Tips, Tools and Perspective for Being More Empowered

Welcome to my self-empowerment blog--as seen in The Huffington Post Guide to Blogging! I used to be a wimp and never got taken seriously. When I became one of the first chicks to start a record label, I learned to navigate the male dominated music industry and earned respect, without raising my voice or getting overtly tough. I transferred those skills into all areas of life and now get what I want from most people. I'll share those lessons here by talking about my observations of situations and habits that hold both men and women back from being as empowered as possible. I'll also give tips for more effective communication, handling yourself with more confidence, and in general, how to come across as more serious--whether it's at work, dealing with an annoying phone company, your mother, a romantic partner and anyone else you want to feel more in control with. Everybody can use more tools for taking control of their lives, like in my latest book, Nice Girls Can Finish First (McGraw-Hill). Please subscribe if you'd like more!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Interview with Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson is a signer/songwriter from Staten Island. She released her Girls and Boys album in 2005, with a college radio campaign and a few festivals, which created a small buzz. Not able to quit her day job at that point, she couldn’t go out on tour. So she didn’t expect too much to happen for her music career. Then she put songs on MySpace. A music licensing company found her there and they started working together. It evolved into a management arrangement too. After licensing a song to Grey’s Anatomy in 2006, record sales increased. They chose to go slowly. Sales were more electronic than physical. Then Old Navy used her song, The Way I Am, in a TV commercial. Sales escalated and they got distribution with RED for the CD.

Ingrid’s SUCCESS proves that solid talent can rise to the top when people can become aware of it! Her original goal was to get a record deal. Now she’s reconsidering that, as she likes having control of her musical destiny. I talked to Ingrid to get her take on her SUCCESS. She was very sweet, humble and grateful for what’s happened for her career.

How do you feel about being independent? The whole idea was to see how far can we get before we signed. The further along I got, the more the idea of actually signing faded away. I still haven’t totally crossed that off my mind. I don’t know what the future holds. For now, I feel like the way my career is going and the way the major labels world is going, that I trust myself and feel safe with my own decisions. I know I’m not going to drop myself! While I don’t have a $200,000 push behind me and I’m not getting my face plastered everywhere—all the stuff major labels do, I get to choose where my money goes and what promotion happens. I’m not seeking huge fame so I don’t see a need now. If I can finance myself, why not? It’s kind of a no-brainer at this point. But I don’t ever pooh pooh record deals.

Did you expect all of this to happen? I never expected much. I thought, well, I’ll put my stuff out there and see what happens. Every once in a while I’d get these bursts of needing to figure out what I was doing and how am I going to make this work. And it would always come back to I couldn’t leave and go on tour. I had to stay home and work. So I thought that this wasn’t going to happen.

The Old Navy commercial was part of the whole upward swing of my career. It was luck that somebody came across my profile on MySpace, heard my song and liked it. Of course it has to do with good songwriting. I didn’t expect it to blow up like it did. That song was like the baby on the record. I didn’t expect it to go much of anywhere. It only played for two weeks. There was nothing to identify me or the song. It was all about people seeking it out, which I think is kind of incredible. Our sales improved vastly. At first it was more digital sales but now it’s become more physical. We have a lot of promotions going on in different retail stores.

How did you progress after the first song was on Grey’s Anatomy? Record sales started to go up, so we ordered more. We started out really slow, with all indie stores, iTunes and CDBaby. I’d periodically order more CDs but had more sales on iTunes though. Once the Old Navy commercial happened, we knew we had to step it up. So we got a whole bunch more. Now I have a distribution company—RED.

Why did you go slowly? The pieces started coming together and we kept the demand higher than the product. We didn’t want to overshoot it. That can be terrifying. So we have been inching along. Within the span of the past year and a half it seems to be going pretty fast. We could have made a lot of choices to speed things up but we kept holding the reins and keep holding the reins. Now I’m at a point where we’ve sold over 200,000 records and we’re still selling. We’re also aggressively touring across the country. Things have tapered off a little. That’s how it is. It’s peaks, then it goes down. Then it goes back up again and then goes down. As long as it doesn’t go back down below the last low point, as long as it stays on a basic incline, then everything is good.

You’re on your first major tour. How do you feel about it? I sort of went backwards. I sold the records before I went out on the road. Now I’m trying to connect with the people who bought the record by going all over the country. I’m not going to just sell records and not do anything. You have to follow through. I have to connect with these people who are fans now. They don’t even know what I look like. A huge part of the music business is the live show. That’s one thing that can never be replicated. You can make DVDs, people can watch you, they can steal your music. But there’s nothing like the connection you make with people when they’re at a show and you’re all in the same room together. That’s something that nothing can duplicate. And now record labels are trying to take touring money. Touring is a mixed thing for me. You feel displaced all the time, in a different city every day. It’s sort of disorienting. But when you have a great show, it makes it all worth it. Connecting with fans is like a drug. Of course when a show is bad, you think what’s the point?

How would you like to be able to give back? I’d love to have my music in something I support. I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that one of my songs is going to be tied to an organization [that’s a charity I believe in]. Things like that make you feel more human.

Is there anything you learned about having the right attitude that helped you? Be thankful and grateful. Live it like it’s going to be gone tomorrow. Enjoy it in the now. Be humble about it. You could be nothing next year. Treat everybody the same and with respect. Be grateful for everybody who comes to your show.

What are you most grateful for? There’s so much. Right now I’m most grateful for the people who have helped me make this life happen. I’m also grateful that I was given a talent by some higher being or wherever it came from. I feel very lucky that I’m able to make music that people like, that I like.

Best advice for musicians who want be SUCCESSFUL? You can’t expect anything. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try really hard. Put your music in as many places as possible. And, align yourself with artists that you like. I have a great community of people in New York and a great community of people in L.A. It really helps to have friends, that you think are talented. Everybody looks out for each and helps everybody out. I opened for Josh Radin. He introduced me to different people. He’s very sweet and helpful. Write music that’s really from you and not what you think other people want you to make. That’s what happened with my first record. I made songs I thought I should make.

What does SUCCESS mean to you? I want to have money when I’m older. SUCCESS is being able to take care of yourself financially and being able to do the thing you were meant to do. If you’re content, that’s SUCCESS. And if you can do what you’re passionate about and make a living out of it, that’s really SUCCESS to me.

Check out Ingrid Michaelson and her music. She's touring and may be coming to a city near you!

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Becky said...

Terrific interview! I feel inspired.

Mary said...

I discovered Ingrid's music through a monthly e-newsletter from Borders. Her story really is inspiring, and I like the whole idea of independent record labels and self-production. Apparently her sweater was stolen at one of her shows. Someone created a MySpace profile for the purloined sweater. It's pretty funny.

Daylle Deanna Schwartz said...

I agree Becky and Mary that Ingrid's story is inspiring. It shows that talent really can rise on its own merit.

Pinkybow said...

I knew Ingrid's music but not who she was. This was interesting! I've been enjoying your interview series. Thanks Daylle!

bert jerred said...

Nicely done - all the best to both of you.

Daylle Deanna Schwartz said...

Happy to educate you Pinkybow!

Thanks for your kind words Bert!

amanda said...

Ingrid Michaelson is collaborating on a contest to see who can best cover her hit track "The Way I Am." The winner scores an autographed Gibson guitar.

Here's the link to the contest if interested:

Daylle Deanna Schwartz said...

Thanks for the heads up Amanda.

Red said...


As a female singer/songwriter - you inspire me to be better. Your music is beautiful and you obviously have a great soul as well. Thanks for keepin it real.

Great interview. Look forward to more.