If you asked my husband who I would invite to one of those hypothetical dream dinners people talk about, he would tell you, without hesitation, “That Amanda Palmer chick.” He knows her music from the first note and may be able to quote from her TED Talk, The Art of Asking. I first became a fan of hers through the talk, but quickly discovered her music and followed her blog. What drew me to her is the simple fact that like me, she’s a storyteller. Palmer’s narratives involve heroes, victims, survivors, the LGBT community, sexuality, the tragedy and grace of life, and self-discovery. Her stories, her truths may seem radical to many, but for me they opened doors to redefining my perceptions and believing in the person that I am today.
Amanda Palmer’s success is unconventional and, well, magnificent. Her use of crowd funding is legendary- maybe Ellen broke Twitter, but Palmer broke Kickstart when 25k fans pledged $1.2 million to launch her latest album. Within forty-eight hours of announcing her latest endeavor via Patreon, 2,200 patrons pledged $20,000 per thing(new music, podcasts, and videos). But her real success stems from her genuine interest in having a dialogue with her audience.
I’ve spent the last few months thinking about my goals- what I really want from my career as a writer. I believe in studying the masters, and yes, Amanda Fucking Palmer is a master. No matter if you’re coming here as a writer, an artist, a musician, or an entrepreneur, here are a few takeaways from Palmer’s narrative:
1. Make your own definition of success
Palmer doesn’t think in term of dollar signs. Her priorities are clear- art and audience over commercialism. She understands what drives her and alters her path if need be. Take the initiative to define what motivates you in your deepest heart and stay focused there, instead of what the norm might tell you success looks like. What happens is you produce authentic work that connects with your intended audience.
2. Ask for what you want.
Palmer is a revolutionary at asking for what she wants/needs. She started as a busker and later asked fans for couches to crash on while she toured. In her book, The Art of Asking, she explores what it means to ask for help in her personal life as well as accepting donations from fans. Every one of us needs a support system to succeed. It’s fucking hard asking for help, I get it. But sometimes the only way to get encouragement, support, or even for someone to hold you accountable, is to hold your hand out, look them in the eye, and tell them you need your help.
3. Be vulnerable.
If you listen to Palmer’s music- which you should- you will discover an uncommon bravery. There is no doubt she exposes how she sees the world with each song. She opens up about her personal life in her blog and social media. She’s known for her nudity, but this is an expression of trusting her audience. I’m not saying you have to expose yourself in public, but strip away social norms and assumptions to reveal your truth.
4. Take a stand.
Palmer has her share of critics, but there’s never a question of her principles, or where her integrity lies. From pubic hair and feminism, to sharing her thoughts about Miley Cyrus, this woman pulls no punches. And she does so with grace and candor. She owns who she is. Taking a stand isn’t about what the world can do for you, but what you have to give. Your voice, your purpose, and your worldview.
5. Tell the comfort zone to fuck off.
I’ll be frank- the first time I saw AFP, I was baffled by her appearance and her message. I live deep in the heart of the Midwest, and though I’m a rabid fan of David Bowie and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, her fanciful eyebrows and pit hair made me, um, uncomfortable. She made me stretch my boundaries and rethink my preconceptions about being a woman and pop culture. “We Are The Media,” she says. Our job as creatives is to explore boundaries and social commentary with the audience. Take a flying leap and put the power where it belongs- in the hands of your audience.
Many thanks to Jamie Raintree for inspiring this piece with her own on Taylor Swift (yes, I finally admit I am a Swift fan. Not a Swiftie, but a fan). Check out 5 Things Taylor Swift Taught Me About Success.
Is there an artist or entrepreneur that inspires your path to success?
Bonus introduction to one of my favorite tunes from AFP: