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How Making It Works: Antigone Rising

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.