Punk-cabaret musician and incorrigible creative Amanda Palmer shared a powerful talk at this year's TED conference on "The Art of Asking." In her speech, Palmer talks about how simply asking fans for things that she needs has revolutionized her creative life. It's overhauled how she makes and profits from her music.
By replacing a hard transactional model of exchange (I give you an album, you give me 14.99) with a soft, participatory one (I give you all my albums, you give me whatever it's worth to you), she's recaptured the old, community-oriented dynamic of music. Like a street busker, a pub performer, a local act at open mike night, you give Amanda what her music is worth to you.
Though she's certainly not the first to implement a pay-what-you-want model (I think that was Radiohead's In Rainbows, and heck, now it's the entire point of Noisetrade), Palmer takes the strategy way farther than the checkout page. She asks for a piano to practice on while she's touring, and a Twitter follower opens up her house in London. Homemade food, opening bands, couches to sleep on, you name it, she's probably asked for it, taken someone up on it, shared and enjoyed it.
By doing this, she's brought her audience up onto the stage, humanized them by allowing them to assign value to her work. And in this relational exchange, she sees them. Like the eight-foot bride in the beginning of her talk, she looks them in the eyes, hands them a flower, and (even in the abstraction of digitized commerce) gives them the chance to choose her.
As a musician, Palmer's model threatens the foundation of the traditional record industry, which is built on outdated ways to create and distribute ...