Stevie and I were talking the other day about the fact that all of his professional musician friends are childless. As a member of GoGirls, I have also gotten to know many female musicians online. I’ve noticed that in general, the women I have met online who are working musicians (those who make a living working full-time as musicians – no day job) don’t seem to have any children. My local female musician friends are the same way – regardless of age, they have no children.
It got me thinking – why is it that being a professional musician and having children seem to be incompatible, especially for women? I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about touring – is it a necessary part of a band’s evolution?
I have decided that it may well be true that these are two very important things that separate a professional musician from an amateur: having children and touring. Of course, these two things are related. This is one of the reasons that choosing to be a professional musician is perceived (perhaps logically) as a young, childless person’s game. Touring and putting off having children are both things that younger musicians do, but find increasingly difficult to juggle as they get older.
(Note an important caveat: the story may be different for professional studio musicians or those who write and record music primarily to license it for film and TV. This post is meant for indie musicians who are performing artists with their own original music groups).
Let’s face it, male musicians can and do have children, but only if they find a partner willing to stay home and take care of their kids for them while they are out on the road making a living. In some ways, that’s even harder, because they then have to make enough money to support not only the band, but their families back home. If you read Peter Townsend’s recent autobiography, Who I Am, he talks about the pressures he felt to continue touring to support his wife and children. This was true even mid-career, when people would have assumed The Who were so successful that Townsend could have slacked off or retired.
For female musicians it’s a lot less acceptable to have kids. It may be a provocative thing to say, but I think society frowns more on the absentee musician mother than the absentee musician father. Other (childless) musicians look at you sideways when you have to leave rehearsal suddenly because of a sick child (been there, done that).
Here are a few of the other reasons I think many musicians – men, too, but especially women – have to choose (or feel they have to choose) between a professional music career and having a family:
I just recently finished a CD, but I haven’t yet decided where to distribute it online. I did press 100 CDs at a local disc duplicator for my release party last month, though, and I’ve sold 50-some already. I was freaked out briefly today, however, when I put one of my lovely new CDs in the computer so I could rip the tracks to MP3s for some promotion I am planning AND ALL THE TRACKS CAME UP TRACK 1, TRACK 2… etc. Had no one noticed this? Why had I not noticed this, for goodness sake?
I know we embedded the metadata in the mastered files for each of the tracks (for hopefully licensing later) – because I made sure that I made a big deal out of this with Stevie’s good friend Garey Shelton, who did the mastering. So what did I fail to do? And OMG, I thought, are all these CDs floating around now WITHOUT THE PROPER TITLES? And what’s worse WHERE WAS MY ALBUM TITLE AND ARTIST INFORMATION??? Have I communicated yet how freaked out I was? I’m a marketing person. I know bad data when I see it. So Stevie was on the phone immediately to Garey and this is what I learned.
It turns out that, after you’ve pressed your CDs, it’s important to take one more step and upload your stuff to the Gracenote CDDB (Compact Disc Database), so that all your identifying information (album title, artist, and track titles) is available to everyone else. You can do this using third party software (Winamp or QMP), or you can just use iTunes (and an internet connection). It’s not very hard to do. Here are the steps: || Read more
Alas, a decade is practically an eternity online, and as such, the download-to-own concept that iTunes revolutionized is already showing signs of age. The growth of subscription-based streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, and the current cultural dominance of YouTube, with its more than three billion videos viewed daily, hint that that music consumers are now largely content to listen, rather than own. - Time Entertainment, April 28, 2013
In this two-part podcast, Jason Spitz and Kyle Bylin of Hypebot’s Upward Spiral Podcast and I discuss some of the customer needs and behaviors that drove iTunes adoption: the unbundling of the single from the CD purchase, as well as the product characteristics (seamless integration with the iPhone, ease of use, standardized pricing). It’s interesting to hear the generational differences in how we adopted (or didn’t!) iTunes to build our personal music libraries, and to note that iTunes clearly was a substitute product for pirated music, even if an imperfect one.
In the second half of our discussion, we cover the transition of customers from download to streaming and debate where the future may lie for Apple’s iTunes and the consumption of music. We discuss iTunes competitors, and what factors might determine whether Apple will continue to dominate music distribution, such as the ubiquity and seamlessness of wifi, and the deep pockets of a platform player like Google, Amazon or Apple, as compared to a software-only offering such as Spotify or Pandora.
Kyle Bylin is the founder and editor of sidewinder.fm, a music and tech think tank, and also conducts research and develop music product concepts for Live Nation Labs. Jason Spitz is an ecommerce expert helping bands, comedians, and other artists build direct-to-fan businesses. In addition to being super-knowledgeable about the music industry, Jason and Kyle are expert conversationalists, and they always pick topics that are timely and interesting.
