On this episode Nick sits down with Heather Christie, an independent artist who is also the founder of motherhood-focused record label Möonbabe Records and Mind Body Music, a "holistic music school" with the focus of teaching female artists how to navigate the independent music industry.
Heather was a 2016 American Idol contestant and founder of several independent music acts, such as Silk Drop, Honeywild, Sirens of Soul and Feral Fauna, the latter of which earned international recognition and millions of streams with their single "Tincture."
Join us for an hour-long discussion on women in the music industry, combining family with a music career, music marketing and PR tips - and much more.
Heather's Music Industry Journey
NICK SADLER: Welcome to The Label Machine series, where we discuss with our guests how artists and record labels monetize their music. Today's guest is Heather Christie. Heather is the founder of Möonbabe Records, an artist-centric label with a focus on female music artists and mothers. Or as Möonbabe Records says, “mamas.” Heather also runs Mind Body Music, an education platform that covers everything from artist development to in-depth production courses aiming to uplift and inspire artists with a holistic music approach.
Not only that, Heather is also an accomplished music artist in her own right. With over 3 million streams alone on her music on Spotify. Heather, how are you today?
HEATHER CHRISTIE: I'm great, Nick. Thank you so much for having me.
NS: Awesome. So first of all, I've been listening to you all afternoon on Spotify.. Yeah, I have a confession. I'm a massive hip hop fan and I'm a big fan of Bonobo as well, which your music reminds me of. I in fact, I just ordered yesterday, I found an old, there was a, there's a CD from Mix Mag in 1998 called The Journey that had like, Massive Attack… Forgot everybody else on there. But I managed to track it down and buy it second hand, which is arriving soon, which I'm stoked about.
And yeah, like your favorite tracks for me were “Open Me” and the new track, the new release “Spaces Between” as well. So yeah I'm, I'm like, wow. And I got home early to see my wife and son and went Alexa play Heather Christie and straightaway you came on and we're listening and my wife's like “oh this is pretty cool.” And “I’m like, oh yeah, yeah, I'm going to be talking to her, on the podcast,” and she was like, “what?!” I was like, “I know.”
HC: I love that so much! Thank you.
NS: Yeah, it was really cool. So anyway, I'm going to stop gushing over you now and I'm going to open up with the first question I ask everybody, which is how did you get started in the music industry and what was your journey to get to where you are now?
HC: Well, that's a pretty massive question that, you know, I could start at the age of three because that's when I started singing and wanting to be a performer. But of course, I spent my whole childhood dreaming of being on Broadway. And so by the time I got to college, that was really when I started to shift things and I, I realized that I wanted to learn music production because in the Broadway setting, someone else kind of had to do it for you.
You have to audition and, you know, play the part. And I realized I wanted to create my own world, my own little rocket ship, as it were. So then I would say, I've really been in the independent music game for, let's see, I'm like, I haven't thought of this for a minute, but I guess it's like 11 years now.
So yeah, a lot of, you know, things along the way that I learned. I was on American Idol for a second randomly. I was a second round American Idol…
NS: What did you do on American Idol?
HC: I was a second round finalist in 2016. It was a very weird thing. Like I wouldn't have thought to do it, but my best friend was like, “Oh, they're looking for a real music artist this year. And, you know, so you should just you should just go.” And I was literally like, in a place in my life where I was really between things.
I was like, “I don't know where I'm going. I think I'm moving to L.A.” And so I auditioned for the producers of the show directly, you know, and we like, I thought I was really interesting because I had like short hair and I was holding like a kombucha bottle. I was like, this health girl or something to them. I don't know. But it really taught me what and what not to do, like what I didn't want, essentially, which was, you know, to have anything to do with being in that massive machine of the music industry. And I instead became like diehard hardcore indie, you know, indie-preneur, music-preneur. And I started like throwing myself at all the courses I could on music business and all that.
And so, yeah, I really dove deep and that was like 2017. And so since then, yeah, you know, I have just been doing it every day, every day, every day, doing the production, producing it, starting to produce for others, starting the record label. Like all of it is just, I would say it's just my, yeah, my life path at this point.
Starting Möonbabe Records
NS: So when did the, when did you actually start the label?
HC: So the label started, I would say the moment that I conceived my child. No, you know, sometime last year. And yeah, my baby is nine and a half months old now. And so what it was for me that kind of goes into the philosophy a little bit for me was, Oh my God, I'm about to become a mom. Or like, Right, I'm wanting to become a mom. And yeah, like all of these indie labels that I have signed with, they don't support me in the way that I would like to be supported by a label, should I choose to sign. And I've done so many fully independent releases that I know the value of, like having someone who has your back and having a bigger umbrella.
But I didn't see the option that I wanted. So it was one of those situations where like, I got to go create it. So, so we've been a label for yeah, about a year. About a year was when I like announced it on Facebook. I'm starting a label like, yeah, probably about a year ago and I did not know how much feedback I was going to receive on it.
Like people were like, Yes, Oh my God. So I'm like, okay, I guess this is happening and we're doing this and people want this and this is a thing, you know, So, so pretty fresh. It's pretty new.
NS: Oh, wow. So I didn't, I didn't realize it was that fresh. You know, I've, I've, I've been on the website. I've seen some of the releases and stuff. You've done an awful lot in a year. But I guess, like you said, you know, you've been doing the independent thing and especially as an independent artist for a while. So it's not like it's like you're new to it.
