One of the parts of musicality that we haven’t covered so much on the podcast so far is the topic of performing, and finding ways to share the music you love, perhaps even music you’ve written yourself, with an audience. If you’ve been listening to the show for a while then you know we’re not about to tell you that there is one single correct path to follow and that all serious musicians should do it a certain way when it comes to performing or publishing music. But we do think that whatever way, shape or form it may take for you, music is fundamentally about the human connection, and finding a way to share your music-making is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your musical life.
Today we’re joined by Bree Noble, who as well as being an award-winning singer-songwriter is the founder of the Female Musician Academy and host of two popular podcasts, Women of Substance Radio and the Female Entrepreneur Musician podcast, both of which we listen to ourselves.
Bree is a total expert on a couple of topics that may be of interest to you, if you’ve had the urge to perform as a musician, or to share music you’ve created yourself – but you haven’t known where to start, you’ve worried it’s too late for you, or you’ve wondered if it might even be possible to make some money with your music.
In this conversation we talk about:
- Bree’s own journey of struggling to figure out how to make a living with her music
- The barriers and concerns that hold musicians back from getting their music out there and getting paid
- And the sheer variety of options available today for getting your music heard, building up your presence as an artist and making some money with the music you love.
We also ask Bree something you might have wondered yourself on hearing the names of her projects a moment ago, which is why she is particularly passionate about helping female musicians specifically, and the advantages that come from focusing specifically on women in music.
This is a conversation which is sure to open some new doors in your mind and spark new inspiration about what your own musical life could look like, so please enjoy.
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Christopher: Welcome to the show, Bree. Thank you for joining us today.
Bree: Thank you for having me. I’m super thrilled to be here.
Christopher: So these days you’re very well known for helping musicians get their music out there and discover ways to potentially make some money with their music, whether that’s online or offline or whatever way, shape, or form but I don’t know so much about your own musical story. Could you tell us a little bit about your musical beginnings and how you got started learning music?
Bree: Well, I think, you know, I’ve always loved music. I was always musical. I didn’t actually come from a musical family so I don’t know where that came from, but, you know, growing up I always sang in church. I was in church musicals, but I didn’t really get into it until high school. I found my footing and my place in the world, I think, when I discovered choirs in high school. I had been, I’d been taking this art class when I first got to high school and I with terrible at it. Like, my mom’s an artist and I have no shred of artistic ability, I discovered after a few weeks in the class and I was like, I need to get out of this class. What can I do?
And so, I’d been taking a beginner choir class and I went to my choir teacher and I said, “Is there any way you can get me out of this class? Can you get me into concert choir? I know it’s the same period,” and she was able to pull some strings and get me out of art, which was, like, the best thing ever, and then I discovered how much I absolutely loved choirs and from that point I was in every choir that the school offered, which was, like, four different choirs and a girls’ barbershop quartet and solos and, you know, everything that I could do in choir, I did.
Christopher: Nice. I can totally relate to that. In my school days, it was playing rugby that I was trying to get out of by taking more music classes and it paid off nicely.
So you were singing a lot in your school days and choirs and a a capella. Where did things go from there? Were you determined to become a musician as a career?
Bree: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t know that I wanted to do it as a career, I just knew that I was going to go to college and music is what I loved so I didn’t see why I shouldn’t pursue that in college. At that point, I had kind of learned enough about my voice to know that I could probably be a vocal major and so I had chosen to go to Westmont College which was a small liberal arts school in Santa Barbara mostly because I wanted to go to that school, not necessarily because of the music department, although I looked into it. It was a small department, I felt comfortable there and I knew that I wanted to do something in music. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a music teacher or, you know, be a singer-songwriter or be an opera singer, you know, I had no idea. I just knew that I wanted to be a — and I also at that point thought I might want to be, like, a studio producer or something like that. I was interested in the technology. So I just figured, “I’ll just go to college and figure it out once I get there.”
Christopher: And did that work?
Bree: It did. It did. So I auditioned for the school’s performing, like, elite performing ensemble. We were, kind of, this weird hodgepodge of, like, a Christian contemporary band and an a capella group, so we did both of those things. There was twelve members and we were kind of the ambassadors for the school and so I got into that group as a coming-in freshman, which was uncommon and so it got my feet wet in performing and I also learned how to be in front of an audience, you know, how to talk to the audience, how to introduce a song, and, you know, that was all new to me and so I absolutely, like, learned everything I know now, not everything I know now, but, like, the basis of what I know now about being onstage in those four years of being in that traveling ensemble. We traveled, like, every other weekend. We took a few longer trips to Colorado for spring break and things like that where we just performed, like, two, three times a day.
Christopher: Wow. That’s intense.
Christopher: That all sounds very smooth and easy. Were there any challenges along the way for you as you were learning?