I sure had fun talking to these guys. Please let me know what you think of our discussion in the comments below!
I did something important this weekend. It was important because I’m dying. Not anytime soon, mind you, but someday I won’t be here. So, because I could - because it mattered to me - this weekend I did a few things I enjoyed doing a lot. Things on my bucket list. These were all things I’ve never done before, and I did them with people I love and respect. I
- entertained 50 people (pictures here),
- performed original music I had created with my life partner, Stevie,
- opened for Amanda Palmer (@amandapalmer, yes that Amanda Palmer), and
- kicked off the launch of the first ever Solveig & Stevie CD, Superwoman (available soon via iTune and all your favorite channels and services).
Oh, and I moved people. That is really the most important part of what I did this weekend. I made something beautiful and magical for people I love and for complete strangers alike. How do I know this? Because people haven’t stopped telling me since last Saturday. That is why I make music: to move people. I don’t need to be a star. I don’t need to be famous. I’m old (relatively), and I have three kids. I think regularly about how best to live the rest of my life, and what kind of meaningful memories I want to leave behind when I am gone. I’ve done my time in corporate meeting rooms. I want to make people feel. I want to touch people and make them think about their own creativity. If I did that for even a few people last weekend, that makes me happy.
Yes indeed. What a night! Could the long term good vibes of the church be blessing our communion ! I’m not the least bit religious but last night was the best feeling I’ve had in a group of strangers since the sixties. – Tim Rounds
Last week week I watched Ann and Nancy Wilson perform an intimate and revealing concert for their hometown fans in Benroya’s S. Mark Taper concert hall, home of the Seattle Symphony. Although the show was booked a year ago for the Live at Benaroya Hall popular music series, it was made much more significant because of this week’s induction of Heart into the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 18. Ann and Nancy are rock and roll royalty, and this concert proved just how well-deserved their fame is.
It was a sell out crowd, with Microsoft co-founder and guitarist Paul Allen in attendance, Sue Ennis (their longtime co-writer), and many, many others who have followed Heart and the Wilson sisters for decades. Stevie and I sat in the third row orchestra surrounded by adoring (and greying) fans, friends and family. The crowd was very interactive – shouting out comments and requesting songs. The familiarity and love of the audience for the two women was palpable, and they seemed equally relaxed and at home.
Before the backup band came on, Ann and Nancy were interviewed by their biographer, author and journalist Charles R. Cross. His collaborative book on the sisters called Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll was released in the fall of 2012. Although some might have called the interview portion of the concert superfluous (perhaps preferring just a standalone musical performance), I greatly enjoyed this informative window into the personal and musical history of Ann and Nancy Wilson.
Knowing how to use online analytics tools is an important skill for DIY musicians. If you can learn how to play guitar, drums, or piano with two hands, you can do this. The more information you have about your audience, the better decisions you will make about where to focus your marketing efforts. You may decide to adjust your promotional strategy, to focus more on one particular social media channel, or to create a House Party tour to a particular geographical area based on what you learn by analyzing your online presence.
There are many different free tools you can use to gather analytics information. Most are individual tools designed to look at a specific online presence, like your website, Facebook fan page or Twitter followers. “Analytics for Musicians” by Make It In Music gives a good overview of analytics tools for these three: Google Analytics for your website, Insights on Facebook, and Hootsuite for analyzing Twitter.
This post describes how and why you might want to check out Google Analytics to understand the activity on your band website. Even if you are a bit of a technophobe, making the effort to personally understand what’s going on with your website is enlightening and empowering. Instead of just anecdotal conversations you might have with fans after a show, or arguments with your bandmates about which website pages are most important, analytics give you real and actionable information about how people are discovering and engaging with your music and your band. You won’t be held hostage to someone else, either, like a webmaster, relying on their busy schedule and waiting for them to give you information.
A few weeks ago I went to a seminar by best-selling author and public speaker Patrick Snow on creating a successful career as a self-published book author. I was invited by a friend of mine, Randall Broad, who wrote a memoir and is now working as a motivational speaker. At 41, Patrick makes a pretty good living (six figures of some kind) as an author, public speaker, and coach/consultant to other authors. To quote his website:
His best-selling book, Creating Your Own Destiny: How to Get Exactly What You Want Out of Life and Work, and his personal transition were also featured as a cover story in USA TODAY. Patrick’s book has been translated into numerous foreign languages and has sold more than 150,000 copies across six continents since 2001… He has coached more than 200 clients in achieving their goals of writing, publishing, and marketing their books.
As I sat listening to all this interesting stuff about self-publishing a book, surrounded by middle-aged people with big dreams – many with really interesting life stories, and all of whom want to become best-selling authors and public speakers, rake in a six-figure income and quit their day jobs - I realized that a lot of the same business ideas apply as well to DIY musicians as they do to DIY authors.