So you, you know, you talked about that there wasn't something out there for you and you understood having some in your back. So I guess what made it your ,what made it the focus for you running a label for women and also like, is it, is it just, is it just women only or and also when you say it's for mamas as well, like is it just for artists that are mothers? Yeah. Can you kind of kind of talk us through that?
HC: Of course, of course. So the intention was to create a space that was for women artists like or females who are fronted, you know, and supported by male artists. Like, we love male artists. I don't want to say that, you know, we're like, I work with a lot of men, so, you know, disclaimer, But I wanted to like basically it's hard to be a mom, right?
It's hard to be a mother. And as an extension of that, I have had experiences where I feel like it's been harder for me as a woman in the music industry especially, well, maybe in the whole music industry. But for me, I've been in like the electronic music industry and festivals.
NS: Very male dominated.
HC: Yes, very male dominated. So I've had so many experiences where I'm like, Oh, okay, there is my homie that I've known for years and he like just started his project, but he's already like way ahead of me in booking and all these things and I'm just like, that doesn't, you know, that doesn't feel very supportive as an artist.
And I see, you know, this industry and there's all these things that are very algorithmic focused and kind of not very like artist focused. And I feel like what was needed, or at least like for women and like specifically for mothers who… we have to slow down when we have a kid, we have no choice. We have to.
And I feel like in my history, I've always been afraid of having a child because I have been so driven to be successful in my craft, into my art that I was like, “How the hell can I do both?” Because in this world I have to stay hardcore and hustle, hustle, hustle if I want to be successful. And I came to a point in my life where I realized that I did want both.
Like I really do want a family and I want a successful music career. Like, is that, is that a crime? Right? Is that so hard to have both? And so I realized that I was just going to have to figure out how to do it my own way because, A), I'm not Beyoncé or Alicia Keys, who's already successful by the time they decide to have a child and, you know, B) I don't really see anyone else out there doing it in the way that, you know, that I envision like a mid-range artist who's doing it and doing it well, but and also like a mother. And how are they navigating that?
So there's just so many questions that I've had about how I could do that. And so it was just an answer to my own question of like, okay, well let me create a community, a network, a space, a label for… to really like understand mothers from a deep level of like, it's okay if you take two years actually to like produce and release your single. We, we've still got you and like we've got you along the whole process of all the decision making, because I know that that's a whole part of it.
Obviously, the figuring it out and the album art and what do I do, like how do I release it and when and what do I do to follow up? All of these questions are part of the release process that for me, with the labels that I've signed to, pretty much all they do is throw you on a few Spotify playlists and call it a day, and then they take 50% of your master or the entire master in one case.
And so yeah, so yeah, exactly. So like I feel like it's a wild, wild west of the music industry and some labels are, yeah, just really doing it in, in like a selfish way, you know, they're self-serving or something. And I feel, yeah, again, just like not supported by the labels I've signed with, I wanted to allow women and mothers because it's like, it's already hard, right?
So I wanted to have a support network for them that actually felt like deeply, deeply empowering.
How Möonbabe Records Differs from Other Record Labels
NS: So on a practical level… What, you know, you mentioned earlier about, you know, you've been on other labels and like you just mentioned, it's also... I'm taking 100%, which is shocking and yeah, just checking you on a few Spotify playlists. What are you and you've touched on a little bit there as well about like giving some time but like specifically what practical things are you doing that's going to, you know, that's going to be different or that you're doing that's different with Möonbabe with respect to the mamas.
HC: Mm hmm. Well, first of all, I think that the percentage breakdown needs to be way more fair than what I've experienced. Like I said, I've signed a lot of 50, 50 deals with labels, and that's gotten me in trouble because of a lot of things. But like, basically the breakdown of royalties outside of that has like with my producer and co-writer has led it to where I only get like a half of… I don't know how to explain it mathematically in this moment, but like I signed a three way deal with my co-producers and then I was the only one who signed the 50-50 deal with the label. So then I'm the tiniest percentage.
NS: So you got 50. So for every dollar you got $0.50, and then of your $0.50, you then had to split that up. And so suddenly you end up with like 16.66 reoccurring.
HC: Exactly, thank you.
NS: So you’re like hang on, this is, this, I didn't even sign to a major, even major record labels are like 18%.
HC: Exactly. So that's fishy for me and that's been very heartbreaking. And so, you know, just the percentage split. First of all, like we give the artists 80% and we take 20%. And so just even in that like percentage breakdown, I want the artists to feel like they have like a big right and they own their masters. It's only like a three year deal versus I've signed my songs away for ten years or lifetime to these other indie labels that I've experienced. And so on that practical level, you know, that's there. And then on a more… like this part is growing and shifting, but basically offering deeper label services and like, I like to look at it as “midwifing the music into the world,” very motherhood based.
So again, having like that one on one, it's similar to coaching right too. Because I also do mentorship and that's, that's how you know I support myself to do this label project is.
NS: With Mind Body Music is that right?
HC: Yes right, Mind Body Music, the mentorship business. So these things are similar. So I'm teaching about these things, right? I'm teaching about how to do a DIY release and independent release and all the things you need. And again, yeah, like, you know, intro to booking and, and like PR and all these things.
And so then some of that kind of information and coaching mentorship gets transferred to the artist, to a lot of my artists are, are newer, you know to the game, so they have a lot of questions about you know, what is this, how do I get on a blog? Why should I even bother getting on a blog? What what should the album art be like? How You know what I mean? All these things. Yeah.
NS: So. So can we dive into this area a little bit more? Because I find it really interesting because like a couple of things. First of all, you know, and it's extremely honorable and it's amazing that you're saying we’re only taking 20% as a label, right?