Bree: Yeah. I mean, plenty of challenges. One thing is that I have glaucoma, so I have low vision, so as I was, you know, immersed in all these choirs and learning all this music for this ensemble at Westmont I basically had to memorize every piece of music because I wasn’t able to perform with music. It was just too small, like, no, no glasses could fix the problem that I was super near-sighted. So it was really good because it allowed me to develop my memory and, you know, when you’re in high school choir you’re expected to memorize everything and when you’re performing onstage, like, you’re not generally using music unless maybe you’re an instrumentalist and I did play a little bit of piano in that group but I had to memorize it and it was all a really good experience for my future work as a soloist and stuff because I never relied on music which allowed me to communicate better with the audience and even now, you know, I’ll sing a duet with someone and she’ll have music and I won’t and I know that I’m communicating better with the audience than she is and it’s not her fault, it’s just that, you know, she’s used to that crutch.
Christopher: That’s interesting. Yeah. It’s one of the reasons we often recommend working on your musical memory and trying to memorize the pieces you’re playing because I think there’s an argument you only really start to perform it when you take your eyes off the page and it’s inside your head.
Bree: Oh yeah. Yep. And it’s weird how memory works, too. For me, sometimes if I’m in a crunch to memorize something because I didn’t start on it until a week before I’ll get it in time for the performance and I’ll have it enough in my head that at least if I can’t remember it all like this I’ll remember it right before I need to sing or whatever but then my memory keeps working on it and I’m constantly singing it all week long, and, you know, by a week after that I could sing it anywhere, any time because it’s so burned in my memory.
Christopher: So it was the eye condition that put you down this path of focusing on memorization. Was that something that came easy to you or was it something that you had to work on? Because it’s so often a bug bear for musicians who really struggle to memorize.
Bree: I mean, I think it came easy for me only out of necessity, like, you know, my entire life I memorized a lot of things because I couldn’t read the board in class and, you know, so I would tend to, like, listen to what the teacher was saying and immediately commit it to memory because I hate taking notes, again, with the low vision, like, I’d write notes but they would look like chicken scratch because it was harder for me to, you know, see what I was writing while I was writing it to write neatly and so I think I’ve always kind of developed my memory over the years.
Christopher: I see. And how did those college years go for you? How were you developing as a singer?
Bree: Well, I was developing as a classical singer so at that point I didn’t, I was doing this, I had this total dichotomy thing going on where I was singing, you know, classical music in my lessons, art songs and opera and I was actually doing a few operas on the stage but then I was singing in this contemporary and a capella ensemble on the weekends so it was an interesting, I think it was good because it forced me or kept me in the world of pop music where I really ultimately wanted to be and had I not had that I might have become so classically minded and so stuck in my classical ways that I couldn’t have gone on to have the singer-songwriter career that I did have that I actually wanted.
Christopher: And nowadays you’re known particularly for helping independent musicians get out there, get more well-learned and in a lot of cases make a living or career from their music. For you, what did that journey look like when you were leaving college? You had your music degree, you knew you wanted to sing; was it an easy path from there, looking back?
Bree: (Laughs) It looked like a total disaster. Let’s be clear, like, I had no clue. I had no guidance. I mean, I’m not knocking the school that I went to but they — I had a double degree in music and business and on either side they pretty much gave me no career guidance whatsoever on how to get a job, on how to pursue things in my major so I was thrust into living in a place that I didn’t know anyone so I had no connections because I ended up following my husband as he went to graduate school and I moved to a totally new place, knew no one and had no idea how to go about even pursuing a career whether it was in music or business and so I just, I tried everything, you know, I would put ads in the Recycler. I would try to connect with people that had bands. I, you know, would try to get jobs singing at weddings but I really didn’t know how to promote myself in any way to make that further than one gig and this really went on for years, I mean, that’s the one reason, one of the reasons that I have the programs that I have now, because I don’t want musicians to suffer like I did. I had no clue how to get out there and make a career and make money in music back in the mid-90’s so it was kind of, I worked a regular job.
I ended up getting a position as a director of finance at an opera company, which was fantastic as far as the fact that I got to see free operas and got to go to these fancy parties and hang out with artistic people but again, like, all this time I wanted to be a singer-songwriter. I wanted to perform like all these opera singer were doing. They were living their dream and I was watching them and handing them paychecks.
So, you know, I wanted to figure out, I was always on the side, you know, doing demos for people, trying to, you know, trying out these different band opportunities but the one thing I was really doing wrong all that time is I wasn’t trying to build my own career. I was trying to fit myself into someone else’s mold. I was trying to be in someone else’s band because I thought they knew better than I did how to promote, you know, and how to be a part of the music industry.
I didn’t have any confidence in myself as a solo artist. I didn’t have enough knowledge to actually to market myself as a solo artist and so I was constantly trying to, like, hang on other people’s coattails which always ended up, you know, ending in disaster whether it was, you know, a few weeks in a band or a few years, it always just kind of self-destructed.
