How Making It Works: Antigone Rising

It's the ultimate dream: You pick up an instrument, learn your way around it, you start a band, you hit the road and before you know it, you're thanking your mom, your band mates and your producer at the Grammy's.


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Antigone Rising


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Kristen Henderson
For the thousands of musicians who try, the elusive brass ring of stardom and success remains just out of reach. It seems that no amount of talent, good looks, street smarts, business savvy or "friends in high places" guarantees anything in the big bad music business. So what is the secret formula of success that separates the 'chosen' from the 'frozen'?

The truth is there are as many paths to the spotlight as there are musicians who've actually made it there. And each one has a unique story that combines elements of luck, innovation, heart and hard work.

In this article HowStuffWorks talks to Kristen Henderson, the guitarist of the recently signed band Antigone Rising, to hear the details of just such a story. We will learn from Kristen the steps of Antigone Risings path, speculate on their future, and discuss their formula for success to try and see what goes into "making it" in music.

Meet Antigone Rising

Antigone Rising is a five-piece, band from the New York/New Jersey area arrayed in the standard rock formation of two guitars, bass and drums fronted by a charismatic vocalist. In the days of shoe gazing pop, Antigone Rising carries the fallen flag of such classic rockers as Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and Joan Jett.


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Jen, Dena, Cassidy, Cathy, and Kristen

Line-up

Cassidy - Vocalist
Kristen Henderson - Guitar
Cathy Henderson -Guitar
Dena Tauriello - Drums
Jen Zielenbach - Bass

With five years and nearly 1000 shows under their belts Antigone Rising has taken the "do it yourself" road warrior approach to cultivating a following -- Guerilla promotion, self-produced CDs, and night after night of playing clubs.

Finally their years of hard work and touring have paid off. It is the scenario touring bands dream about; Antigone Rising was backstage after a show when record company president Jason Flom came into the green room ...

Kristen tells the story:

    It came together exactly the way you read about. He was at a show. He saw the band. He offered the band a deal backstage. It literally happened like that. Which sounds so cliché ... I was like, that is not how it happens. I've been doing this far too long to believe that.

In May 2003, Antigone Rising signed that deal with Lava Records, a division of Atlantic Records and a cog in the mammoth machine of the Warner Music Group. These days they are in the studio polishing their first commercial record. Having garnered the interest of famous producers like Tony Visconte (David Bowie's producer) and Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, nods from publications like Rolling Stone and a coveted spot on stage at SXSW, Antigone Rising is standing in the doorway of dreamland. Now it's all potentiality -- here is that moment of critical mass.


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Rob Thomas, Cassidy, Kristen and Jason Flom at Sear Studios in New York City

Kristen explained, "When we started Antigone Rising the goal was to tour and build a grass roots following. You know that's all we cared about. We weren't really thinking bout anything else, but getting into a van and traveling -- touring. That's all we wanted to do."

Well, far from the days of simply just "wanting to tour" Antigone Rising is poised for success. But in the music business it's hard to define success.

What is Success?

The term "making it" is often thrown around by aspiring musicians without a clear idea of what "it" really is. Presumably the term refers to achieving a certain level of success in the music business -- but what is success? It seems to be this sort of nebulous idea that means different things to different people.

Some may say:

    "I want fame."
    "I want to live for art and beauty."
    "I want money."
    "I want to change music."
    "I want to use my music as a platform to express myself to the world."

Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Cassidy belts for the crowd.

These are only some of the motives, but they are probably the most common, and they all revolve around one fundamental principal: To truly succeed in these scenarios, the musician needs to be in a situation where he only has to worry about making music. This can be difficult if he has to deal with a day job to support himself financially. That being said, we can simplify these desires into a single, more practical definition of success:

    "I want to make a living playing music."
There are tons of ways to make a living in music that have nothing to do with world tours or MTV. While they are not glamorous, lots of musicians make a living as music teachers, contract composers or studio musicians. In the performance realm, there are plenty of bands who make a living but are never heard on the radio or seen on MTV. On one end of that spectrum you have cover bands, and on the other end you have touring indie bands. They all make livings, even though they don't make headlines.

