Amanda Palmer Made $19K In 10 Hours On Twitter

Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls and solo fame is definitely a self-promoter.  But what sets her apart and makes her efforts effective is that she seemingly does it effortlessly.  By letting the world into her life via blog posts, Twitter, web casts, etc and doing it with playful and rebellious tone, she has made herself worth paying attention to and supporting.  The music's not half bad either.

Palmer has been very vocal about wanting out of her label deal with Warner Music Group's Roadrunner, and why shouldn't she since she's her own marketing juggernaut and has even figured out how to make money doing it. Here, from her blog, is how she made $19,000 in 10 hours by connecting with her fans on Twitter.

UPDATE: Video of Amanda on the Friday Freaks phenomenon.

Amanda Palmer

From: Amanda Palmer
Subject: twitter power, or “how an indie musician can make $19,000 in 10 hours using twitter”

this story has just been blowing people’s minds so i figures i should write it down.

about a month ago, i was at home on a friday night (loser that i often am when i’m not touring, i almost never go out) and was, of course, on my mac, shifting between emails, links and occasionally doing some dishes and packing for a trip the next day. just a usual friday-night-rock-star-multi-tasking extravaganza.

i twitter whenever i’m online, i love the way it gives me a direct line of communication with my fans and friends. i had already seen the power of twitter while touring…

using twitter i’d gathered crowds of sometimes 200 fans with a DAY’S notice to come out and meet me in public spaces (parks, mostly) where i would play ukulele, sign, hug, take pictures, eat cake, and generally hang out and connect. this was especially helpful in the cities where we’d been unable to book all-ages gigs and there were crushed teenagers who were really grateful to have a shot at connecting with me & the community of amanda/dolls fans.

i’d also been using twitter to organize ACTUAL last-minute gigs…i twittered a secret gig in LA one morning and about 350 folks showed up 5 hours later at a warehouse space….i played piano, filmed by current.tv, and then (different camera crew) did an interview with afterellen.com.
the important thing to understand here is that the fans were never part of the plan..,i basically just INVITED my fans to a press day, the press didnt’ plan it…i did.
i was going to be playing in an empty room and doing q&a with afterellen on a coach with only the camera watching.
it was like….why not tell people and do this in a warehouse instead of a hotel lobby or a blank studio? so i did.

it cost me almost nothing. the fans were psyched.

but back to the bigger, cooler story….

so there i am, alone on friday night and i make a joke on twitter (which goes out to whichever of my 30,000 followers are online):

9:15 PM May 15th from web

one thing led to another, and the next thing you know there were thousands of us and we’d become the #1 topic trend on twitter.
zoe keating described it as a “virtual flash mob”.

the way twitter works (if you don’t have it) is that certain topics can include a hashtag (#) and if a gazillion people start making posts that include that hashtag, the topic will zoom up the charts of what people are currently discussing. it’s a cool feature.

so anyway, there we were, virtually hanging out on twitter on a friday night. very pleased with ourselves for being such a large group, and cracking jokes.

how do you “hang out” on the internet? well, we collectively came up with a list of things that the government should do for us (free government-issued sweatpants, pizza and ponies, no tax on coffee), AND created a t-shirt.
thank god my web guy sean was awake and being a loser with me on friday night  because he throw up the webpage WHILE we were having our twitter party and people started ordering the shirts – that i designed in SHARPIE in realtime) and a slogan that someone suggested: “DON’T STAND UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT, STAY IN FOR WHAT’S WRONG”. neil gaiman and wil wheaton joined our party. the fdnas felt super-special.

by the end of the night, we’d sold 200 shirts off the quickie site (paypal only) that sean had set up.
i blogged the whole story the next day and in total, in the matter of a few days, we sold over 400 shirts, for $25/ea.

we ended up grossing OVER $11,000 on the shirts.
my assistant beth had the shirts printed up ASAP and mailed them from her apartment.

total made on twitter in two hours = $11,000.
total made from my huge-ass ben-folds produced-major-label solo album this year = $0


a few nights after that, i blogged and twittered, announcing a “webcast auction” from my apartment.
it went from 6 pm – 9 pm, my assitant beth sat at my side and kept her eyes on incoming bids and twitter feed.
while we hocked weird goods, i sang songs and answered questions from fans. we wore kimonos and drank wine. it was a blast.

people on twitter who were tuned in re-tweeted to other fans. the word spread that it was a fun place to be and watch.
we had, at peak, about 2000 people watching the webcast.