Christopher: Gotcha. And that said, you had a very successful career as a singer-songwriter. You know, you’re an award-winning songwriter, you were on tour for several years, you sang the national anthem before a baseball game. These are big highlights. How did you manage to have such success if it wasn’t a clear path laid out for you?
Bree: Yeah. I mean, it was really me, like, taking the bull by the horns eventually and saying, “Like, enough of this. I’ve done, obviously I’ve tried all these other paths and they’re not working. It coincided with me leaving the opera because I had a one-year-old and I was dealing with a lot of stress in that job and so decided to take a leap and quit my job, stay home with my daughter and that gave me the time to kind of study things.
I kind of started watching other artists that were doing what I wanted to do and following them and seeing what they were doing and trying to emulate what they were doing. I started asking for advice and joining a group, mentoring groups where I could learn what I needed to do and then I just, like, put the fear aside, you know? I said, “Look if I’m–” it was at that point where you’re, like, 32 and you’re like, “Either I’m gonna do this or I just need to give up on this idea forever because I’m at, kind of, this crossroads point,” and so I just said, “I’m gonna get in the trenches. I’m gonna do, like, this, you know, the groundwork that I need to do and start a grassroots marketing effort for my own music,” and it involved writing my first, like, real album where I had been kind of recording some stuff from home and putting it out on MP3.com and things like that and there was some momentum there but not a lot but it gave me a lot of good practice in writing and things and recording myself and, you know, then I finally recorded my first real professional album and just started getting out there and not being afraid to call people up and get bookings, and, you know, rally people around me and start an email list, you know, all the things that I really needed to do to create a movement for my music that I hadn’t been doing.
Christopher: And the way you described it there you made it sound like, you know, this was the end of the window for being able to do that, you know, you had hit the ripe old age of 32 and it was now or never and that really lit a fire under you, which is great, but I’m imagining someone listening who maybe is ten or twenty years further down the line, they’ve been working on their music, they’d love to get out there but maybe they don’t know how, maybe they’re nervous. You mentioned something about putting the fear aside. I think a lot of us have fears around performing or sharing our creative abilities. What would you say to someone in those shoes who wants to make something happen with their music but maybe isn’t at the young, now-or-never stage?
Bree: Oh, my gosh. I mean, I truly believe that it doesn’t matter what age you’re at. There is an audience out there for you. I’ve got people in my academy from age 16 to age 70-something and they’re, you know, these older people, they’re out there performing. They’re releasing CD’s. They are, some of them, you know, maybe didn’t even really get into the game until they had had an entire corporate career and then retired and this was their time to do music.
It’s never too late and I know it sounds funny for me to say 32 but, you know, some people they’ve been told, you know, once they turn 30 they’re, like, or sometimes even like, 25, you know, once you’re at a certain age, like, no one’s gonna take you seriously or the industry’s not going to care and I say, who cares about the industry?
You know, I was never a part of quote, “the industry,” you know? I am not this person who is like, “Oh, I was a label artist. I was the –” you know? No. I sold, you know, CD’s, you know, pulled them out of the back of my car, sold them at events, you know, had a CD Baby account just like all the other independent artists. I wasn’t doing anything that had a ton of backing but I was making a steady living at it and that is what I encourage artists, no matter what age you are, that you can do.
Christopher: Terrific. And we touched on a couple of things there but I’d love to hear your perspective because you are so immersed in this world and you do such good work to help people in that situation. What is it that holds people back, you know, apart from the fear that “I’m older than 32”? What might someone have on their mind that’s stopping them from getting out there and selling their CD’s from the back of their car?
Bree: Oh, man. There’s a lot of things, I think. You know, obviously confidence is one thing, this fear that, you know, people are going to criticise you and, yeah, they are. Like, I’ve tried to be clear with all my students — everyone’s gonna have haters. It doesn’t matter, you know, I always say it’s a badge of honor once you get a hater because that means you’ve put yourself out there enough that enough people have taken notice of you that you’ve got that, you know, that percentage. There’s always that 1% that there’s gonna be haters and you’ve reached that threshold where you now have a hater. Good job. Like, you’re actually putting yourself out there enough to have attracted one.
So getting over the fact that there is always gonna be people that don’t like your music, you know, they might say, “Oh, who do you think you are? You’re 60 years old and you’re putting out an album,” you know. Who cares? You know, there’s 99 people that are saying, “That’s awesome. I’m so impressed,” so that’s one thing.
Another thing is, I mean, there’s so many. Some of it has to do with, kind of, being what I call a scattered creative where we, just, we have so many ideas and so many projects and we get, you know, we get our fingers in a bunch of things and we start a bunch of things and we never finish any of them. So, like, there’s so many people out there that have, you know, 100, like, songs that have one verse or one chorus and they’ve never finished any of them and it’s really easy to get into that position when you’re a creative because you’ve always got all of these amazing ideas that come to you.