Cover bands make a living playing other people's music (often referred to as "covering" a song) at weddings and events. Indie bands ("indie" is short for "independent") tour, record and promote themselves and their original music all with the money they generate from the band. Since almost no band is born into a record contract, all original bands start out as "indie" (in the true definition of the word) until they are signed to a record label. The essence of the indie band is that they propel themselves without the backing of a record company. Antigone Rising started as such a band. And as Kristen explains, that was their idea of "making a living" in music: "The goal was to tour ... we just decided we didn't care about a record deal when we first got together."

The irony is that despite their grassroots desires, Antigone Rising has achieved what other musicians spend a lifetime trying to get. Antigone Rising's "build it and they will come" success has come from adhering to their own personal definition of success: "... to do it exactly how we want to do it."

According to Kristen, the band's formula for success was arrived at from years of experience, and it's about "just staying really true to ourselves. As totally cliché as that is ... That's the only way to do it. It's the only way it's ever worked for us."

While that defines Antigone Rising's idea of success as well as their approach, simply saying you're going to "do it your way" and actually doing it are two very different things. In the next sections, Kristen explains what it really took for Antigone Rising to do it "their way."

Road to Stardom

If you peruse the arts or music section of your local book store, you will find scads of books about the music business, self promotion and the key to "making it." They will all outline a path to cracking the music "biz" that looks something like this:
  1. Start a band or solo project.
  2. Write several two-to-three-minute, "radio friendly" songs.
  3. Play shows in the appropriate local markets.
  4. Cultivate a following, and grow that following on a regional level.
  5. Make enough money to record a demo.
  6. Shop that demo to managers, labels and showcases.
  7. Use attorneys and managers to help you get signed to a major label record company.
  8. Make a hit record.
  9. Take a supermodel to the MTV music awards.
  10. Count your money.
This sounds very logical, but in reality, there is no tried-and-true method to "making it". If there were, then everybody would do it. Still, many would-be rock stars use this "text book" method as if it were a treasure map that is meant to be followed step by step. The realization that the well-beaten path was not for them is what unified the members of Antigone Rising into one singular vision for how the band should work.


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Early press photo

Kristen elaborates:

    We had all done like, the typical ... we made a demo, we worked with this producer who helped us write all the songs, that producer shopped the demo, that demo got rejected by every major label ...

    So, we sort of all got together and looked at each other and ... we all just decided, you know what, that doesn't work, at least not for the way we want to do things. And the artists who do get signed that way we sort of felt like ended up getting told how their careers are going to unfold. We wanted to have control. And so ... rather than doing what a lot of bands and artists do, the only thing we cared about was getting the business up and running on our own; making it so that we could make a living doing it our way. So that if and when the time comes to partner up with a bigger partner, we will have some say in how the business runs. And that's exactly what ended up happening. We thought that was the best approach.

This unified vision has always been the backbone of how Antigone Rising conducts their business. And no matter what artists may think, the music business is just that -- a business.

Strictly Business

If you look at the business model of a working band, the formula is simple: The band is brand that sells a product. The product is the music. The product can be sold in a variety of packages:

Package
Revenue
Radio airplay
Royalties
Album
Album Sales
Live concerts
Ticket Sales
Music videos
Broadcast royalties and DVD/home-video sales

There is an old adage: It takes money to make money. Each one of these package types has a substantial cost associated with its production, and there is no guarantee that simply because you make an album or video people will buy it. To add to the risk, there are also the costs associated with making these products available to as many people as possible and selling it in a way that will make them want to buy it.

The risks associated with the music business boil down to four areas:

  • Production - The process of recording, shooting or otherwise capturing the art form on some media

  • Manufacturing - The actual fabrication of the physical CD or DVD and packaging

  • Distribution - Getting the CD on the shelves of every possible record store, Web site and sales outlet

  • Marketing - The flashier side of the business that involves the "look" and "feel" of the product -- how it's sold, how it's portrayed, and most important, how many eyes see that the product is available

All of these business elements have something in common: They are very expensive. Enter the record company. The reason the record contract is the brass ring of "making it" is because it means, in many cases, that a well-funded, well-connected company will now be handling these very important aspects of the business. The record company will pay to have the album recorded and manufactured. The record company will use its distribution muscle to put the product in stores. The record company will have its marketing people spin their magic to make sure everyone knows about the product. But it all comes at a cost, and anybody taking the risk of fronting the cash for manufacturing, distribution, and marketing is going to want some say in how the product is made.

