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Amanda Palmer + Radiohead = Ukulelehead

ukuleleheadThe cool thing about being an independent musician is that you can do pretty much whatever you want. Take, for example, Amanda Palmer, maybe best known for her work as half of the Dresden Dolls, maybe best known for making people mad by singing about Oasis and rape and abortion – oh my! – in the same song.

Palmer left her label, RoadRunner Records, earlier this year, after realizing that she could do a lot better with a mailing list and an active blog than she’d ever done under the heavy hand of a recording contract. And now she’s putting her independence to the test by releasing an album of cover songs, lovingly entitled, Amanda Palmer Performs The Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele.

The album is being released digitally and on vinyl (not on CD because, y’know, CDs are over). You can buy the download for an absolute rock-bottom minimum of 84 cents, which covers the transaction fees and royalties for Radiohead. Palmer is also offering bundles to fans including ukulelehead t-shirts, private Skype uke concerts, and hand-painted, Creep/Fake Plastic Trees/High and Dry-inspired ukuleles.

The album dropped yesterday, although official launch day is today. You can check out a live webcast by Palmer and friends promoting the record at 6pm EST right here. Bring your goblet, there will be drinking.

The ukulelehead album (we’ll call it that for short) is Palmer’s first since splitting with the industry types, and she admits that she doesn’t know who’s going to buy it or be into besides her several thousand loyal fans. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s exactly the number of fans you need.

ukulelehead2Palmer’s decision to do the album came about thanks to the purchase of a ukulele, the knowing of a few Radiohead covers, and a wish to spend time in Australia, where she went to record the six-song, seven-track EP. Through one lens, that kinda sounds like some self-indulgent rockstar shit, don’t it? But from another perspective, it’s exactly what every musician who is wild and free-range should be doing. If you’re not tied down by a label, go where you want, play and record the music you like. Quick! Now while you have the chance!

Of course, most of us have day jobs and bills to pay and families to feed. It’s a luxury to be able to go off gallivanting around the planet, working on projects that may or may not be successful. Isn’t it?

Again, the word of the day is “maybe.”  Maybe it’s a luxury. Or maybe more musicians need to start thinking like Palmer, like Jane Siberry, and like hundreds of others who are unhooking from the industry, and connecting to their fan networks instead. Over the years, Palmer has built up a loyal, passionate fan base by being a caring and attentive musician to love. It takes a lot of work, but her career is proof that you can assemble that indispensable gang, one song-hungry kid at a time.

There’s just one catch, as Palmer herself points out: you do have to make good art. And there’s no true gauge of what good art is except for the people that it speaks to. So in the midst of all the blogging and tweeting and webcasting and whatnot, don’t forget to make that good art, that wholesoul oneplanet lonelyvoice sound, because that’s the other part of the puzzle. And you don’t need a label, but you do need all the pieces to build a career.

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  1. [...] Palmer’s release of her new album this week, which she set up completely independently, was a major success, with 4000 digital [...]