So I kind of, I help students, like, organize that and get it under control and put some productivity into their day, into their week so they know exactly what they should be doing and they’re not, like, constantly following these, you know, squirrels that come into their brain, which, I mean, I’m never going to knock the fact that creative people are amazingly creative and have tons of ieas. You just need to get those under control, like, know how to control them. So that’s one thing.
People also think, you know, maybe they’re a mom and they have kids and they think they can’t do it. Well, I had a two-your-old when I recorded my first professional album. I dragged her on tour with me. My biggest year as a touring artist I had a five-year-old and I was pregnant with my second one so it can be done. It definitely can be done. It’s just, you know, I wasn’t playing bars, you know? You’re playing house concerts and you’re playing events and you’re playing, I was doing a lot of women’s events. You’re doing fundraisers. You’re doing the kind of events that make sense for you in the lifestyle that you have. You’re not out until three a.m. playing bars.
Bree: And who wants to do that, anyway? That’s what I say. Nobody’s listening to you, anyway, so don’t even waste your time with that.
Christopher: That’s such a valuable observation and I know that a lot of people listening will have been in that position of thinking, “I have my songs but they’re not a fit for this one performing opportunity,” or “I don’t have enough songs for a full set to book a gig,” or, you know, they have some notion of the one performance opportunity that’s either there or not there but I’d love to hear you talk a little bit more about what could be the outlet for people’s music in this day and age if they have that urge to share it but they don’t really know what the options are.
Bree: Oh, there are so many. I mean, like you said, if — I always encourage people to build up their confidence and build up their ability to communicate with an audience in, say, an open mic or a coffee shop, somewhere where you’re not getting paid or you might be getting tips but you can always use that as a testing ground, both for yourself and for your material. So you can build up your ability to really communicate with an audience, to have good stage banter, be comfortable up there, not just, like, get up there, sing a song, and then go, “And my next song is…” you know.
You need to have a personality up there and why not develop that in a place where there’s not that pressure of, like, “Someone’s paying me. I have to be at a certain level”? Especially, like, with an open mic, you’re dealing with an audience that doesn’t know you or know your music and so that’s, like, the toughest audience you can deal with so if you can handle them you can handle any audience because, you know, hopefully eventually you’re going to be performing to places where you’re bringing in some of your own audience or, you know, you have entirely your own audience, so I would definitely start there.
And there are opportunities like house concerts where you can just say to your friend, like, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to have a concert at your house and you could invite all your friends?” And, you know, it could be really casual, and, you know, even if it’s just 20 people it’s a great opportunity to get your music out there and get to know people that might like to know your music. And if you only have a few songs, just combine with another artist. You know, put something together, do it in a house setting and say, “You’re gonna get two or three artists in one sitting.” How fun is that?
Christopher: Terrific. There were a couple of really important points there, I think, you know, one is what you said about open mics because I think a lot of people have in mind open mic is the easy option, but, like you said, that can be one of the most intimidating performance situations because it is a cold crowd and I think the other there is that, you know, a big theme on this podcast is the question of talent and people worrying that they don’t have talent in music or they’re not talented enough to do something or other and I love that you recommend that progression of performing so that you don’t need to step up onstage and say, “I’m a superstar.” You can just enjoy performing with your friends and family or a buddy who is a musician and you can work your way up to the confidence that your music is worth sharing.
Bree: Yeah. I think people, they think, like,”I’m not a real musician unless I’m being paid so I should go out and seek all these paid opportunities,” but really, you have to earn those paid opportunities and if you don’t have a proven track record of being able to do well in open mics and coffee shops and places, and busking or whatever where you’re performing for free or for tips, like, what right do you have to say, “I deserve this paying gig”?
Christopher: Absolutely, and on that note, then, supposing someone’s got past that concern about performing and they’re finding ways to get themselves out there. What holds musicians back from making money with their music?
Bree: Well, one thing I haven’t mentioned actually and it’s not as much related to money but I do want to mention this because this is a big one for people, especially because solo artists, what can hold them back is that they think they need to have a band. A lot of them are, like, “Well, I’m not, you know, official,” or “I’m not legitimate if I don’t have the band,” or “I can’t really compete in this setting if I’m just solo,” or they say, “I don’t have the chops to play by myself and sing without anyone backing me,” and, you know, I went through this. Like, I had a band. I put together a band when I first started on my solo career but I found that most of those band members had full-time jobs. We could not be mobile and reactive and I couldn’t say, like, “Oh, I’m gonna book this gig,” because I have to call five people and see if they could all be there, and especially if it was, like, a fundraiser or a women’s event that was during the day that was out.