Art vs. Commerce

The music business is a business; and like any business, the bottom line is king. Artistic gifts rarely translate into business savvy, but in order to survive in a multi-million dollar industry, that savvy is crucial. Any aspiring musician must weigh the pros and cons of the commercial versus independent music paths when navigating the world of professional music.

Antigone Rising started and perpetuated their success as independent artists. Independent artists enjoy a freedom that most label artists do not. The trade-off is that they tend to make less money and get little if any outside financial support. But that is not always true. Alterna-folk artist Ani DiFranco smashed the industry norm by achieving both artistic and commercial success completely outside of the industry system. Her secret: In addition to being a talented artist, she is an extraordinary business woman. DiFranco rakes in more revenue than most commercial artists and does it with no label control at all.

DiFranco's solid business model was an inspiration to the band. Before they were signed, Antigone Rising had a well-thought-out division of labor to share the burden of the business side of things. Kristen explains:

    There're just natural roles that people take on, you know. Certain people are just naturally more inclined into a certain area of things. And then at some point you just have to say, "Alright, this is your job. This is my job. This job sucks so who's going to do it?" So, we have definitely worked it out so that there are pretty much four major areas. There's CFO, which is Cathy, our lead guitarist; she handles all the finances -- which is a horrible thing to have to handle. We have me, Kristen, who would be more Head of Public Relations department. We have Cassidy, our lead singer, and she is pretty much in charge of style, fashion, the way we appear, what we're going to do as far as the set list in front of an audience, things in that kind of that nature. And Dena, our drummer, is the Head of Fulfillment. She makes sure that we are stocked with merchandise ... So, that's sort of how we've fallen out.


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Dena, drummer and Head of Fulfillment

When Lava or other labels approached, Antigone Rising was holding all of the cards. They had developed the entire infrastructure of their business on their own. They were a complete entity with albums, tours and a huge fan base they built from scratch -- they were in a position to not need label support in order to survive. So in reality, the Lava record deal was more like a small, successful company being bought by a larger successful company. Lava understands that Antigone was doing fine; the record label has only set out to offer greater strength to an already strong band.

In the battle of Art vs. Commerce, Antigone Rising won it all by being both dedicated artists and smart businesswomen.

Heck of a Deal!

With a developed band and a supportive label, the deal seems surefire. Both parties are in a good position to work together for the best chance of success. Kristen explains the relationship:
    They're not spending a lot of money trying to teach us how to dance or how to, like, look onstage. There's input. They give us advice, you know, but we're self-contained in that regard. So, we sort of take care of that ourselves and we sort of show them [what we're doing] and then they say, "Well, you know you could step it up a notch. We can give you money, maybe, for a light show." Nobody's holding our hand and like tucking us in at night at the record label ... There are artists who have that, you know.


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Kristen and Dena on stage at Giant Stadium

Antigone's relationship with Lava Records has so far been quite rewarding. They were lucky to be signed by a label that is truly interested in them and believe in their ability. Kristen describes the state of things:

    [When Jason Flom] made an offer, we looked at each other in so much shock 'cause we had always been like, "Eh," you know, we weren't looking for it. We looked at each other, and we went, "Do we want to do this?" And we were, like, "Yeah." ... The funny thing is, at that point, when he made the offer, we didn't have a lawyer. Because we weren't looking for a deal and there's no reason to have a lawyer ... [But] we didn't f--- around with other labels. We didn't -- we just went with Jason. We loved him. You could tell he loved the band. He really believed in it and he got it ... So far Lava has been amazing.
But as with any record deal, challenges lie ahead.

One of the challenges that now face Antigone Rising is that by signing the deal, they are no longer truly independent artists. For years, this has been one of their greatest qualities and has been a strong point that has helped earn the respect of both fans and critics. No self-respecting independent artist can sign a record deal without trembling at the whispers of those dreaded words: "Sell-out."

