Frustrated at the hardships indie artists face recording and promoting their own music, Emerson decided to try a different route. After being bombarded with fan e-mails and sometimes even letters offering financial assistance, the young Americana singer set up a series of CD Sponsorship Events around the country, raising $10,000 in four weeks to record and self-release her new album Long Ride. She continues to raise funds to promote her album through the intimate sponsorship parties. Emerson represents a growing trend in American music. If the desire for your product is strong enough, there's always a way to feed the public, especially if you're willing to take the jump.
WalletPop: At what point did you decide to take matters into your own hands?
Vicky Emerson: I reached a point where I realized that if I wanted to get anything done and done correctly, that I needed to do it myself. My skill set and education provided me with the necessary tools to be an accomplished musician, but I also have a Business Minor and Master's in Nonprofit Administration. Once I put the ball in motion, it was very easy to transfer my skills and past work experience to essentially start a small business, which in my case, was my own record label.
WP: What's the secret to connecting with fans?
VE: I think each musician's relationship with their fans is unique, and over the years, I've discovered my "secret" is that my fans like to interact with me through my monthly "Vicky E'" e-newsletter. It generally contains an amusing tale from the road as well as updates on my career. I've been told thousands of times that they love when my newsletter hits their Inbox. It's as if they are a passenger in my life. I also personally answer every single email, MySpace or Facebook message.
WP: Is it possible for a young musician to make it without the support of a record label?
VE: Absolutely! If you're willing to work hard and have a do-it-yourself attitude, there hasn't been a better time to be on your own. The Internet has literally leveled the playing field.
WP: What are your hopes for your future career?
VE: As a small business owner, I'd really like to see my business prosper and grow. What that means for me is to perhaps tour with more established artists, continue to grow my fan base, pursue publishing opportunities, release more music and also mentor independent artists.
WP: How can young musicians getting started support their own release?VE: I recommend that young musicians work really hard on writing a solid group of songs that they feel comfortable performing and have received a positive response at shows they have played. Then, as they prepare to record the songs in a studio or in their home, consider asking their fan base -- and for a young artist this means friends and family -- for their support of the project in the form of a contribution.
WP: What other musicians are getting big based on "fan-based" support?
VE: I think CD Sponsorship is a relatively new trend and as success stories begin breaking through, I believe this will become an extremely viable option for artist who thought they couldn't afford to get their music out there.
WP: Are you doing everything yourself, promotion, fundraising, etc? How big of a team do you need?VE: I do all the booking, fundraising, marketing, web updates, accounting, cooking, driving, schlepping gear, setting up sound equipment, mailings, trips to the post office, contracts, travel arrangements and most importantly, write songs.
However, part of my CD Sponsorship campaign was for promotion and from the success of my campaign, I was able to hire a publicist for "Long Ride" and a radio promoter. I truly thought that my mom and dad would sign up and that would be the extent of it. However, I was completely surprised and humbled by the outpouring of support from all over the nation. I had no idea that many people longed to be an official Groupie, Roadie or in my Entourage!
WP: How can the Internet help young musicians get out there?
VE: One thing to be careful of is trying to be active on every single social networking site that is out there. You will literally sit in front of your computer all day when you should be writing great songs!! I suggest finding the sites that work for YOU and where your fans and potential fans hang out. For me, that place is Facebook, so I spend the most time there interacting with folks.
Vicky Emerson's Long Ride is available now. Click here to purchase.