On Jan. 30, I spoke with singer/songwriter Lily Virginia. After several years in the making, her self-titled EP is debuting on March 8th along with a secret multimedia presentation, and a party at 7 Dunham place in Williamsburg (7:30pm, open to all!).
Read on to learn how a young musician goes about marketing her dreams in an increasingly blurred music industry.
A: What is it like starting out in the Music Industry?
L: I see many artists scrambling to figure out how "to do it the right way" when there is no right way. There are many different ways, and my work has been to find the ways that are right for me. I do believe that the traditional pathways are still very important power structures and it's important to know and understand them. I participated in a songwriting workshop at BMI, and learned the whole business model of the songwriting industry. From what I've gathered, the music industry is about personal connections.
I've joined groups such as Women In Music, and The Noise Collective. The concept of the completely "Do It Yourself" musician certainly plays into to our American value system, like the "lone cowboy", but the reality is really really hard. Luckily, there are new ways to release music independently. For instance, I'll be digitally releasing my self-titled EP through Tunecore, Spotify and iTunes. Physical copies are being printed with great quality through Cravedog.
Ultimately, I don't want to work alone. I want a manager, I want an agent, and I want other people who can share my vision while bringing their own ideas to the table. For me, working creatively with other people has always been the one of the best part of music!
A: How have you promoted yourself?
L: There's a very fine line between marketing your music, and giving space to the inner world that makes your art possible. This is something that most of us have to struggle with in our modern times, artist or not.
I definitely use social media and have tried to do it in a way that feels effective, professional (i.e. consistent, reliable, building a brand), and personal. It was very cool to use social media, [for the collaborative] "Dreamtrain" project, as a real storytelling tool. Also, a tried-and-true "promotional" tool is my newsletter list. I love being able to create something that is meaningful and intimate for people that I know want to be a part of what I'm doing. I think in our world of over information, the bottom line is that I want to be sharing quality information and media with people that care.
You just have to be willing to play lesser-known venues, and--no matter how many people show up--always play with passion. [Landing a gig] starts with sending out a bunch of well-written emails. When I worked at Konsonant, a boutique music catalog, I always appreciated when people wrote correctly with nice punctuation, links that worked. Whether it's performing or writing a few lines, it's important to be clear and professional when communicating. Later on, getting better gigs is about knowing people, other musicians and getting introduced or recommended. After a while, venues start reaching out to you.
A: Have you received any advice along the way?
L: I've had many mentors along the way. It's something that I've always sought out--sometimes to my detriment--because I want someone else to have the answers. That being said, I'm lucky to have had several knowledgeable people take me under their wing. My greatest mentor for the past 5 years has been Gil Talmi, one of the two creative directors at [Konsonant] and an inspiring film composer. He not only taught me invaluable lessons about music and production, but has also been a great mentor in life. Especially when it comes to music or art--very emotional realms--a mentor is someone who can help guide you philosophically as well as professionally. Right now I feel like I'm in a space where I'm looking to learn from others, especially other successful women, and build community. I'm also trying to not expect someone else to know the answers to my questions - most likely the answers don't really exist anyways. These days I'm learning as much as I can and trusting my intuition.
Life is a series of risks. You even risk when you don't risk. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't, but mostly it's about personally defining what "working out" means. My biggest "leap of faith" so far was leaving my job to fully pursue my music. Now, every day, I'm saying this is who I am, and this is what I love to do. It's not going to be for everyone. Someone might think that what I have to offer isn't worth his or her time--and that's ok. Every day I make myself vulnerable, because I believe vulnerability is important. Every day is my biggest risk and I love that.
Thank you, Lily. Best of Luck!