So I finally had to say, “You know what? Like, I know I don’t feel comfortable with my piano skills, you know, while I’m singing. Like, I feel very uncomfortable with that.” But I finally just needed to bite the bullet and say, “I just need to practice like heck. Like, I need to focus on this as long as it takes me so I can actually be self-contained and book myself,” and I thought it was going to take months and it actually only took a month to be to the point where I was competent enough.
Now I had to say to myself, “Well, you can’t play these arrangements the way you hear them on the CD. You need to make this simpler so you don’t, you know, stress yourself out and you don’t detract from your singing,” and, you know, I see this with my students all the time. They think it needs to sound exactly like it is on the CD. And I’m like, no. First of all, they’re coming, they could just turn on the CD if they wanted to hear that. They’re coming to see a different experience and also they don’t have a side-by-side comparison. They’re not going, “Oh, you didn’t play that chord there. I was expecting you to play that little riff and I didn’t hear it,” you know? You know? Like, just play the basics so you can get across what’s more important which is the lyrics and the vocals of what you’re doing.
So that is a big one because obviously you can’t go book yourself and make money if you’re held back by the fact that either you think you need a band and you don’t have one or you’ve got a band and you can’t take them with you. I mean, that was what allowed me to go on tour and be mobile. There’s no way I could have done that with my band.
And then occasionally I’d do a local event that was a bigger event, a festival or something and I would bring my band but it didn’t limit me. So that was one thing and I just think with the making money I think mindset is so much of it. I recently did a podcast with a friend of mine, Greg Willna (phonetic) talking about money blocks because I think that that is a lot of it, like, we think that either we don’t deserve to get paid or we have this idea of the musician being a starving artist. We see other people being willing to do it for free and so we think we have to do the same because we can’t compete with free and my opinion is, like, you’ll never be able to compete with free. The only way you can compete with free is charging what you’re worth and knowing that you’re worth it.
Christopher: That’s great. I think a lot of people fall into that trap of thinking, you know, “I need to work for free because I’m not a real musician. I m not good enough,” or, you know, “I’ll do this for three years and then when I achieve such-and-such, then I can charge a full-time wage for what I do and I’ll make a living.” I love the way you describe it because it’s clear there is some middle ground there. There’s a progression from, you know, working your way up in terms of confidence and in terms of self-worth and valuing your music to get to the point where you’re very comfortable and confident saying, “This is what it’s worth for me to perform.”
Bree: Mm-hm. Yeah. For sure.
Christopher: And I know you have a particular framework that can help musicians approach this whole topic. I wonder if you’d mind sharing a little bit about that, your profit part framework.
Bree: Sure. So it’s kind of a five-stage progression from, you know, just, totally starting out to being what I call a professional, which doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing music full-time but you’re being paid what you’re worth, you have a fan base, you know, that’s following you and supporting you and so there are five stages which I can’t, like, go into all of the details but the stages are the foundation, the promotion, the expansion, the automation and the profession.
And, you know, you start out in the foundation. You’ve got no assets, like, you don’t have a website, you don’t have your social media built, and you just get all that in place and that’s also the time on the performing side where you are doing open mikes and you’re doing, you know, coffee shops and singing for tips and things and then from there you go on the promotion where you’re starting to get yourself out there, especially in the local market. You are hopefully booking some house concerts so you’ve moved up from just doing these open mics to, like, having enough, a few little cohortive fans that would be willing to house you for a house concert or go to one and then at that point you can actually start making a little money and you’re building your email list along the way.
I’ve got, kind of, like, little benchmarks of how many people you should have on your email list and what you should be doing on social media and, you know, as you get into, like, the expansion your email list is getting bigger. You’re able to do more things to relate with your fan base. You’re obviously getting into bigger gigs that are more, you know, more than house concerts. You’re actually being paid to perform at small venues and festivals and stuff and so it just keeps moving up, and, like, when you get into the automation then you’re starting to set up some systems so you can automate, you know, when people come into your email list you’re welcoming them, you’re giving them a series of emails to let them know a little bit about you and establish a relationship and eventually get them to buy some of your music and then you move into the stages where I feel like it is okay to crowd fund.
I personally don’t think you should be crowd funding until you have at least a thousand people on your email list, if not more, but crowd funding is hard, and, you know, you need to have that. People think they can just go out as a new artist and crowd fund, and, yeah, you have, like, you know, you have like, maybe your little local following but that’s not gonna get you to where you need to go with crowd funding, so I think it is a lot less stressful to crowd fund if you already have a certain level of fan base, you know, and then you’re getting into things like, “Okay. Should get a PR agent? Should I get a booking agent? Should I get a manager?” All of that as you’re getting into that professional stage. “Should I hire people to help me? ” and, you know, virtual assistants and things.
