Amanda's Million

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Last week Amanda Palmer became the first musician to raise more than a million dollars on Kickstarter. Her project's numbers: $1,192,793 pledged by 24,883 people in 30 days. A musician getting a million dollars from the internet is a very big deal. How did it happen?

Music projects

While Amanda Palmer's project is the biggest in music so far, thousands of musicians have found Kickstarter to be an effective tool. They've used it to make records, go on tour, and reissue old material, among many other things. More than 7,000 music projects have been successfully funded, the most in any category.

Music projects are also successfully funded at a high rate — 52% of music projects reach their goals versus 44% of all projects. The most successful genres: Country (62%), Indie Rock (60%), Jazz (57%), and Classical (57%).

In total, more than $42 million has been pledged to Kickstarter music projects by more than 600,000 people. Only the Film category has seen more dollars or pledges.

Reward economics

The goal of Amanda Palmer's project was to release her new album, and 94% of the project's pledges were pre-orders of the record.

For $1, fans could get a download of the album; for $5 a download and a PDF; for $25 a download and CD; for $50 a download and vinyl; and for $125 a download, vinyl or CD, and limited-edition art book. Here's a breakdown of what backers chose. Mouse over a tier for its full statistics (thanks to Amanda for allowing us to share this data):

Backers pre-ordered 23,383 copies of the album. Not only did backers pay for her music, they paid more than they had to: 80% of pre-orders were for more than the $1 minimum.

Excluding the $125 art-book level, backers paid on average $16.25 for the record. Even after Kickstarter's 5% fee and Amazon's credit card processing fees, Amanda gets to take home several times what a musician would get from a traditional physical or digital sale.

The value of experiences

While pre-ordering made up most of the project's activity, more than $300,000 was pledged for rewards offering experiences rather than things.

For $300 you could go to a backer-only show — 397 fans chose that. For $5,000 she would play a show at your house — 34 backers chose that. For $10,000 you could have dinner with her and she would paint your portrait — two backers chose that. 

Traditional marketplaces restrict fans to being consumers, but Amanda's project invited them to participate. Private shows, personal mixtapes, studio visits, and similar experiences are common among music projects on Kickstarter.

Why Amanda Palmer?

Amanda Palmer isn't the most famous person in the world, but she might have the most loyal following. Her fans love her because of who she is. She hangs out with them online and in person. She chooses not to have a record label. She's transparent with everything she does.

As she wrote in a blog post last week:

i’ve been running my life this way for years, bouncing up and down financially and just making sure i always had enough money to do WHAT I WANTED, and do it RIGHT.

it may be what makes me different, fundamentally, from a lot of pop artists. i’m almost never looking at the monetary bottom line, i’m always looking at the creative bottom line. the happiness index of my life and creative self, not the amount of dough i’ll have in the bank at the end of a project.

True to her reputation, she goes on to explain exactly where the money will go. After fulfilling rewards and paying costs, she'll take home $100,000 and not carry any debt from the project. When's the last time a musician sold 25,000 albums and knew exactly where every penny went?

What next?

Everyone at Kickstarter would like to congratulate Amanda, her band, her team, and her backers on the project. Every bit of this was their doing, and we were thrilled to be part of it. They've done an amazing job.

Whether it's Amanda Palmer, Tim Schafer, Bret Easton Ellis, Radiohead, Louis CK, or Joss Whedon, fans have repeatedly rewarded artists who step out from behind their industries' protective walls. No one is happy with the current creative economy, and fans will support people who dare to challenge it. They know it's a risk and they appreciate it.

Still, change is hard. For many artists, a project like Amanda's is both exciting and scary. It's great to see a peer have success, but it clearly took a lot of hard work to do. Is it worth it? Amanda Palmer has 25,000 fans, a million dollars, and a great new album that say yes.

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