Amanda Palmer has had quite a year. The former Dresden Doll-turned-social media maven made waves with a Kickstarter campaign that netted her over a million dollars towards her new album, largely based off her highly engaged fanbase with whom she communicates regularly on Twitter. With almost 600,000 followers (595,737 by press time), it can be a full-time job, but Billboard spoke with Palmer about her strategy, success, and the value of interaction on Twitter.
Billboard.biz: You’ve had a busy year on Twitter.
Amanda Palmer: It has been a fucking great year on Twitter. I could write a whole fucking book about Twitter. It changed the way I view touring for sure.
Twitter has replaced Google and management. I can ask my fans for help. Like, “we need to borrow an acoustic guitar for a radio promotion that just popped up. Can someone bring me a guitar?” In the old days you’d have to call your management company or a local promoter, whoever was on the ground to help you that day. This way some cool fan of yours shows up with an acoustic guitar and they are really happy. You would be happy because you don’t have to run around or pay for it.
You would also do stealth shows.
I am known for doing these ninja gigs where I’ll be in a city and I’ll just tell everyone to meet me in the park and we’ll play. Or at a gig I’ll say “15 minutes after doors, everyone meet me in the men’s bathroom and I’ll play ukulele.” Even if there’s only 15 people following me who are on their phones, word will spread. It really confuses the venue too. “What the fuck is everyone doing in the men’s bathroom?”
Any advice for people trying to figure Twitter out?
Being good at Twitter when you have a lot of followers is kind of like being a good party hostess. You have to be paying attention to a lot of things to make it work. And it definitely has to be a two-way conversation. It’s almost like being a talk show host where you’re moderating a conversation but you’re not really dominating it. I’ll make an offhand comment about music or sex or gun control or shaving and all of a sudden people will be sharing their opinions. I’ll just kind of moderate it. Twitter is a wonderful broadcasting system of what’s on anyone’s mind.
You also used it to make $19K in one night when you made a t-shirt about being on the computer on a Friday night.
I made an offhand comment that I was a loser for being on my computer late on a Friday night instead of being out. Other people started chiming in. I said we don’t have to be ashamed of this, let’s start a small political party! I made a Sharpie drawing of a computer with a half-eaten pizza next to it and a glass of wine. My friend Sean, who is my Internet guy, was of course on his computer on Friday night. I emailed Sean do you want to mock this up as a t-shirt? He put it up on my website 10 minutes later. We sold $19K in t-shirts and the whole thing took three hours.
What mistakes do you see people make on Twitter?
Bands in general don’t personalize the information. You need to make sure there’s a balance between the business information and the real-life information. The stuff you’re sharing should be about what you’re doing — the silly stuff you come across, the views you want to share, the details about your process. There needs to be a balance between that random interesting stuff and “hey, we’ve got a show or we have a single out.” If that’s all you’re broadcasting, there’s nothing interesting worth following. And you’ll find even with the huge artists who a lot of people have an interest in, if you look at their feed and all it is is a one way stream of info, they won’t have a lot of followers because there’s not a lot of interesting information.