NS: But it's, you know, it's hard to make money for everybody. Like, so, you know, my first thought is, okay, well then how are you going to be able to make a profitable business? Right. That's going to be really difficult. But then you say, Oh, but then I have the mentorship program, I'm helping a lot of people out.
And I guess, you know, and if you're doing that and someone comes on and I imagine, you know, you do a thing where it's like, I will, you know, do a coaching thing for a $500 or 1000 or something like that. I guess if that's been taken care of, then the releasing of the music is you don't need to have so much of things.
So is that almost like a bigger picture of your, of your, of your business model? Like someone comes in and you're sort of being paid to teach them how to do everything just in case it doesn't pop and they do nothing. Your time is taken care of and then if it does do well, like great, you can help them out and you get a little bit of money, but most of it goes to them is, is that sort of idea behind it?
HC: It is, yes. And it looks different with every artist. So it's not like every artist I sign pays me to release their music. But how it often ends up is either it's like the funnel of who comes to me either via Mind Body Music or Möonbabe Records is usually going to be a client of mine into some degree, either a production client and then it's like an obvious choice to release it through the label, through Möonbabe Records, because I have been, Yeah. Compensated to, to produce their track and then it's a good fit for the label stylistically.
So yes, Right. And then, but then also, I do try to sign artists that I'm just really excited about their, their music. And so to some degree the label is yeah, a bit of like it's not a huge growth moneymaker for me at this at this point.
And, and that's something that I'm okay with because I feel like our whole philosophy is not just trying to go for that like quick growth. I feel like it might take my whole lifetime- no, like ten or 20 years to maybe fully blossom into what Möonbabe Records is and wants to be. And I'm just trying to stay aligned with the values of it. Mostly. But yes, it's an artist-by-artist basis. Like they'll take my course or this course or that course or they'll pay me to do their production. And then in that way I do feel compensated. And so it's like a, it's a dynamic that works.
NS: No. I think it's absolutely brilliant and I think it's a good model case study to become something that is, you know, respected and acknowledged as a model. You know, because I work with a lot of people that are setting up record labels and they're starting out and maybe a lot of the artists they're working with are at the beginning of the career and there is a lot of time you have to put in, right?
And we've all got bills to pay and you know, there is that, because I think there is a bit of a stigmatism where people have gone, “Oh, you know, you shouldn't be paying to be on a record label or like, you know, you have to pay money to submit your… you know, and I think that's wrong, like paying money to like being A&R, I totally get that.
But there is definitely value. And I think especially on the education side of taking in artists and saying, look this, I'll share with you everything how it's done and, you know, get compensated for it. But on the back end and I think that's what, I think the way, I think the way you're doing is really smart is you're like, but, you know, if you, when you release something, you’re keeping 80% because I think what would be bad is you're like, hey, are you going to pay me a grand to tell you how to do everything?
And then you’re signed to my label, I'll take 50-50. You know, I feel that it's double dipping.
HC: Definitely double dipping. Yeah. Yeah. So thank you.
NS: Yeah. No, I think it's really brilliant. And, and, you know, and it's, it also illustrates like you know, a lot of people that I know that are running labels, you know, and I talk about it's not just about you know, it's not just about selling records. What are all the other different spokes of your income that you can build around this?
You know, and an easy one that a lot of people do, especially if they're out of sliders, is I would, you know, would do mixing and mastering in house and things like that, you know, and we'll give you a really good rate but you know, the person who's doing it is compensated for it. So that that's a good way to kind of start.
Managing a Motherhood-centric Independent Record Label
NS: So, you know, going back, going back to you, as, I know you're the founder and I guess, you know, you don't say you're your head of A&R, but I guess you are head of A&R because you ultimately will decide which music gets signed to a label. So like, what's kind of a rundown of your usual activities when you've got your like, label manager hats on like day-to-day, what are you kind of doing?
HC: Well, it depends on the day, but I am maybe.
NS: Maybe do a week then.
HC: Okay then, I feel like my biggest job is actually just conversing with people. Like, I know that sounds funny, but like with you or I'll have a phone call with a potential artist, or I'll have a phone call with my collaborator or an artist who's already on the label who were planning an event, or with another woman who I'm considering to have help run admin things that we want to plan some, an online summit or something.
Like I feel like it's just constantly being propelled by these conversations and just like reiterating what we're about in these micro dynamics that yeah, because it's we have to be resourceful, right?
In order to make things move and grow. And that's what I'm realizing is like for me, this is totally uncharted territory. I've been doing my own music stuff for many years, but now that I have this bigger platform to kind of take care of and carry forward, that's more of a collective like a “we,” I'm constantly like, okay, just basically and this is what I've always done for my music too, and what I coach about.
But basically just attuning to and listening to, if you will, who the energetic matches are going to be that are going to help carry the label forward, whether that's, oh, this live event opportunity, is this the right thing for us to do or oh, this this live motherhood and music summit? Okay, that's interesting. How can we make that happen?
And like, let's talk to this person who might be a specialist in that. So, yeah, does that make sense?
NS: Basically just you're just hustling in some ways.
NS: But do you know what? It's 100%. You know, what you're describing is making strategic decisions. So all the classic strategic decisions when we're talking about electronic music is getting somebody, a particular person to do a remix of a track because, you know, if they do a remix that opens up this particular audience and market and blah, blah, blah, and you know, the muse, you know, or should we sign off?
Should we sign it? You know, should we sign a single off this guy? Well, the demo scene is like her average is like, Yeah, but he also heads up like the whole Midwest, like booking agency things. And so if we do that, we'll be able to get all the gigs on and, and that's, you know, that's a really important part of running a music business as well as being able to recognize that.
