Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Making It Works: Antigone Rising

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."