‘The Art of Asking’

I got Amanda Palmer’s book for Christmas.

It’s breathtaking.

I’m about to sit and write about the business side of things, but there’s much more to this book than that.  She didn’t write a manifesto or a complete philosophy on life, but take one look at her twitter profile and you’ll see hundreds of fans’ tweets and photographs – thanking her.  I’m certainly not the only one espousing the life-changing qualities of this book.

I finished reading it late last night, but I’m not quite ready to let it go yet.

While you read the next bit, listen to some of her beautiful music:

“Asking is, in itself, the fundamental building block of any relationship…

“Will you help me?
Can I trust you?
Are you going to screw me over?
Are you suuuure I can trust you?

And, so often, underneath it all, these questions originate in our basic, human longing to know:

Do you love me?”

Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking 

Something that seems important, especially in hindsight, is The Dresden Dolls‘ (Amanda Palmer’s first band) obsession with collecting email addresses.

Something we’re told constantly in lectures – and something that was driven home at the Ultimate Seminar that I attended with a few other students in November – is that artists connecting with fans is becoming more and more vital.  There’s no excuse not to do it, what with all that Twitter business and… stuff. (I’m so down with the kids, it’s unreal.)

Obsessively sending out email newsletters to anyone and everyone who’d expressed interest in the band was kind of genius. Especially given that this was in 2001.  I was 5 years old in 2001.  It’s an effective way of communicating on a regular basis with your fans; drip-feeding them your music, your story.  It’s also a way to ask for things.  Ask them to share your music video.  Ask them to come to your shows, download your new single, provide a couch to surf when you’re in town.

They hear you, they love you; they won’t let you down.

(I’ve actually started a newsletter to promote my own music, videos, shows, etc., inspired by this. Why should only massive bands have newsletters when unknowns like me are more than capable than typing a few words (and promising cake) and hitting ‘send’?)


The next bit I’m just going to quote directly, because I can’t put it better than Amanda Palmer has – I don’t want to try!

“The emphasis is on collectivism; you throw the problem out to your circles to see what solutions will arise…

“Maximal DIY relies on trust and ingenuity. You have to ask with enough grace and creativity to elicit a response, and you also have to trust the people you’re asking not to ruin your recording session, not to poison your food, not to bludgeon you with a hammer as you sit in their passenger seat.”

Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking 

Starting to see why this book appealed so much?  It’s not political but there are themes that run along the same lines as various far-left ideologies.  People coming together, helping one another out of goodwill – from each according to his ability; to each according to his need.

Applying these concepts to the music biz is exactly what I’ve always wanted to and it looks like Amanda Palmer got there first.  I’m not bitter – I’m strangely proud.  I’m so glad that someone has not only put into words, but put into action ideas I feel I’ve been trying to explain for years.


Finally, one big hefty quote to finish…

“It has to start with the art. The songs had to touch people initially, and mean something, for anything to work at all. The art, not the artist, is what fundamentally draws the net into being. The net was then tightened and strengthened by a collection of interactions and exchanges I’ve had, personally, whether in live venues or online, with members of my community.

“The net tightens every time I pick my phone and check in on Twitter, every time I share my own story, every time I ask a fan how their project is coming or promote somebody’s book tour…

“I feel pride when I see that magic happening: the fans helping one another out, giving one another places to stay, driving one another around, helping one another with comforting words and links in the middle of the night, breaking the boundaries of “stranger” etiquette because they feel a trust and familiarity with one another under our common roof…

“We’re all helping each other. Here. Now.”

Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking 

Amanda Palmer hasn’t just changed the way I behave and communicate as an independent musician – she’s changed the way I communicate full stop. 

I told you: the book’s a life-changer.