So you've already got that ahead for a by the sounds of it moving down that path.
HC: You know, I'm a Gemini and we're like, I'm always in communication mode.
NS: So I you know, you're, you're talking about you know, there is, there's a lot to do in it and it can be quite resource-hungry. So who else is on your team over there as well. And, and. Yeah. Who else are you working with?
HC: Mm. So this is an interesting part of the equation too, because first of all there's a virtual assistant. She's amazing. So she helps do kind of the basic admin stuff, like getting all the lyrics up on Musixmatch and making sure that's all good and some stuff like SubmitHub, blog entries and things like that. But then also I have a, we're calling her a “community outreach manager” and she is one of the artists on the label. She's also a mama. She's also a student of mine.
And so we've done a bit of a trade because she has a grant-writing business. And that's one of the things we're looking into is for like bigger funding. There are grants for women in business, like profitable business for women and women of color. She she's a black mama and woman.
And so she's part of the team on a volunteer- well, on a…
NS: That’s a good addition, that's a good…
NS: Makes you get that grant money and…
HC: Yeah so I'm like, why not, you know? maybe and that is something, you know, that I'm looking towards long term is, since this is a very mission-based label, what does that look like to actually secure some bigger funding to then run our events, hire an actual PR company or something like this for the artists or higher filmmakers to do amazing music videos for the artists.
So basically, yeah, just wanting to connect with those with investors who are looking to invest in the arts. So that's something that that we're working on. And then we also have a copywriter who helps write all of the other website stuff and the emails and basically helps put everything in like a really heartfelt way that sometimes my brain is running too quickly to go put down in words.
So that's basically it right now. And then we just have the community of women who are our music artists, and that's been really beautiful. And we have like a, you know, a WhatsApp chat where we're always like, okay, here's my release so everyone can hop on and like, like it and all these things. So that's also part of it is like uplifting each other, giving each other those likes and saves and comments and algorithmic support.
And then our distributor is worth mentioning there we are distributing through this, basically it's a white label agreement with this record label called Six Degrees out of San Francisco. So we moved from Symphonic to them because they offer like actual human to human contact rather than just like a form that you're submitting and a bigger pool. And they have a whole network of music licensing libraries that our music is getting filtered and put into.
There's like three different ones, like I forget the name... Seven Seas, and then they have one and, and they've had good success with that in the past. So for those guys are great. We interface with them a lot and yeah.
"we have to slow down when we have a kid, we have no choice. We have to. And I feel like in my history, I've always been afraid of having a child because I have been so driven to be successful in my craft, into my art that I was like, “How the hell can I do both?” Because in this world I have to stay hardcore and hustle, hustle, hustle if I want to be successful. And I came to a point in my life where I realized that I did want both."
NS: Yeah, some. I mean just recently last month I started The Label Machine Distribution and a big part of that was for, so and then I've got a, I've got a company that does all the, like to send it off to Spotify and whatnot. But the big thing is for us to be able to offer anyone that signs that just they can pick up a phone or send an email and they get something, it's not.
And I think, you know, and I think that's going to keep that's and that's a big part. That's why people are like, cool, just move over and people are like moving their catalogs out because they can just, they get that. Yeah, it's I totally see the value in that.
I'll just sort of jump back quickly as well for anyone that's listening that, you know, you said you had a virtual assistant as well. So how like how does that work? Where did you find them? Like, is this a virtual assistant? It's in the Philippines or is this like someone in the US? You know, how does it how did you find them and, and, and whatnot?
HC: Well, I know a lot of people do find amazing virtual assistants from the Philippines. So shout out to those people. And the people in the Philippines are stoked right, to be working. But I have I have a American… no, she, I just put a call out on the Instagram story one day for Möonbabes looking for a virtual assistant.
And she I have, you know, got some responses and she was just an amazing fit. She's all about the mission, right? Supporting mamas and the women. And so it was just a really, really good fit because she understands on a greater holistic level what we're doing and she's really, really all about it. And so her heart is in the work.
And so that is really great. So yeah, I just found her through Instagram. And she is amazing.
NS: Yeah, that's super important. And yeah, I didn't think she was going to be from the Philippines. I think it may be great if you're a CEO and you need someone to book your air flights, but I think if you need someone to understand the music industry, it's going to be a little more difficult going down that avenue.
The Struggle of Independent Female Artists in Becoming Headliners
NS: So what do you think? You know, you're about supporting females in the music industry. And mamas in the music industry. What do you think needs to happen? Like, well, what areas do you think are not being supported in the music industry in general that you would like to see changed and then you may be working on it as well?
HC: It's a great question. I feel like what comes to mind right now is women in headlining slots on main stages at festivals.
NS: That isn't Beyoncé.
HC: That isn't Beyonce. Yeah, to the degree that I play music festivals, it's more like anywhere from 500 to 10,000 people. Festivals kind of size. It's not Coachella, right? I'm not talking about I mean, yes, maybe someday, right? More of us. More of us go headline Coachella, of course.
NS: Yeah. So actually, you know what, for clarity, let's say I'm specifically talking about like the midband of the music industry. So it’s not people that are just starting out, it's not the top 40 people. It's pretty much like that 70 to 80% of the music industry. That's kind of where I'm talking about me.
HC: Yeah, that's great. Let's definitely clarify because a lot of my friends and I, I would say fall into that category of we've been working hard, we have been working for years and this is what's happening, right? And this is where we're at.