And so it just gives people a framework because I think what happens is people see other artists doing things and they think, “Oh, I need to be doing that.” Well, that artist might be on, you know, stage four or stage five and you’re on stage one. Like, you don’t need a virtual assistant when you don’t yet have a website and you haven’t established your social media and you’re just performing at open mikes, right? But I think people get this fear of missing out or they think that they just want to do everything that an artist that they’re following is doing, not realizing that, you know, when that artist was in the earlier stages they weren’t doing those things. So I think there’s a healthy progression of how to do these things and it will help save you not only time but money to do the things in the right order, which is why I created the framework.
Christopher: Absolutely. And thank you for sharing that, because it is, I think, just, incredibly valuable to lay things out like that and, you know, you’re not saying you have to strictly do things in this order…
Christopher: …it’s just, it gives people that mental model of, where does that successful artist career come from? Because I think a lot of people get tripped up by looking at the full picture and imagining they have to leap straight there, which suddenly gives you a thousand things to do if you want your music to be heard but the way you’ve laid it out, there is a very clear progression and a way to think about how you build it step by step.
Bree: Yeah and I always tell them, like, this is — if I could go back in time and do my career again, this is what I would do knowing what I know now. I realize that most of you have not done it in this order and that’s okay. Like, the biggest one is, I encourage them not to record a full album until stage three because I want them to build up their, you know, stage experience, I want them to build their fan base, and, you know, based upon live performances and, you know, most of them have already recorded an album, paid a bunch of money to do that but yet have no website, no social media, no way to promote it, no audience. And so, you know, I always talk about this, your garage being your storage area for boxes and boxes of CDs. Like, how many of us have had that? Like, I definitely did that, you know, with one of the bands that I was in a long time ago and we had no way to, no fan base, no nothing, to, like, sell those. We thought, “Oh, we’ll just do this CD and all of the sudden, they’ll all come,” and that’s not how it works.
Christopher: Yeah. I learned that fallacy through painful experience, myself on the business side, you know, “If you build it they will come,” or “If your product is good enough, it will magically just have come customers appear.” It turns out those things are not true.
Christopher: So, yeah, I love that you’re prepping with the step-by-step because I think that will save a lot of pain and time and money.
Bree: I know, and I think sometimes artists think that we’re trying to punish them by saying, like, “I don’t want you to do this until stage three. I’m just trying to protect you. Like, you can do it, it’s fine, but I’m just telling you what happened to me and I don’t want that to happen to you, so.”
Christopher: So you mentioned a few options there in terms of making money with your music and I think to be clear for anyone listening Bree and I are not talking about, you know, making an amazing salary every year, a rock-solid income as a professional musician, necessarily. Maybe that’s you, but we’re also talking about just making some side income or something in the middle between making no money with your music and making all of your money from your music.
I wonder, Bree, could you talk a little bit about your recent summit? You have organized this phenomenal summit with amazing speakers, all about the topic of being a profitable musician.
Bree: Yeah. I mean, I was, once I got the idea for this I was so excited because what I wanted to do was to give artists a huge smorgasbord of options of how to make money from music because whether you’re a hobbyist and you just want to break even on your music or, you know, not be spending all of your savings on recording an album or, you know, doing a tour, but being able to actually break even on that or even bring in a little bit of money or you just, you want to have a career as a musician, I wanted to give a bunch of options so people knew, like, it’s only, it’s not only about performing live at bars, you know, like, there’s these other eight ways I can perform live and, you know, there’s these other things that I could do even just from home without leaving my home that I could do to make money from music and, you know, there’s these other ways that I can do it through building a community, so I wanted to bring together, I ended up bringing together 40 different speakers and they talked about 33 different streams of income throughout the summit that you musicians can use to make money and I realized, like, I didn’t do it to overwhelm you. Like, I don’t want you to do 33 different streams of income. I want you to be able to look at those, hear the speakers and say, “That sounds like something I could do,” or “That is really interesting. I think I’m gonna look into that,” and so obviously I don’t want you to try to do all of them but I want you to pick a few, especially maybe some that you’re not doing yet that interest you or ones that you’re doing now but you feel like you’re not making enough money or you’re not doing it to the best of your ability and learn from the speakers on how to do that better.
Christopher: Fantastic, and I knew just looking at the speaker’s list that this would be an inspiration-packed event for anyone, you know, there’s so much in there that you will go away and be excited to put it into action. If you could just describe a little bit what is an online summit for anyone who hasn’t come across this idea before and is intrigued by what we just talked about.
Bree: Sure. It’s basically a conference that’s held online. So if you’ve been to, you know, the TAXI Road Rally or the CD Baby DIY musician conference, it’s like that, you know, you can go into different rooms and hear speakers but with an online summit every day new speakers come, you know, become available for you to listen to and you can actually listen to them at your leisure for, like, that 48-hour period that they’re available. So instead of at, say, a DIY musician event there may be two speakers happening at the same time and you don’t get to, you only get to choose one or, you know, they’re happening all day and you’re just exhausted. You can’t go to another talk. In this situation we had anywhere from four to six speaker videos that we released every day and you could watch them at your own leisure and learn.
