Article Lead Image

Amanda Palmer turns heads with TED Talk

As she put it in her TED talk: “Couchsurfing and crowdsurfing are the same thing. You’re falling into the audience.”


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Amanda Palmer’s now almost as famous for her $1.2 million Kickstarter as for her music career. In an enthusiastically well-received talk at TED2013 this week, she set out her own personal method of navigating the music industry.

Palmer has made a career out of trusting fans and strangers with her art and livelihood. After college, she spent five years as the Eight Foot Bride, a living statue in Harvard Square. As a street performer, she depended on passers-by to fund her art—an experience that shaped the way she behaved as a touring singer, first with the Dresden Dolls and then as a solo artist.

Amanda Palmer has a unique relationship with her audience. Many rock stars interact with their fans on Twitter, but few go so far as to stay in their houses. Just days before she was due to go onstage at TED2013, she was crowdsourcing props for her talk:

As she put it in her TED talk: “Couchsurfing and crowdsurfing are the same thing. You’re falling into the audience.” Ten years ago she was already building the fanbase that would later back her Kickstarter, with Dresden Dolls fans known as “the Brigade” providing impromptu support acts before shows. As a combination of performance art troupe and fan club, the Brigade still has branches all over the world, a precursor to Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters.

Even during the preparation for her TED talk, Palmer was characteristically open with her fanbase, blogging and tweeting throughout January and February about possible themes for her talk. The finished product was kept under wraps, but we think some of her original plans might well have gone down just as well— particularly with fellow TED attendee Bono, who stuck around to have a drink with Palmer after the talk:

Remembering the media reaction when her Kickstarter first took off, Palmer finished her talk with a statement criticizing the attitude of treating consumers like potential copyright pirates rather than music fans:

“The media said, ‘Amanda, the music industry is tanking and you encourage piracy! How did you get all these people to pay for music?’ And the real answer is, ‘I didn’t make them. I asked them.’”

Photo via

Share this article

*First Published:

The Daily Dot