And so we, you know, specifically other women who I know who are amazing and like have been doing it and like know the ins-and-outs are still we are getting slotted at like the side stages or something that either it's not, it's not like the right sound system. It's like, oh, we're- I'm an electronic artist, but you're, but there's like no sub-base or something that happens all the time. Things like that. And or like a 1 a.m. slot or like a new 12 p.m. or something like that. And so I think part of that, like obviously it's a complex conversation. Part of that is like, well, maybe our beats don't hit as hard, I don't know.
And so then it's like, okay, then let's learn. Let's teach them how to like make the, the beats, the beats and the bass hit and have that high, high time energy. But I also think it's just about, yeah, representation and the value system of the, the booking, you know, team and making sure that it's not just about like, when they do their lineups and their schedules and specifically for festivals, right.
Like it's, I don't know what's going through their mind, but it's probably something like who has the most draw and you know, and maybe even the most Spotify listeners these days. That's a big, that is a big thing. Yeah. And so maybe some of us haven't been focusing on releasing every three weeks for two years, you know what I mean?
NS: Or because she's just had a baby.
HC: That's what I'm saying, you know, so it all comes, comes down to all of that and yeah, and that doesn't mean that we won't slay at 10 p.m. Saturday night spotlight. Come on, give us the chance, people. You know what I'm saying? Like, we'll bring our dancers, we'll bring, we'll bring our babies onstage because we're communal like that and…
NS: Yeah, yeah.
HC: You know, and so that, I would say, is a big quandary.
NS: Would you, would you say as well that there's especially in the last 3 to 4 years, you know, people are where like, “hey, we need to make sure that we are, you know, supporting cultures and people that aren't as represented, you know, with and with women as well in film and music and in creatives like, you know, we need to address that balance.”
But there's maybe some times when someone's like, “Oh, we need to make sure we've got some woman on the lineup. Okay, yeah, we'll get their names. We're just going to chuck them in the side room at like whatever so we can make sure we are like ticking that box.”
And it's like, if you're going to do it, do it properly. Don't do it to fill a quota. I personally feel there's a little bit of quota-filling at the moment. What's your thoughts on that?
HC: I just want to clap for you for saying that because I agree. Yeah, I think that that's definitely happening. And so and, and we are at least there's awareness, right? And we're going in that direction. But like you said, we have, we still have, yeah, a long ways to go in terms of realizing how to do it, you know, how to do it with authenticity and in a way that actually makes those less represented artists feel like they are getting the full support and honoring that they, that they deserve and that they want to feel, you know…
The #1 Rookie Mistake New Artists Make When Releasing Music
NS: Yeah so you know, I'm a, you know, young person who identifies as female and I'm listening, what would you, what would you say are some of the rookie mistakes or common problems that you've seen over and over that new, or early-career, mama artists make?
HC: Okay, this is great. So they don't give enough time and space to the build-up to the, to the release. There's a lot of excitement that goes into the music making. And then when they're actually done with the song, they're like “pfoof, oh my God, I actually completed it. Like, boom, I just want to put it out there” and there's not nearly enough time or thought or strategy put into, “okay, let's lengthen this, let's tease it out and let's use this release process as an audience building process from the get-go. Let's tell our story in little pieces as we build up for two months even, right. And build our content and slowly leak our new content, our new photos or whatever out that are telling our story and inviting people in, and like using hashtags and all of that algorithmic juju, like as a strategic momentum builder for the release.”
And then after the release also being like, “Oh well, I'm done and now I'm moving on to other things.” It's like, “no, I'm sorry baby, but like in the indie world…” I love someone said this once. It's like, it's like “growth farming.” You're like, you don't just plop it out and then you're done. It's like you have to go back and like till the soil that you already planted the seeds in, in order for them to grow.
So like, right reposting and oh, there's so many things you can do and get creative and with your release. So it's really the entire like, wave of the release. I think newbies just don't look at it as, as big of an opportunity as it is to grow their careers and like build momentum around even just that one single or something.
NS: Do you think that's though, because that's traditionally what the record label does, doesn't I mean, when I say record label, I mean a well-funded record label with a big staff, not like a small indie who's just putting up a couple of Spotify playlists, you know, traditionally is that, that, you know, that you had signed to the label and then the label has a marketing team go, “Right, what's the story? We're going to do this. We can do a music video that shows you that side of your branding and all that kind of stuff.”
And so if you are going to release your own music or, you know, yeah, release it on your own label or with an indie label, you still need to address those areas. Those things still need to be done, is what you’re sort of saying?
HC: I think so. I think that people probably feel like they don't have access to, yeah, to all those things maybe. Or they don't even know where to start or what to focus on in their storybuilding, in their A&R process, is really kind of what it is like. You're putting your finger on the pulse.
And so yeah, just being that voice for them of, well, this is what you can do, this is what you can do fully DIY. This is how you could do it for $0, because that's also a thing, people like run out of budget. If they had a producer or a mixing and mastering person, or maybe they have made one music video, but then they don't even know what to do with it, or like how to break that down into like bite sized chunks to then tease out the release. They just put the music video on YouTube and then call it a day or whatever it is.
I think that, yeah, people don't feel like they have what they need in order to do all of that. So yeah, it's an important piece though.
Managing Time and Resources as an Artist and Mother
NS: Is there, you know, are there, are there anything else that you've seen that they make mistakes or is there anything that you see holding back any artists?
HC: Let's see. Well, I'm like, “support from their husbands!”