at the suggestion of a fan early in the webcastm anyone could, on demand, send us $20 via paypal and we would chew,
sign and mail them a postcard. we sold about 70, and we read all those names at the end of the webcast and thanked those
people for supporting us. here’s how the sales broke down:

all the items were signed by moi and hand-packed by beth and kayla.
the items and highest bidders were as follows:
hilary, ukulele used on the european tour: $640
jake, “guitar hero” plastic guitar controller used in album promo shoot: $250
lary b, copy neo2 magazine, plus two post-war trade slap-bracelets & a crime-photo set: $230
devi, glass dildo, with subtley-sordid backstory: $560
liz b., “hipsters ruin everything” t-shirt, made by blake (get your very own here!!!!): $155.55
shannon m., my bill bryson book, a short history of neary everything: $280
nikki, huge metal “the establishment” sign, used at rothbury festival for the circus tent i curated: $450
j.r., purple velvet “A” dress used in the dresden dolls coin-operated boy video shoot: $400
jessie & alan: who killed amanda palmer vinyl: $100
nikki: wine bottle, auctioned BY REQUEST!!! $320
shannon w., torn-to-shit vintage stockings used in the who killed amanda palmer/ michael pope video series: $200
school-note-book break-up letter, written to amanda from jonas woolverton in 7th grade (i still haven’t emailed him about that….): $250
daryl, ANOTHER wine bottle, by request, that we had LYING AROUND: $320


reto emailed, having barely missed the wine bottle, and asked us to send him “something funny” for $129.99. we sent a heath ledger statuette.

total made on twitter in 3 hours, including the postcards, was over $6000.
again, total made on my major-label solo album this year: $0

a few days later, i twittered a guest-list only event in a recording studio in boston, to take place a week later.
the gig lasted about 5 hours, all told, with soundcheck and signing. i took mostly requests and we had a grand old time.
first come, first served. the first 200 people to ask got in, for free. i asked for donations and made about $2200 in cash.
i gave $400 back to the studio for the space and the help. we sold some weird merch. i think we should call it an even 2k.

total made at last-minute secret twitter gig, in about 5 hours = $2000
major-label record blah blah blah = $0

…..and for fun, and to thank my fans for being awesome, i’ve been doing some twitter perfomance art, including answering their questions by magic-markering my body until it’s covered, and displaying time-lapse make-up application advice….but that’s another story.


turn on, tune in, get dropped!!!!!

amanda fucking palmer

MORE: A video of Amanda on the Friday Freaks phenomenon.

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  1. That is an awesome story. She is probably one of the best example for bands using twitter, and also the best example of how to engage in conversation with your fans.

  2. The shirt story seems to be more of a story about Amanda being an opportunist than an artist. She leveraged her resources (web guy/assistant/crowd) to take the ideas of the group, produce a shirt and profit from it.
    This story would be better filed under impulse buy.

  3. The instant you use a word like “monetize” the word “artist” has no place.
    business people make music as a product with the intent of sales…
    …musicians make music because thats what they do. if people buy it, sweet…
    the worlds real musicians play to a crowd of themselves.

  4. Beautiful collection of moxy and entrepreneurial spirit, Amanda. BTW, the comments from folks like “Andy” aren’t worth much. Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw, “Real musicians have day jobs.” Yeah right. In my world, real musicians are too busy making money making art to have a day job. Best to you and your efforts to escape the clutches of the label.

  5. Too bad her music stinks, she’d never get 1/2 the following without the label support. Even Radiohead acknowledge they’d never of left their home town without a big label backing them. She’s delusional. Once the label drops her, she’ll be working at Burger King.

  6. Her agents/managers/label let her DO this? Connect with fans? Show entrepreneurial spirit? Without getting their huge slice of her pie? WTF? Rebel. What’s the world coming to?!
    (Next time an agent tells a promoter she needs a huge guarantee, the promoter should say, well, hell, she just make $19K off Twitter, so go Tweet your big fat commission right up your ass.)

  7. This is quite something and Amanda Palmer is especially talented at social networking so I applaud her. However, one thing these artists always forget to mention (Radiohead included) is that this direct-to-fan merchandising (on such a grand scale) would not be possible had they not benefitted for years being on a major label. Perhaps they made no money from record sales but the power of the major labels to provide them with hundres of magazines & newspapers features, high-profile videos on cable, radio promotion, and worldwide tour support is the only way they accumulated hundreds-of-thousands of fans and can now profit from these fans. An indie band going it alone can never acheive this level of success.

  8. for everyone who has said that amanda wouldn’t have the fans to buy this stuff if she didn’t have a major label promoting her… when’s the last time you saw wb/roadrunner promoting her or the dresden dolls? everything i’ve ever seen, promo wise, has been grassroots; the dolls/amanda are sorely misplaced in the roadrunner family… just take a quick look at rr’s artist list & their own promo line from google… “Roadrunner Records is the premier music label for Heavy Metal & Rock bands.”
    rr is too busy with their slipknots and nickelbacks to care about indie artists who don’t have platinum/gold records. the music industry is changing; maybe radiohead wouldn’t have left their hometown in the late 80s/early 90s without major label support, but the fact of the matter is that viral marketing/social networking/indie labels are starting to take the place of major record labels like warner brothers, emi, etc. diy is where it’s at with music right now.

  9. just because you don’t see the first-hand outcome of a major label supporting her band, doesn’t mean they didn’t pour a ton of cash into the project.
    take for example the process of getting a CD reviewed by all the major music magazines, on time, in coordination with a release. then how about all those feature stories that look like a journalist decided to write about the band that day out of nowhere.
    it’s all paid for.