Some people had to prioritize and they were watching the ones that really related to them, like I said, the streams of income that interest them. Some people tried to watch them all, but, you know, for those that didn’t have time or just wanted to be able to watch them over and over and learn more from them and get our specific action plans that we created for each one, we did create an all-access pass, which means that you can go back and watch any of them forever and ever. You can get the access plans that my, I mean, the action plans that my partner Steve created that basically give you a rundown of, “Here’s what you learned during this talk and here’s what you should do to go out and implement it right now,” and, you know, you can watch those forever, all 40 of them.
So we created the all-access pass for that because, you know, we did offer it for free for people for 48 hours but it’s really hard to consume all of that content so it’s like, you know, buying an all-access pass is like paying a conference fee but you get to watch them whenever you want, as long as you want, so we, now that the summit is over we have that available to anybody that wants to go ahead and grab the all-access pass.
Christopher: Amazing. Perfect. We’ll definitely have a link in the show notes to that for anyone who wants to check out more information or that all-access pass. And one thing we haven’t touched on yet, which is how I discovered you and your work in the first place is your podcast, the Female Entrepreneur Musician podcast, and I’d love if you could share a little bit about where that show came from and what you cover in that podcast.
Bree: Sure. So one thing that we haven’t talked about, which is how that show came to be is that I have had an online, it started as an radio station in 2007 called Women of Substance Radio and it was a platform that I created to promote female artists because I felt like they were underrepresented. You know, I’d turn on the radio or I’d turn on Sirius XM and 80 to 90% of what I heard was male artists.
So my goal with that was to create a platform for women in all genres and I grew that from, like, nothing in 2007 to being, like, a commercial online station and eventually turning it into a podcast in 2014 and so we still have the podcast. The online station has actually been retired just because people have moved more from online radio to podcasts and that end of our business is growing so much faster that we just doubled down on the podcasts. Obviously you’re a podcaster so you know how great podcasting is.
So, you know, we feature ten songs on a show three days a week by female artists in all genres so after all of these years I’m working with thousands of female artists, I was like, you know, this, the music by these artists is so great but a lot of them don’t know how to promote themselves. They don’t have the business skills, they don’t even realize they’re in business, they’re just kind of waiting for some PR person or some radio person to come along and promote them and a lot of them are wasting a lot of money on things they shouldn’t be spending money on so I started the podcast to help with that and also to, you know, bring the stories of successful female artists to the forefront that are making a living from music to inspire these other people that were struggling on how they could do it.
So I started that in April 2015 knowing in the back of my mind that I probably was gonna open this academy which would be courses for female artists and a membership site and I did end up opening that in June 2015 so we are at our three-year anniversary now of the Female Musician Academy and so the Female Entrepreneur Musician Podcast is, like, it’s like the gateway drug or the entry point for female artists to see kind of what I’m about, the way that I teach and to be inspired by other artists that they can do it and they can have a career.
Christopher: Lately I’ve loved listening to your interviews. Inspiration is certainly the word and it’s also very educational. I guess it’s a bit like our own podcasts. It’s a mix of interviews and teaching episodes and I love, I think you do them as live Facebook sessions or live video sessions, anyway, so you can involve some of the listener comments but you’ve done some fantastic ones recently so we’ll definitely have a link in the show notes and don’t be put off if you are a male listener to the show. I think a lot of the advice and inspiration in there is gonna be just as relevant for you, too.
Christopher: I would love to hear a little bit more about the Female Musician Academy because it’s obviously drawing on a lot of your experience and observing the barriers and frustrations that aspiring female musicians have. I wonder if you could address this question I just touched on of whether male and female musicians have a different challenge ahead of them and why it’s the Female Musician Academy.
Bree: Yeah. I mean, I do think that females do have more barriers in front of them. Some of those things have come to the forefront, obviously, very recently with the Me, Too movement and Time’s Up and everything. I think those are extremely valid and I just want to preface this with saying, like, I’m not a male basher whatsoever. I have a husband, I love men but I did feel like women needed a place where they could be together with other women and have more of, like, a sisterhood of supporting each other and not feel like they need to be posturing or anything which women do tend to do.
I mean, when men are around sometimes we feel like we need to prove ourselves or, you know, or don’t, aren’t willing to be vulnerable because it might be embarrassing and the things that are able to be done in the Female Musician Academy when we’re on our live calls, like, people are able to be vulnerable. They’re able to share their struggles. They’re able to, like, break down if something is really upsetting them and I don’t think those things would happen in mixed company. So that was kind of the idea behind it to begin with, a safe place for female artists to get support and obviously there is the teaching aspect as well. So I’ve built the academy around the five stages that I talked about earlier and we’ve got people in the academy everywhere from the beginnings of the foundation stage to in — there are a couple of them that are in the profession stage at this point. So it’s a great hierarchy of, like, people being able to mentor other people, which I think is great and just like any kind of mastermind experience people specialize in different things. People are good at different things. Some of them, you know, they’ve used Facebook ads and they’re good at them and they can help others and some of them are really good at, you know, doing house concerts and they can help others.