No, that's very assumptive, I don't know but I think probably though, yeah, like the, honestly the support at home to, like how do we, when do we have time, right, to even focus on our music. I do think that that's a piece of it for women who are mamas, for me, for my clients who are also mamas, and just like creating the space in our day-to-day life.
NS: So on that point, you know, you're a mother of a nine-and-a-half year old daughter and you've got a husband. I think I've seen from the pictures. So how do, so how do, you know, you're an accomplished artist. You’re releasing music. How… what like, how do you approach that to make sure you've got time for the studio and producing? How do you approach it?
HC: I have to get way more organized than I ever was before, and I have to dial it. I have to do my to-do list and dial it down to the hour free that I can grab. And I have to get way more patient around when that happens.
Because, for example, right now I have to record vocals for like three songs that I've been wanting to do for a week at least. But it has to. I have so many other things that I have to do. It has to line up with the one day a week that we have nanny support. We do.
We have a nanny one day a week, which is great. That's, you know, it is expensive, child care is expensive. And so that's going to be my moment, even though I also have clients to build in, it's like a puzzle piece, right, of schedule. And I also have to say that I'm particular lucky because we live 5 hours away from my mama, and so we go up to her house and we will stay. She actually built us a cottage in her backyard. So we will stay there for a week or two weeks, even at a time, and then.
NS: Definitely rinse that.
HC: Exactly. When you have her.
NS: Remember, you can get up there. We're up.
HC: My mama. You know, seriously, it's been a huge blessing and not something that maybe some people like have access to. Maybe, you know, some mamas live far away from their families, but that, that family support is very, has been very empowering for me because, of course, I want my baby to spend time with her grandma and I can just hand her off.
And then I'm like, wow, I'm way more freed up now. So all of that. And then I think also just the philosophy of what I'm just going to do this anyway, no matter what. And sometimes my baby is in my zoom calls and sometimes she comes on and says hello. And it's just I don't like giving myself the memo that, oh, it's too much or I can't ever.
I'm just like, Well, I'm just going to do it. And even with gigs, especially like I'll play two-hour DJ sets and it's like, well, what, what then? Because she's breastfeeding and nursing and so I will often end up having her on stage with me and like deejaying with one hand and nursing with one hand, and that's something that it's always like gimmicky at this point because people are like, “Oh my God,” they pull up their phones and I'm like, I'm not, I'm not trying to like…
NS: … but can you smile?
HC: Yeah, exactly. So, yeah, it's all of it. And I think Pink actually said it well, because she's, you know, a mom who's famous, who has her kids. And she made a whole documentary about bringing her kids on tour. And I. I love that. Right. She's like, “I'm not someone who, like, closes the door and then walks away into my career. I have my whole life in one room, like my family life, my career life, like the doors are open.” And I just think that it's a mindset thing when it comes down to it, how you're going to make it work.
NS: So I, you know, I'm seeing that being more accepted, not, you know, in all creative industries, not just music and film. And I think. I think, you know, the whole COVID pandemic thing maybe helped out with that with Zoom’s, people being used to seeing these kids and people's work lives and actually like, yes, it's not the end of the world.
It's like whatever, like we've all got families and that's fine. And sure, like you might come in behind, but you just get rid of them and then you get, you know, you get on with what's going on. And I think that's been really beneficial for everybody to kind of have that. Yeah, which has been awesome.
Growing and Monetizing Independent Music
NS: So I kind of wanted I kind of want to jump on to sort of some more, I guess sort of like more “labely” business kind of questions as well. So you've got a… so, you know, I guess first of all, where I, I almost know the answer every time I ask this now, it used to be a little bit more dynamic a few years ago, but not so much these days. But where would you find most of your royalties are coming from for the label these days across like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and Tidal? What would you say?
HC: Definitely Spotify. Yeah, there's some that come from Apple Music and then surprisingly, also some from SoundCloud, which…
HC: Yeah! I'm not quite sure how that, how that factors in, but it's pretty cool that that still has some, some clout.
NS: That’s interesting. The reason I… so I was on, I logged into an old SoundCloud account yesterday because I needed to have a, I need to go into a management account to upload something. But anyway then and I was listening to a playlist on SoundCloud and then and it was listening fine. And then suddenly I heard this ad and I was like, “What!? Why am I hearing an ad?” And then I looked down and it said, you know, I was playing an ad for and it was actually playing an ad for a new hospital that's opening in London.
NS: I know it is a bit weird, you know, one of the guys who was working on the opening of the hospital was like, this is really weird. But anyway, but then I realized, oh, they must be, they’re now monetizing their music because when I was listening to my normal account is a pro account which is paid for. So I guess I don't hear ads.
And the other one, the one that I signed up yesterday was like a free account. So they must be and I know they've been talking about it for a while. So that must be that, must be having the ad revenue that's coming through.
And because I'm definitely still use SoundCloud, because why did I jump on there? There was music that just wasn't available on Spotify. I mean, I just said yesterday Snoop Dogg took down like half his music on Spotify.
HC: I heard that too.
NS: Yeah. Because I'm that, you know, they're trying to sort out like they're doing some sort of a deal or something like that. But, you know, I don't think that's going to be happening more and more. And so, you know, you might begin to see more of that SoundCloud on there.
"there's so many things you can do and get creative and with your release. So it's really the entire like, wave of the release. I think newbies just don't look at it as, as big of an opportunity as it is to grow their careers and like build momentum around even just that one single or something."
