MIDEM Panel and Q&A: Kevin Wortis on Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter, ‘Theatre Vs. Theater’

MIDEM 2013 opened in Cannes with a raft of how-to sessions. One of the freshest of those featured Kevin Wortis who drilled well under the surface of his ward Amanda Palmer’s million-dollar fan-funding exercise. 

Wortis (see Q&A below) is a 22-year-music biz vet who’s worked as a booking agent, manager, label head and co-founded World's Fair. However, he may have just had his most interesting year yet: As partner and director of Girlie Action Media and Marketing’s label services, he helped oversee Amanda Palmer’s unprecedented $1.2 million dollar Kickstarter campaign -- an utterly unique experience he had a thing or two to say about.

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Wortis delivered a punchy, four-point presentation on how the recording process relates to fan-funding: First, he said \ the artist and their team must “circle the wagons” bringing the fans into the process and enabling the core fan-club to spread the word. Secondly, the team must create “unforgettable experiences” that rise above the drone of all the other competing releases. Next, all activities must be monetized and centralized. Finally, he employed terms already looming as the buzz phrases of this year’s MIDEM  – “authenticity” and “transparency” --- which can't work unless artists are extremely comfortable with the process -- "it needs to be real.” 

Wortis succinctly captured the modus operandi of fan-funding. “It’s about selling access to the inner circle and sharing the process with them,” he said. “Make people be a part of it, enable them to be a fly on the wall. Bring in the fanbase and they become evangelists, they spread word on social media and allow them to be a part of everything.”

As an example Wortis cited IndieGoGo’s fanfunding project by Canadian alternative rockers Protest the Hero,” which is offering backers a guest vocal or instrumentation slot on a recording for the sum of $5,000. Already, three parties have taken the offer. Palmer's crowdsourcing even extended to the spelling of Palmer’s “Theatre is Evil” studio-album project, which sparked a wave of dialog on Twitter with regards to the “Theater” vs “Theatre” debate.  Fans, it turned out, wanted it to be spelled “Theatre.”No biggie, only 5,000 promos had already been distributed with the American spelling. The crowd-source discussion ruled.