They each have their, you know, some of them have, whenever somebody runs a crowd funding campaign I always recommend that they, you know, post it in there to ask for advice because there are several people in there that have done crowdfunding campaigns and can, you know, can help and aid in somebody that’s new to it. So I just think that the collective experience is important. The female aspect was really important for me as well because of that. I want people to be able to be vulnerable, to be able to seek support in a group where they felt like people understood them and I think there are things that happen to women in the music industry that don’t happen to men. I mean, just, even as simple as, like, people assuming if you’re, you know, if you’re a great female guitarist and you’re going to a gig and you walk in people might assume that you’re the girlfriend of the guitarist, you know, that happens all the time. There’s just the assumption that, like, “Oh, you couldn’t be the star of the show, because you’re a female,” and it’s a bummer that it’s true, but, and I think we’re doing a lot of work to break out of that but it’s still there.
Christopher: That makes perfect sense and as you say, you are doing fantastic work, both with the podcast and with the academy to hopefully both address some of those issues but also help the individual musicians traverse them and find their way to a career that they’re happy with or a musical identity that they’re confident with and they’re out there sharing with the world.
Bree: Yep. That’s what my hope is and it’s been an amazing three years and, you know, some people come, most people come for the training and they end up staying because the community is so amazing. The average length that people stay in the academy so far is, you know, at least two years, so, and there’s people that came in in the beginning and they’re founding members and they’re members for life, which is awesome because they jumped in at the beginning and had faith in me when there was no such thing as the academy and there were no courses inside, so, you know, those people get, obviously, special treatment because they had faith in me from the beginning but yeah, you know, the average length that people stay really is, like, one to two years plus and we’ve only been going for three years, so we’ll see. I mean, I hope these, I hope some the amazing ladies in the academy are still around in ten years.
Christopher: Fantastic. And for anyone listening, I’ll just refer back to a previous episode we’ve done about online courses where we talked about, you know, the typical course completion rates. To give you some idea of the average online membership website, people stick around typically for three or four months so to hear of one that has people around for two years is really outstanding and I think it’s a testament to the community you’ve created there. That’s wonderful.
So part of the reason I was asking about that, why it’s the Female Musician Academy, is that looking at the information online I was so excited by the training you’re providing and I instinctively wanted to join myself, but then I thought, “No, wait. I’m not a female musician.” I wonder if you could share about what’s available online for people who aren’t ready to join the academy for whatever reason, whether that’s gender or money or it’s just not the right time. What else could they look at online to learn more about your teaching and the kind of things we’ve talked about today?
Bree: Yeah. Absolutely. So with this summit I kind of created this brand of The Profitable Musician brand and I am going to be maybe by the time this podcast is even out creating a secondary area in my world called The Profitable Musician Academy and that’s going to help people that either, like you said, don’t want to be a part of a membership site or are male artists and they just want to access my courses, like, one-off courses. Like, you can buy those now but they’re not as easily found because they’re kind of hidden within the academy but, you know, I’ve got a bunch of courses that are just a single course. For example, Profitable House Concerts is a course, Facebook Ads for Musicians is a course, Double Your Productivity and Profit from Music is my goal-setting course. You know, I’ve got all these great courses and people don’t necessarily know about them because they’ve all been, they are a part of the academy, like, if you join you get access to all of those but I’m going to do a better job of making those accessible to more people because…
Bree: …I think they can really help people.
Christopher: Well, I’ve so enjoyed talking with you today, Bree and having the chance to pick your brains a little bit about how musicians can get out there and maybe even start making some money with their work. What is the best place for people to start learning more about your projects?
Bree: At this point it’s definitely FEMusician.com. That’s F as in female, E as in Entrepreneur, Musician.com, FEMusician, and that’s where you can go to check out the podcasts. We have, like, 160-something episodes now of fantastic content, interviews, teaching. Go subscribe on Itunes, and, you know, you’ll get a new podcast once or twice a week delivered directly to you, and, like I said, there’s pretty much everything in there except the very occasional episode that applies to both genders. I just, it was important to me to create it around my brand of wanting to serve females originally because I wanted to attract the right people to what I do and so that’s where to go. FEMusician.com.
Christopher: Fantastic. Well, we will have a link to that and all of your projects, direct links in the show notes for this episode. Thank you again, Bree, for joining us today.
Bree: You are welcome. This has been so fun.
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