  10. 100% agreed with Tucchus… my band never realized until we were off-label how many wheels need to be greased for the average publicity campaign. Never mind blatantly pay-to-play organs like AP and MAGNET, but even blogs don’t expect anything good that doesn’t come from a $2K/month indie publicist.
    It’s also a little disingenuous to say she’s made NOTHING from the label. I’m assuming there was some kind of advance for delivering the record. Although if she’s sold 30K then there’s no way in hell she’s recouped even a RR “development” deal. It’s would be a very good argument for lower-risk profit share deals, if not for the way RR or WB probably counts their money.
    Amanda’s very entertaining, but unless she’s fucking SUPERHUMAN I just can’t see how she can keep putting all this energy and great ideas into marketing herself and monetizing her fans 24/7 without diverting some of that creativity from her music, which is ultimately what matters (well, to me, at least. Which is why you’ve probably never heard of my band.)

  11. Except that you’re forgetting one thing. Musician’s who wish to NOT work a day job waiting fucking tables or typing data into a computer all day or hawking someone else’s goods had better figure out a way to “monetize” their music or they’ll never be a “professional musician”, you’ll just be some unknown hobbyist who serves people hamburgers 5 or 6 days a week. If you’re perfectly happy playing your music in front of a mirror after your 9-5 job every day, please do, but don’t try to apply your flawed logic to someone else’s wish to “monetize” their music so that they can do what they love for a living.

  12. Yeah but then she would have to be a label douche.
    Seriously Mark you are so completely wrong, I don’t know where to start…it’s like watching Sean Hannity and calling it “news”.
    I’ll wrap this up…ready:
    brendan b brown

  13. And she had a say in that expenditure?…I’m sorry, assuming you are correct, are we supposed to feel bad for the label for making horrible business decisions and spending money with no return?
    You’re just jealous too.
    brendan b brown

  14. No major label record, no radio play.
    No radio play, no major tour.
    No major tour, no big fan base.
    No big fan base, no twitter yard sales.
    So basically, no major label deal, no blogpost about making money from nothing.

  15. I agree with this comment. Who would care to follow her on twitter if labels hadn’t invested tens of thousands of dollars in producing her record, supporting her touring, and promoting her image?

  16. Maybe if she put that much effort into trying to sell her record, the label would recoup her costs and she’d finally start making money from it.

  17. If you think the Dolls have a fanbase because of anything other than word of mouth, you don’t have a realistic perception of them whatsoever.

  18. while i think she is a genius, if she weren’t AMANDA fucking PALMER already, no one would have bought any of that shit.
    not that i’m saying the roadrunner records made her that popular, but having her records available in record stores certainly did. because back when i first started listening to the dolls, you couldn’t buy the records in stores, they had no label, and they had about 30 fans. Until the day FYE started selling the albums (which wouldn’t happen without a label), no one knew who she was.

  19. Amanda Palmer is a genius. But I do agree with Zoryaida. If it were someone else (like me, for example), they’d probably make $5 after 24 hrs. of back-breaking twittering.

  20. Angela,
    What would happen if the label had 10 employees put that much effort in each?…Would it recoup 10 times over? Are you providing a tacit admission that the artist is better at promoting herself than the label is? That flies in the face of the whole,”she’d have no fans if not for Roadrunner” argument…Doesn’t it now?
    You are wrong and you suck, please stop sucking.

  21. Couldn’t agree more with armchairnomad… I laugh out loud everytime I hear the sheer stupidity of those who are so ready to make decisions and moral judgments on what others should or shouldn’t do with their lives… Ok sure.. let’s follow this genius approach and ask all the famous multi millionaire musicians to change their “business people” ways and join him waiting tables and making cafe lattes at Starbucks… so they can become part of his “world’s real musicians…” I mean what a drooling loser !!

  22. Yeah.
    While it may be entirely be possible that AfP could’ve done all this herself, it certainly was made a lot easier by the fact that she had a large pre-existing fanbase. And it’s hard to get a large pre-existing fanbase without some marketing muscle.
    At any rate, it’d be unlikely that someone would buy a wine bottle for $320 if there wasn’t a rabid fanbase in existence. It’s kind of a catch-22 for most artists – you need this kind of plan to develop a fanbase, but you need a fanbase to execute this kind of plan.
    Makes my head spin sometimes.

  23. Wow, you know, that is a really compelling argument. I mean you had that great point that Sean Hannity is not news. And then you had that sentence in all caps!

  24. Amanda Palmer is a fucking narcissist, and like any narcissist she spends all her time desperately trying to get attention rather than learning her craft. She performs cover songs to ride on the fame of the song owner in the hopes that someone will notice her cheap bid for attention. The next thing that happens is the bra comes off, then the dumb naked pictures on twitter. She’s the modern version of a geek show, no talent, no brains, just an escalating wave of vulgar behavior, tantrums, telling people the record company said she was fat when really they just dropped her because she stinks.

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