Antigone Rising is now in a precarious position where one of the most important selling points of any band can be damaged: their image.

Image

Image is a crucial element of the modern music industry. It can make or break a band, and a well-crafted image can definitely help a band "make it." One of the greatest torpedoes to a band's image, especially an independent band, is if fans think they are "sell-outs."

"Selling out" is a stigma that can haunt artists and alienate fans. The idea is that the artist, seduced by money, creates an album that is geared for record sales and not for art. But fans can be brutal and fickle, often accusing artists of selling out simply because they suddenly have a smash hit song. But does selling well mean selling out? Even the completely independent Ani DiFranco has been accused of selling out by older fans, based on her growing fame and personal choices.

With their origins as a live touring band, Antigone Rising is a house that was built by fans, so the band has a tremendous loyalty to their fan base. The fans are considered in every aspect of what they do: "We think about our fans almost to the point where it might not be that healthy as artists. We're thinking about them all the time," explains Kristen.

After signing the deal, Lava set them up to do a Ford Mustang ad. Kristen explained, "They called us up and they said, 'Are you guys interested in doing this?' And we thought, this is such a strange thing, isn't it? -- do we really want to actually be, you know, promoting such a thing. It just seemed like an odd thing to get behind, you know, for us."


Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company
This ad featured Antigone Rising and appeared in Elle magazine.

Antigone Rising was especially cautious about the decision because they had been burned earlier in their career by doing a Technics ad:

    Funniest part about that, actually, was that when we did the [Technics] ad, we really didn't know ... So we did that ad and then the next thing you know it was running opposite the table of contents in Penthouse ... and you're like, wait a minute, you know, is that right for us?

    We were a much younger band at that point and we were just excited to have the opportunity. So, that is the kind of thing, you know, you really learn. You live and learn, yeah ... And then you think, well, I can tell my grandkids, I was in Penthouse magazine. And that's kind of neat [laughing].

The Ford ad was meant to run in the much more accessible Elle magazine. Despite fears about what it may do to their image, the band decided to do the ad. Kristen explains what ultimately influenced their decision:
    We thought about it and we said, you know, our van, which we consider our home, is a Ford Econoline van. Vanna White is a Ford van. She's been very good to us. So, out of respect to Vanna White, we thought, why not? And so, yes, we would love to do the ad [laughing]. And it actually ended up being a lot of fun because it was like a high, high fashion photo shoot. I mean, it was really done up and it was kind of fun for the day, we like -- we pretended we were supermodels. It was sort of unreal. That was really our thinking behind it -- Vanna ... Good thing Chevy didn't call.


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
"Vanna White is a Ford van ... which we consider our home. She's been very good to us."

Their pure intentions paid off, because the ad gave them crucial exposure in a well-known national magazine. And as far as the fans' take on the ad:

    We always worry ... when we make decisions to do things that our fan base will take it the wrong way. But I think our fans get what we're like -- they know. When they open up Elle magazine and see us in a Ford Mustang ad and we're like dressed to the nines like fashion models, they just know that we were having a good time -- that it's not like some sort of 'Antigone has sold out.'
But Antigone Rising didn't always have exposure in national magazines. Like all fledgling bands, they started with a grassroots campaign of self-promotion. Their innovative approach is tied in to their success.