Taking Advantage of Bandcamp Fridays and Other Unique Features
HC: Yeah, that's exciting. That's kind of exciting just because. Yeah, it's, it's still more open source, you know, the platform, you can put remixes there, you can put bootleg remixes up there. I think that's also a lot of why there's still a lot of high traffic there because for deejays it's like you can't, you definitely can't get certain things on Spotify or Apple Music that you could find on SoundCloud or something like Bandcamp. And Bandcamp is worth mentioning too, because while…
NS: I did want to ask about Bandcamp, because I know you've got, you've got there, how are you getting like a sizable income from there and or are you also taking, you know, using the opportunity when they do the Bandcamp Fridays as well?
HC: I do try to use the Bandcamp Friday opportunity. We're not getting a huge income at this point yet, probably just because we've been pushing more of Spotify, honestly, because it's, it's tricky. It's almost like you have to be in resistance to Spotify in order to like, push Bandcamp forward. Even though I do agree more with their model of paying artists directly, I think they're amazing. So I would like to be promoting and growing the Bandcamp audience more. That's something that we'll probably do.
NS: Yeah, we're finding what works is releasing on Bandcamp two weeks before releasing everywhere else. Just go Bandcamp exclusive, people go, “awesome.” Come and support the artist. Like most of the money goes to the artists in the label. It's not shared with all those guys. People go awesome and then two weeks’ time go, “Hey, now it's on Spotify. If, you know, if you, if you just listen to Spotify, that's fine. It's now available.”
HC: That seems to be a great idea.
NS: Yeah, a good way to work it. I have to say SoundCloud quickly as well. I think the rise of EDM in the last ten years helped them. If it hadn't happened, it would have been more of a struggle because yeah, I think it is a big electronic community there.
Using Marketing/PR Tools to Maximize Your Reach: Groover, SubmitHub, Musosoup
NS: So do you… so, you know, talking about Spotify as well, how you know, well, I'm not going to say how important do you think it's Spotify playlists. I think it's pretty obvious getting on Spotify playlists is important these days. What are you, have you got any particular strategies or tips and tricks you find works with, with getting your music on playlists or any particular sites you use or them?
HC: Yeah, I, you know, along with the community building model, I actually often tell artists if they have the time to go into their Spotify for Artist app, see what playlists they've already been placed on and see which of those are the user playlists. See the most streams, and then go look at that user on Spotify and often their name will match their handle on Instagram or something.
And so then go to Instagram and actually reach out and say, “Hey, thank you so much. I'm so glad you enjoyed this song. I have this new song that you might want to put on your playlist as well.” So it's a little bit of like that personal reach out, and I have done a bit of that before. It is time consuming, but that is something that like an admin could also, could also do potentially because if you get enough of those user playlists, like yeah, sometimes the Spotify editorial playlists are an algorithmic, you so, you know, you don't know how to get on to those specifically.
And I've definitely, I've tried, but sometimes it just happens from the amount of user-based playlists that you are on, right? So doing that and then also I have used sites like Groover, SubmitHub and then also this other one, what's it called? Musosoup. They're all blog, blog-based services like PR essentially. But a lot of the blogs will also have a Spotify playlist. So that's also a way to do it. And it costs a little bit of money to submit your song, but not a lot. So you can definitely do it with like very low budget.
NS: So Groover has been on my radar. It's on a like, I've got like a list of like sites to review and, you know, doing things for the community which haven't got around to it. So I'd be interested to hear like how like and also I guess for the listeners as well, like what is Groover? And then you know, what experience did you have with them and what kind of results did you get?
HC: So I've used Groover a few times, it’s mostly like European-based blogs and maybe some labels on there even, and curators, it kind of gives you an option who you want to connect with. And so it works similarly to SubmitHub for those who know SubmitHub, I'm not sure which one's bigger. I think SubmitHub probably more widespread but Groover I've had, I've had good success with getting feedback. I've had like okay success with sharing.
So yeah, I'm not quite sure it's a little bit more expensive than SubmitHub too, so I'm not quite sure how I would match. I would recommend it. Honestly, the one I've had the most success with is called Musosoup and they are.
NS: Is it like “muso” or “miso”?
HC: Muso, like M-U-S-O-soup and you have to set a budget of, I think, €35 to kind of launch the thing, launch the single. But then you get like a ton of responses. They have, I think, a pretty good working community on their blogs. And I've gotten a like, where, you know with Groover or SubmitHub, I'll get like a lot of feedback but like okay feedback and maybe one blog or something.
With, with Musosoup, I will have multiple blogs to choose from every time that I'm like, “Oh, this is where we'll do our blog premiere.” So an interesting do. Yeah.
NS: You know, from your experience, are some of these platforms, almost a bit like different types of distributors or labels in which, you know, they almost, their community lean towards particular styles of music.
HC: MM I think so. I do think so, yes. Yes, yes.
NS: You know it's yeah, more, Groover is more rock and pop or indie and yeah I mean.
NS: I do, I do hear something that SubmitHub is sort of EDM/House-y, more that kind of cheesy poppy house stuff seems to do well on there.
HC: I think so yeah, the cheesy poppy house so exactly.
NS: I mean not there's even pop music by what real pop music is, but you know what I mean. Yeah. So, and so would you say that kind of more musical and melodic, like electronic music in music seems to do well on Musosoup.
HC: So I would say so, yeah. Like “indietronica” or alt-pop-tronica are, you know, some of these things. Yeah. More. More moody, maybe.
NS: More moody. Nice. Nice. That's good to know. I'll, I'll definitely be sharing that or I'm just keeping an eye on the time as well, because I do like to keep this to sixty minutes. Do you do any kind of merchandise or are you planning to do any kind of merchandise?
