion book and tour. The album, "Theatre is Evil," released in September 2012, has sold 85,000 albums globally in six months, including the 25,000 it sold through Kickstarter. (Some of those album sales came from "pay what you want" sales on Palmer's website, Girlie Action Media & Marketing's Vickie Starr said.) The album and associated merchandise was released through Girlie Action in the United States and Cooking Vinyl in Europe.
Cooking Vinyl managing director Martin Goldschmidt said company first inked an artist service deal with English musician Billy Bragg 20 years ago that is "completely identical" to the one it did with Palmer last year. The artist owns all the rights, Cooking Vinyl gets a percentage off revenue, and the artist pays the costs and gets the majority of the revenue.
"It's a very simple model and it creates a strong partnership rather than a traditional, confrontational record company model," Goldschmidt said.
But Palmer acknowledged that crowdfunding may not suit the personality of some artists -- and that could have ramifications for fans.
"I would personally be kind of disappointed if PJ Harvey started tweeting all the time. I'd be like, 'Oh, it's just so not PJ Harvey.' … My big concern, and it's a legitimate concern, people bring it up and I don't know the answer, in the age of the social artist and crowdfunding, what about PJ? Is she going to be OK if she's not going to be able to robustly DIY it? Will she have the right team around her? Is it going to be a harder future for the artists who aren't able to roll up their sleeves and do all this stuff that me and all my hyper-social friends are doing successfully? I don't know.”
"I hope we don't lose the PJ Harveys and the Jeff Mangums and the Elliott Smiths and the people you would never expect to get out and wave their own flag and blog and tweet and be super social. Their music is amazing and necessary," Palmer continued.
Palmer closed the hour-long panel with a performance of "Ukulele Anthem" on, yes, a ukulele. The humorous tune name-drops Sex Pistols bass player Sid Vicious, axe murderer Lizzie Borden and John Lennon.