Self-promotion

Those who pursue music full-time quickly realize that playing music ends up becoming the thing you spend the least amount of time doing. For new bands, cutting your own path through the surfeit of struggling bands is imperative for getting your name out there. Relentless self-promotion becomes a full-time job. But how do you distinguish your band from the ocean of flyers, stickers and other bands duking it out for the same recognition? Kristen discussed Antigone's approach to grassroots marketing:
    I realized early on, no one's going to do this for us, except us. And the truth of the matter is that if a day goes by where I haven't done something for the band, I can pretty much assume that nothing's been done for the band.
In the mid-nineties, when Antigone Rising was in an earlier incarnation, Kristen discovered an up-and-coming medium to spread the word:
    I got on the Internet bandwagon really early on. Nobody even knew what the Internet was, but we had a Web site. So, early on we used to do a lot of guerilla Internet promotion. We would even e-mail, like, other fan Web sites, like, for example, we loved Pat Benetar. So, I literally e-mailed every person who ran a Pat Benetar fan page. I would e-mail them and say, "I'm in a band called Antigone Rising. If you would be willing to put our banner up on your Web site, I'll mail you our CD for free. And we'll put a link to your page on our site." So, I literally did that with, like, hundreds of artists' fans' Web sites.
These days, the Internet is part of standard operating procedure for bands; but Kristen's ability to see its potential early on helped the band to establish a digital presence before lots of other independent bands. Antigone also employed other innovative techniques:
    Another thing that we did pretty early on before anybody else was creating street teams. We created our street team called the A.R. Force. And they really helped a lot in that. They would do flyering in markets. A lot of times we'd have kids on the street teams actually setting up radio interviews in markets for us. 'Cause the kids on the street team have no fear, I mean, they don't even think twice. They'll pick up the phone, "give me the manager of the radio station. I've got my band coming through" ... you know? They don't care.
And they did more to promote themselves:
    You know, typical stuff, flyering, postcards, doing mailers, trying to meet other bands any way we could, you know. Anytime we played on a bill, especially with a band that was bigger than us, we always made a point of making friends. Being able to pick their brains, being able to get on other bills with them.

    [And] when we lived in the city ... we would just play on street corners. We'd play in the subways. We would play until we'd get kicked off the corner.

This pioneering spirit of fearless innovation helped to rapidly grow Antigone Rising a loyal following in their fiercely competitive home market of New York City. But the one common denominator in all of their marketing approaches that propelled the band the farthest was attitude. Kristen shares the secret: "We always tried to appear bigger than maybe we were, you know? It's just one of those things, if you act like you are, then people assume you are. It works, it actually works."

So the early days were spent doggedly pursuing the exposure that is crucial to a band that hopes to "make it." But what good is exposure if you have nothing to sell? Antigone Rising had to figure out how to make albums.

Independent Albums

Making albums is expensive. But it is essential for an up-and-coming band to have an album to sell. It both adds to income and gives the fans something to take home after a show.


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Antigone Rising in the studio

Discography
Antigone Rising has four independently released albums:
  • New and Used EP(2000)
  • Rock Album (2001)
  • SaY iT! an-TIG-uh-nee (2001) (out of print)
  • Antigone Rising's Traveling Circus (2003)

Finding the finances to fund an independent album is one of the greatest challenges and risks facing an aspiring band. Kristen talked about Antigone's approach:
    I had really good credit at that point ... and I was the dumbest. I had some offers for, like, 0% APR for two years and we needed to finish a CD. So, I was like, fine, let's put, like ten-thousand on my credit card [laughing] ... And then we just would pay the minimum, you know? Once we got signed, we were able to get out of debt.

But credit wasn't always available to Antigone Rising. When times got tough and an album was on the line, the band had to turn to their characteristic ingenuity to finish a record. Kristen elaborates on overcoming a serious financial hurdle:

    We sat down in the diner one night and brainstormed, like, how can we get this CD done? We said let's put up a PayPal thing on our Web site. I knew about PayPal, and a lot of people didn't at that point. It was really new. People can donate through the site. I think most people mailed checks to a P.O. box. We got ten-thousand dollars in donations from fans. In return, we gave CDs and autographed things ... whatever we could give back. We thanked them in the liner notes; the fans that donated ... we never would have been able to finish our CD. It's like a miracle, when I think about it.
The other challenge associated with independent albums is independent distribution. Once again, Antigone Rising turned to new roads to solve this problem:
    We were always, sort of, finding ways to make the CD available, other than at our shows ... [like] through the Internet -- the Internet was huge. We sold them directly from our site; we still do. In the markets that we were doing well in, we would ask our street team to talk to local record stores in their various markets, and set up consignment agreements. So we had set up consignment agreements in the markets where it was likely someone might come into a record store looking for our CD.

Having wrapped up their local market, and with a couple of CDs under their belts, it was time to hit the road. But that is often easier said than done.

