How Making It Works: Antigone Rising

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.