HC: For now just stickers. Yeah. Yeah. We, if we secure some bigger funding, maybe we'll do a big T-shirt run. But that's not at the top of our priority list at the moment, even though it's such a fun idea. And I love it, but we are maybe a little bit down the road.
NS: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, and, you know, I didn't realize that, you know, if you've really been going for a year as well, I think merch really kicks in maybe in the second year.
Do you do any paid advertising like, you know, run Facebook or Instagram ads or any of that stuff and what have you been finding? No? Yes. Yes? No?
HC: No, no, no, no. Not at this point. No, I I've tried Facebook ads a lot in the past for my own music. And I've just never felt like, it's super worth it. So we haven't done that so far. Although this guy, you know, John of Hypeddit?
NS: Oh, yeah, I know John.
HC: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So he has his whole kind of program on how to do it. So that's something I'm like, maybe we'll maybe we'll try that, but at some point. But so far, no.
NS: Yeah, I have to say because I've done it loads and I do it also just for The Label Machine as well. I think what people need to remember is it's not like you go in and you go, “Oh, put $200 down and then I expect to get these results and it just hit win.” And you know, I just do it in two weeks. And that's as, you know, like you put money in and you get a result out the back.
It's definitely a long, a longer term, like I'm going to do this for the next year and we're going to slowly build up our audience and that does seem to be the kind of the way, you know, you do have to approach it.
But yeah, John's of course, he is super awesome as well. And sync deals. Have you, have you managed to sing- Hello!
HC: Speaking of…
NS: What's your name?
HC: It’s Nia Rose!
NS: Hey, Nia Rose! How are you?
NIA ROSE: Hi!
HC: Hello! Yeah.
NS: I wonder if you can see, uh…
NS: This is Jago.
HC: Hi Jago! So cute. I thought we were on. We're almost done. So, Mummy will see you in a couple of minutes… That’s how that works!
Personal Experiences with Sync Placements
NS: So, yeah, just I know you were… You said you moved to have distributors to do some sync stuff, like have you synced anything yourself yet?
HC: No, not yet with Möonbabe Records, I feel like that does take a little bit of time to be in the, in the stew, you know? So I'm. Yeah, I'm hoping, I'm excited for, the longer we stay and kind of the more we get to know and the more their listeners get to know us, what, what can happen.
I have had, you know, a few sync placements myself, though. Namely, one was kind of the best case scenario although I messed up on the, on the the split. But that's okay. But it was like a $20,000 thing for a South Korean like cell phone ad or something. And they had it, it was a really like pretty music video kind of ad. So we're like, thank you. You know.
NS: Was it, was at a 20K all end was at like 10K Masters, 10K Publishing?
HC: Exactly. Yeah.
NS: Oh nice. Yeah. Well, yeah, they were amazing when you do get them.
HC: Oh, it's so good.
NS: Just relax for a few months.
HC: Like. Thank you. Can we just keep that going?
NS: Yeah, it is. I do know though, it's a, for people, I've got a couple of friends who do it and it's, it's full time for them like, you know, hustling and submitting and changing stuff. So that's awesome. You've got it.
All right, so we're going to wrap this up. What is the future for Möonbabe records. Like what, what's your plans for the next year or two and what are you hoping to achieve?
HC: The plans for the next year or two are probably slowing down the amount of releases now that we have a year under our belts and just going more for full albums and maybe some, some remix albums. So yeah, continuing the growth, but doing bigger releases, I would say, then more constant releases and then also doing a couple of live community building events around the label because that's been really fun.
NS: Well, that's awesome. Where are you based, by the way?
HC: I'm in the L.A. area
NS: L.A. area. And so if you do, so if I'm, I mean, I come into L.A. quite a bit.
NS: I’ll keep my eye on the next time you guys are doing shows and hopefully we can…
HC: Cross paths. Yeah, absolutely. Our next big one for sure. We call it “Möonbabes in the Garden.” It's going to be in Malibu on Spring Equinox. So March 21st. I know that's a ways away, but you could put that in your calendar if you want. And that's going to be our next big event.
NS: Yeah, I mean, that's around... What's it called? The Miami show that they do…
HC: Art Basel?
NS: Is it Art Basel? I'm sure there's a big thing in Miami at the time.
NS: Awesome. So where can we find you if if we want to follow you on Instagram or online? What site site? What's your Instagram handles for both you and the label?
HC: Mm hmm. So Möonbabe Records is just Möonbabe Records on Instagram @moonbaberecords, you can click our link tree and subscribe to our mailing list if you want. And also check out our website, which has more full information.
And then mine is Heather Christie Music with a C-H-I-E. So C. H. R. I. S. T. I. E. And the handle is @heather.christie.music. So on Instagram and then again through my linktree on there, you can find my website and all the other, all the other things. And you can also follow me on Spotify as well as Möonbabe Records as a user.
And there's a big Möonbabes playlist with a ton of beautiful female artists that are both artists and then also inspirational artists that we, that we love. So yeah.
NS: Awesome. Yeah. And for anyone who's listening, if you want to hear the music straight away and you do happen to have an Amazon, Alexa, just say to Amazon, please, hey, play Heather, Christie, you'll hear her music straight away. This is amazing.
NS: Thank you so much for your time. Yeah, it was awesome hearing your story and what you're doing. I think, you know, you're one of the few people that I, you know, doing music and doing music business for the right reasons. It's not just about money. It's, you know, about helping artists and empowering them as well. So yeah, it was really an honor.
HC: Thank you so much, Nick. So good to chat with you too. Thank you so much for having me.