Touring

The backbone of Antigone Rising's success is their years of extensive touring. Kristen discusses the challenges of the road:
    There would nights we would play in Albany, New York, on a Friday night and Charlotte, North Carolina, on Saturday night. I mean, you have to be that insane. We would do anything to be on the road. We were willing to do anything. We were willing to play any show in the beginning.


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Antigone live!

Antigone Rising was setting up dates in cities where the band was unknown. To add to the challenge, when booking in an unfamiliar town there is no way to be sure which venue is best for your band. Kristen pulled from her experience to set up tours:

    You would just scour the Internet. You'd figure out what clubs are where. You'd figure out what bands you've heard of that are playing in certain places. You know -- Well, Leslie, in Atlanta, has a friend in Washington D.C. -- she's going to tap into him -- where's a good place to play? What's a local band in Washington D.C.? Can we get them on a bill? Slowly but surely, word of mouth, you know? ... I mean, every single person that ever uttered two positive words to us, we got their phone number. And we followed up. I mean, you have to be that diligent. We were. We still are.
Hooking up with other touring bands is an important move to get into cities where your band is unknown. But meeting those bands would end up being a job unto itself:
    The way we'd research is, we'd think of bands who are like us and figure out what they were doing. What rooms do they play? And eventually, you start making friends with other bands, you know? We would jump on bills with bands like the Push Stars, and the clubs wouldn't even know we were coming. The Push Stars would just show up and say, "Antigone Rising is with us. They're opening."
These band relationships wound up being crucial to Antigone Rising's development on the road. Kristen elaborates:
    One of the biggest things that you can do is get in front of other bands who love the band, who love your band. And they're going to tell their people, oh my god, you know, Antigone Rising was amazing and we want to play more shows with them. Then the booking agents says, "Who?" And they say, well, Antigone Rising.

Shows


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
"It's your job to go out there and win the crowd over ... have to deliver every time."
The greatest commercial for a band is an amazing show. As a performer, that is the pay off. No one gets into music to flyer, or do interviews or tediously record the same instrument track over and over again for an album. Musicians start out with a desire to make music. So for all the hard work and sacrifice, the show is the reward. But playing 250 shows a year can be draining. To add to this, the law of averages states that the band is not always going to have a good night. Technical difficulties are a reality of the job. So how does Antigone Rising deal with technical problems and bad shows?
    If you make a connection with the audience, as best you can, and you look like you're having a good time, as long as the band looks like they're having a good time -- it's almost like the visual can overcome anything else.
Another element fans rarely take the time to think of is that their favorite rock stars are people, too. They have fatigue, bills, headaches, foot cramps, and bad hair days and other personal problems like anyone else. As you see them on stage, while it may feel like they came to play for you, remember this is another show in a string of shows that they have been doing for weeks. They have spent all day in a cramped van, they have been eating bad food, moving heavy equipment, they're getting very little sleep and they are about to play the same songs they have been playing for years -- again. But despite all of that, each night, no matter what has happened that day, Antigone Rising, like all working bands, must carve a smile on their faces, suck it up and go out there and rock. Kristen explains their approach to this challenge: It doesn't matter how tired you are. It's your job, you know. It is. It's your job to go out there and win the crowd over. It's what you do for a living. It's like an EMT. What happens when you're tired one night and somebody's having a heart attack? Well, you know, you got to be on. You don't have a choice. It's like life or death when you're in a band that's trying to grow market by market. If you go out there in front of a crowd that sees you for the first time and you're lame, you're done. You have to deliver every time. But after the show is over, it's back to that van. Some of the greatest drama in the music business doesn't occur on stage or in the recording studio. It takes place in the tour van, arguing over who gets to ride shotgun or "Why is this person late again?" This all plays into one of the most challenging aspects of band life: band dynamics.

Band Dynamics

Lots of people like road trips, but what if it were your job? Do you think you and four of your closest friends could spend 50 weeks of the year together in the same van on a massive road trip without killing each other? What if your future was inextricably linked to those four friends? Can you imagine if your financial well-being were largely dependant on your ability to get along with them every minute of every day while you traveled?

