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The Art of Asking: Amanda Palmer's TED talk

(The Verge) -Last month, TED released a video of a talk by Amanda Palmer on the art of asking. Since then, the talk has had over one million views on the website alone and has brought up a lot of conversations by people, not only in the music industry but in all walks of life, on how to ask for help. Amanda Palmer’s talk throws out the industry’s question of “how do we make people pay for music?” and replaces it with “how do we let people pay for music?”
If you haven’t heard of TED, I suggest you take the time to go through any of their talks. TED is a nonprofit company that hosts conventions where they intrigue influential guest speakers to talk on a variety of topics. Started in 1984, TED originally started to bring people from the three worlds of technology, entertainment, and design together to talk about their ideas. Now that their scope has expanded beyond the original three, they are devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Their website, TED.com, has their best talks and performances from the conferences available for free. Each video is under 15 minutes and they have a variety of topics available from people who are influential in their field.
So why Amanda Palmer? If you haven’t heard of her, she is an artist who used the crowd fundraising website called Kickstarter to fund her latest album. Her project only asked for $100,000, but she was able to raise over 1.2 million dollars in thirty days from her fans. To date, that is the largest amount raised by a music campaign. Her Kickstarter campaign raised a lot of controversy, both during and after the campaign had ended. Because she got a lot of press on the overwhelming success of her campaign, people everywhere started to question why she needed that much money. After the campaign, she continued to use the crowd-sourcing tactics she used throughout her career, which caused a tidal wave of criticism. However, the ideas she brings into her talk, asking and receiving help, has brought to head many conversations on the future of the music industry.

TED, the non-profit organization bringing together technology, public speaking, entertainment, etc. was graced by Amanda Palmer’s “Asking” speech recently. It is already becoming viral. Image taken from: media.ted.com

Amanda Palmer’s whole talk revolves around asking for help. Her entire career has been based upon the help of strangers, whether that be taking money while she was a living statue or staying at the homes of fans when she needed a bed for the night. She trusts her fans to take care of her, and, by asking for help, she makes a deeper connection to them. While this isn’t revolutionary in the history of the arts, it seems out of the ordinary during this day and age. It is this direct connection with her fans that allows her to make money off of her music. In her talk, she says that people are willing to pay for music if you give them the option. If you go onto her website’s shop, she has a note to people to take her music for free and share it with the world. She understands if you’re broke (which, as college students, we know far too well), and she wants to let you have her music regardless. Not only that, she wants you to give it to your friends, your family, your coworkers, and your worst enemies. Obviously, her physical products have a price tag, like the vinyl or the poster. However, the digital copy of her album is “choose your own price.” She explains that this is not a risk, this is a trust that her fans will support her, however they can.
Is this the way the music industry should be going? The old system is obviously not working. No one buys cds anymore because it is all about the digital product. Records stores are losing business and are having to close. FYE on Route 36 in Eatontown just closed this year due to decline in sales, and they aren’t an independent record store. Bands have to constantly be on tour to try to make money so they can continue doing what they love. With the digital age creating a global community and the ability to share your thoughts and opinions, should artists be taking advantage of this like Miss Palmer? Should they be trying to connect with their fans on a personal level, like through twitter, and asking for help when they need it? Personally, I think this is the beginning of a new model. I have had countless conversations with bands via twitter after I mentioned them in a tweet. There is a constant stream of bands and artists looking for places to crash for the night, some food brought to them, or a prop they need; if the band gets what they asked for, they normally return the favor with promises of a guest list spot to their show. Bands and artists are becoming more accessible to their fans, and the fans are responding to that by supporting them. Record labels need to quickly learn to take this new technology and find out how to capitalize on it before they become obsolete.
Amanda Palmer’s talk about music and accepting money is becoming a wildly traveled page on the web, and it seems to have hit home with some people. Image taken from: hereandnow.wbur.org

Amanda Palmer’s TED talk not only applies to music industry people, but to everyone. Asking for help makes you feel vulnerable. Palmer recounts a story of when she told her opening band to pass a hat around in the crowd after they played to make a bit more money. One of the members of the band told her that he was against it because it felt like begging; it didn’t feel fair to ask for more money. It’s hard to stand there and accept help from people, especially any type of monetary offers. However, this TED talk showed many people that it is okay to ask and receive help, whether it is money or something else entirely. When you make a direct connection to someone, and they are willing to give you help, it is alright to stand their and graciously accept it. Though online tools are making it easier for people to help, they are not perfect. Summing up her talk in one point, Miss Palmer said “the perfect tools aren’t going to help us if we can’t face each other and give and receive fearlessly, but, more importantly, to ask without shame.”
You can find Amanda Palmer’s talk on the art of asking at: