A few years ago, a pale woman with crazy eyebrows and a keytar strapped to her back shot a home video. Standing on a street corner in Melbourne, Australia, at dusk, she wore a kimono and held up Sharpied signs. One by one, the signs flipped. They explained that the woman had spent the past four years writing songs. She was a musician. She had parted ways with her record label, which wanted to charge an outrageous amount to produce her next album. She and her bandmates were happy to no longer be with the label, and they had worked hard to create some great new music and art. But they couldn't finish producing the record on their own. If their new business—independent music—was going to get off the ground, they needed people's help.

“This is the future of music,” one of her signs read. Another: “I love you.”

Then she posted the video on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.

In 30 days, the video raised $1.2 million—more than 10 times her goal. Nearly 25,000 people preordered the album, bought artwork, or simply donated money. The album and tour became a huge success, and the artist turned her music into a profitable business.

The woman in the kimono was named Amanda Palmer. She changed the game for independent musicians with that campaign. And she didn't do it by asking for money.

She did it by telling her story.

Stories Matter

Every few minutes, a new buzzword rips through the business world, gets a bunch of blog posts written about it, and ends up in a pile of ...

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