A band's ability to get along becomes a key factor in whether or not they succeed. Many talented, popular bands have been destroyed because they couldn't get along. Kristen discussed one of the greatest challenges of being in a working band:

    I think that eventually you get so sick of each other. And you literally hate each other so much that you love each other. There's a thin line between love and hate. It's like, "If I hear your voice -- if I hear you open your mouth one more time -- I'm going to kiss you." You know what I mean?


Photo courtesy Antigone Rising and Lava Records
Twisted sisters

Over time, Antigone Rising naturally found mechanisms to cope with the stress of living in a band. Kristen discussed their process:

    We do a lot of, like, big group talks...'This is how I feel.' I mean, there's a lot of that. Especially with a girl band, there's a lot of that, 'You hurt my feelings, I don't like the way you said that, What did you mean by that?' -- you know? But, we've been together now non-stop for five years, so a lot of that s--- has stopped ... we've already worked all that stuff out. Our dynamic is sort of already set in stone -- our dysfunctional dynamic. It's a blessing that we've been out as long as we have, 'cause now we're just best friends. We know how stuff works [laughing].
In the end, the odd circumstances that you are put in when you are in a band creates a bond like no other -- not family, not friends, not business -- but band. Kristen explains, "You really start to learn how to function only as a unit, as a group. It's a fixed thing, but you sort of lose your independence. You don't know how to do things alone anymore."

As we tick down the list of challenges associated with "making it," we now move on to one of the greatest: How do you keep going?

Perseverance

So at this point, the natural question would seem: Is it all worth it? -- All of the hard work and hardship that musicians go through in the name of such a long shot? Antigone Rising is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to trying to make it in the music business. But even now, with a record deal, their shining star is not set in stone. The future is always uncertain for anyone in the entertainment business; just because they are signed doesn't mean the hard work (or the hardship) is over.

Kristen discusses what fuels the perseverance that keeps Antigone Rising on track:

    I think that when you do what we do ... I'm sure most artists and bands would agree -- you have to be crazy enough to think that you are right around the corner from being a superstar in order to keep going. And there always does seem to be this, like, dangling carrot that keeps you going. And it's almost like a delusion. It's almost like the water, the mirage, on the highway [laughing]. I think that it's part of the game, part of the delusion. You always think you're right on the... the brink of big things.

    You have to be blind mad and obsessed with yourself. You've got to be pretty narcissistic. You've got to think you're pretty neat to think your going to pull this off. 'Cause it's hard work. It is really hard work. But, it's so worth it in the end, you know?

Antigone?
Antigone is the heroine of the Sophocles tragedy of the same name. Antigone defied Creon, the powerful ruler of Thebes, to honor her fallen brother Polyneices, an enemy of Thebes. In her defiance, Antigone found her true strength; and in Creon's harsh retribution he found his undoing. Antigone is a dense tale dealing with the themes of pride, gender roles, tyranny, the pitfalls of inaction, and moral and divine law.

Despite the forces arrayed against her, Antigone consistently rises to the occasion to stand up for what she believes is right. She meets her fate knowingly, with bravery and conviction.

Making It

Having examined Antigone Rising's path to "making it" from several angles and seeing what they have done to get where they are, let's return to the question that was asked earlier in this article: What is success? What does "making it" really mean?

There are so many different paths that lead to "making it" -- and so many destinations that could be considered having "made it" -- that it is still hard to define. Ultimately, if the artist achieves what he has set out to do in music, then he has succeeded, whether it's to make money or a difference.

If it is truly up to each artist to define success on his own terms, then Antigone Rising has truly "made it." No matter what happens as a result of the record contract, Antigone Rising has toured, traveled and achieved everything they have set out to do. With a well-crafted style, a sense of self-determination, a hard-earned fan base, a tried-and-true personal dynamic and a school-of-hard-knocks business education, even if the label were to drop Antigone Rising tomorrow, they could simply return to what they have always done: play, play and play some more.

Kristen inadvertently defines success when she answers a question about her life these days:

    I think my ultimate dream has always been to be in a band, to make music and make a living doing it ... And I've done it. We're doing it; we're living our lives exactly how we wanted to ... and it's happening exactly how I wanted it to be. It's pretty amazing.
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