Interview with Valerie Vigoda of GrooveLily
GrooveLily pared down to a unique trio - electric violin, keyboards and drums - when a friend got them invited to be house band for an American comedy theatre in Amsterdam in the summer of '95. That empowered them to realize they could potentially make a living from their music. Since then they've gotten booking agents, developed a strong fan base and have a street team called Petal Pushers working for them.
GrooveLily has released three CDs and is earning a living from performing, and selling CDs and other merch. I've known lead singer/electric violinist Valerie Vigoda for years and admire her amazing talent. While she'd like to get help with her business, she's prepared to stay independent unless she gets offered the right deal. Here's a sample of how she maintains her career.
[Daylle Deanna Schwartz] Any tips for booking a tour?
Valerie Vigoda Get everything in WRITING, and advance all the gigs well ahead of time. There's a good book called "The Music Business Office" which has good templates for contracts, which I used frequently. Our best bets for going to new towns are usually to focus on: festivals, concert series and sometimes colleges. Clubs can be a good bet, IF they're well-promoted; but playing a series of clubs to small audiences is a great way to lose money on a tour. We try to go where there are built-in audiences and budgets. Even if you're playing at a festival or other "soft-ticket" event (e.g. where your income isn't based on the number of tickets sold), don't rely on the presenter to do publicity. If you ask them for a list of media leads, and then follow up on those, you'll be way ahead of the game because the presenter will be happy that you're taking the initiative to bring a crowd to your show.
[Daylle Deanna Schwartz] How do you make the most of a street team?
Valerie Vigoda Create a sense of community; make them feel special, because they are! These are people who automatically have something in common, which is our music. Over the past year, the Petal Pushers have turned into their own vibrant, growing community of friends. There have been gatherings, parties. There is an active online discussion group, and we make "exclusives" available to the PPs as often as we can. We've put one very avid Petal Pusher in charge of the program. He's the point person; he asks each PP how they'd like to be involved, and encourages them to do whatever they're comfortable with: postering, flyering, contacting media, giving sampler CDs out, helping at the merch table at gigs, and in some cases even presenting and promoting shows. A small group of PPs even funded our brand-new bumper stickers, which look great and say "Petal Pusher Powered!" on them. We find that people really enjoy being part of a community, helping to spread the word about music they like ... so all we do is show our appreciation as much as we can, and try to channel their incredible energies!
[Daylle Deanna Schwartz] Does selling merch help?
Valerie Vigoda It helps immensely. A large portion of our income comes from merch. We've found that giving people an incentive (free sampler CD or bumper sticker with purchase, for example) makes a difference, as does having OTHER people besides ourselves hawking the merchandise at gigs. Fans make the best salespeople.
[Daylle Deanna Schwartz] How do you feel about being independent?
Valerie Vigoda It's exhilarating, and also overwhelming. There are SO many (non-musical) things to do, and I find myself working longer hours than anyone I know ... but I love it - this is a wonderful *time* to be independent in music. Consolidation in the industry has put a chokehold on commercial radio, concert venues and record stores; so the independent music scene is growing incredibly fast in reaction. People are seeking alternatives to the shrinking song lists on their radio dials. New nontraditional music venues, such as house concerts, are popping up everywhere. There are twice as many music festivals in the US as there were only 10 years ago! Independent, grassroots promotion is working for more and more artists and bands, many of whom have been dropped by record labels in the past few years. The upshot is, there is a middle ground which did not used to exist! There is a third option, between blockbuster chart hits and penury: and that is independent success.
What a great thought!! That's why my books and classes are so popular. The secret is out. You can make a good living as an independent musician. : ) I find Val's success inspiring. She's found her niche and works it well. GrooveLily recently completed an interesting run in a Philadelphia theatre - a concert with a story containing all new GrooveLily music for the holidays. The reviews were terrific. Check out this unique act at www.groovelily.com.
Daylle publishes “Daylle’s News & Resources,” a newsletter for supporting indie music. www.daylle.com/monthly.html , Revenge Productions.