The West

Music for the new hive mind
Amanda Palmer

We're standing on the precipice of an evolution in human interconnectivity, perhaps the rudimentary building blocks of some kind of tech-fuelled hive mind. Our current fumblings and flirtations with social media are spiralling and expanding at a dizzying rate.

Most just dig their fingers in and hang on through equal parts of thrill and trepidation. Some close their eyes, paralysed by the fear of imminent oblivion.

And then, sitting at the very front of the rollercoaster, there's Amanda Palmer, squealing joyously and tweeting to half a million fans about how bitchin' rollercoasters are.

You'd be hard pressed to find an artist who has met the creative possibilities of the internet with more gusto than the 36-year-old Californian songstress; and really, it was always going to be her.

From the earliest days of her acclaimed cabaret-rock duo, Dresden Dolls, Palmer strived to destroy convention and explore artistic alchemies, mashing music, theatre, words and pictures into new expressions. As the internet bloomed over the last decade, Palmer watched, salivating, imagining how each development could further creation and diminish the gap between artist and fan. Not everyone feels the same way.

"The world is almost divided right now," Palmer says. "Those who are living in fear of what might happen and those who are embracing the joy of what could happen.

"The former camp is populated with old-school, major-label record executives who wished the internet had never poxed the planet, and the latter is full of young, forward-thinking artists and musicians who are excited to see how the internet can be used as a tool to make us more human instead of less human."

Earlier this year, Palmer made history by becoming the first artist to generate more than a million dollars via fans through the entrepreneurial site Kickstarter. Requesting funding for artwork and the promotion of her new solo release, Theatre is Evil, Palmer sold packages varying from digital downloads of the album to house parties where fans could have her play live in their homes. Nearly 25,000 people backed the project.

As with any grand success, Palmer's campaign drew both praise and criticism. What the often ill-informed naysayers overlooked, however, was that every cent generated came from purchases: not donations, not loans, but an exchange of monies for goods.

I asked Palmer how much of the $1.2 million raised was spent delivering the packages; she paused briefly. "When all was said and done, about a million dollars; I mean that's very rough numbers, but huge amounts of time and money." Because she went to such lengths to deliver on the Kickstarter campaign, Palmer has been understandably disappointed in comments that have questioned the project and her moral compass.

Super-producer Steve Albini recently referred to Palmer in an online forum as an "idiot" who was taking advantage of her fan base, a comment that has sparked a small media storm.

"I have the utmost respect for Steve Albini, but I also know for a fact he's a grumpy f…," Palmer says. "I think I went out of my way to over-deliver on this Kickstarter (project) because I really wanted to drive the point home that this was an activity worth engaging in.

"I wanted so badly to deliver something unforgettable and that's the thing that's really killing me; it's really hurting me to see Steve Albini say, 'Hey, millionaire chick, share your dough with everyone'."

The West Australian

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