Amanda Palmer Has A Huge Hack

Hack-your-hitGuest post by Jay Frank of FutureHit.DNA.

For the last few days, I’ve seen my social networks light up with people talking about Amanda Palmer’s record breaking Kickstarter campaign. First, she raised $200,000. Then $300,000. Then $400,000. As of this writing (on the morning of Friday, May 4th), she’s about to pass $500,000. Over 8,000 people have supported her to the tune of $57.43 spent per person. When I look into how she did this just from what I see publicly, I realized something amazing:

Amanda Palmer has pulled off the biggest music hack to date!

Now for those not familiar with my new book Hack Your Hit, this is a huge compliment. To me, a hack is a way to work the system in a positive way to circumvent road blocks and get to your desired goal. In this case, a hit story. To most people, the story is that Amanda raised half a million dollars for her new album without a record label. The truth is a veritable stew of ideas feeding off each other all focused in one place (Kickstarter). To break it down:

25% of the revenue to date is pre-selling a tour.

The first category to sell out was 25 acoustic “party” dates at people’s houses for $5,000 or more. That means that at least $125,000 of the campaign came from people paying for a show in advance. Amanda could have done just a tour pre-sell and her fans would have supported in the same manner. By adding it to a new album promotion, she was able to raise visibility. She would also likely have known that these would be in high demand from her fans and sell quickly. Since her “goal” was $100,000, all she needed to do was sell tour dates and she would exceed her goal. Which brings me to:

The campaign underplays her worth to appear more successful.

I don’t believe that $100,000 was ever her true goal. Amanda likely knew she’d do more than that in house party revenue. Her previous Kickstarter campaign also raised more than her current goal. But setting the goal low so you can exceed it is a very smart hack. The story becomes how much she raised in excess of what she expected. This leads to more awareness which leads to more pledges.

Multiple campaigns are bundled into one to appear larger.

Amanda’s pledge drive is now being billed as the most successful music campaign on Kickstarter ever. Which is true. But in actuality, this is three campaigns. It’s promoting a new record, an art book and a tour. Most people would say these are separate projects with separate promotions. Combining them gave her a higher visibility for the new record.

The majority of the revenue is not from the new record.

Amanda’s new album appears to be the strong selling point. It’s the first item in the description and she uses more all-caps descriptors than other items, such as “BIG, LEGIT”, “BEYOND EPIC” and “BAD-ASS”. But when you add up the sales (as of now) of people just buying a download, CD or vinyl, the revenue is approximately $132,000. That’s just over 25% or about what Amanda is making from the live shows. Certainly, the people buying the concerts, art books, and art shows get the CD too. But if they were getting it solely for the music, that’s all they’d buy.

I think Amanda is brilliant. To survive in the DIY world, you’ve got to stick out. To stick out, you need to hack. Amanda didn’t get to this place overnight. This successful hack is the result of years of hard work building a fan base. But it’s also years of building up knowledge of what works and synthesizing it into something that works on a very big level.

Hacks in music are smart, strategic marketing at their best. Amanda’s Kickstarter campaign does just that. It’s also a reminder that even people with big fan bases can’t just “release the record”. To the fans, she is delivering everything they want in a very impressive presentation. To musicians who look up to her, they should be recognizing the hacking strategies that truly made this a record-breaking success.


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  1. A lot of great points here, especially about how to build and treat a fan base. And while I think everything she’s done and is doing is great, I’ll be even happier to see someone do it from the ground up, without any help whatsoever from a major (or any label).
    Not to take away from the incredible success she’s seeing, but in the end this is only “quasi DIY” I guess what I’m trying to say here, is that at one point her kickstarter had a kickstarter…

  2. I’m getting tired of reading “I just want to see/hear about someone doing it without any ties to an old label” comments. There are literally dozens of success stories of musicians carving out incredible careers that never had a label deal (most of them have been talked about here). Also, I would argue that Amanda’s success is in spite of her old label deal, not because of it.

  3. I’d say I have to agree with Yeah. She was already noticed and surfing on a wave that was built up initially by a major. Doesn’t negate the awesomeness of what she’s done, but she is a ‘known’ artist. So it is a bit different to say someone in their basement doing the same thing, with just as much talent etc. That game ain’t fair. Let’s be honest.

  4. Palmer couldn’t have done it without having already put years in the business. She readily admits it. Kickstarter works better when you already have hundreds of thousands of people who know about you. Trying to launch yourself via Kickstarter is hard and has worked mainly for people who are creating a product, like a watch or an iPhone stand, that people really want to buy and which gets publicity on tech blogs.
    What is the interesting thing to ponder is if you already have a big following, do you need to go through Kickstarter at all and give them a percentage of the money you have raised? But some of the other online merchandising company actually take a bigger percentage of the money you generate, so Kickstarter might be the cheapest option.

  5. You’re kidding right?
    Dresden Dolls and her solo on Roadrunner from 2000-2010 had nothing to do with her brand identity and widespread recognition?
    Hundreds of thousands in marketing and PR, and she was still able to make a name for herself IN SPITE of it?
    I’m not knocking her at all, I think what she’s doing is great but get real, this is the “biggest music hack” and that’s all fine, but ten years of a label backed career helped get that there.
    Are there others who have done it? sure, very few at this capacity without the boost.

  6. The impact of this still has a few more opportunities to develop before it can totally be measured. The main one that comes to mind is physical distribution. Once Amanda Palmer gets the CD, Book or Vinyl in stores does the chances for multi-revenve and cross promotion of the whole amazing project really start to kick in. I know of one distributor that would love to talk about distro as well as the story behind the whole effort as it’s one that all of us can buy into and enjoy doing it. #justsayin

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