Interview by C. Vincent Plummer (@cvpmusic) - co-founder and social strategist for Bedloo.com
I’m here today with Mindy Gledhill. She is an American indie folk singer-songwriter who’s toured nationally, runs successful crowdfunding campaigns, had her music on TV shows and even the Super Bowl.
Check her out:
Vincent: Give our audience a little background about where you grew up, how you started playing music, and the moment that you decided to commit to playing fulltime and professionally?
Mindy: I grew in the coastal redwoods of Northern California in a little city called Eureka. I never played music very seriously. I was late bloomer. Growing up, I had music lessons. I had piano in elementary school. But it wasn’t until high school that I really wanted to commit to being a musician.
That came about because I could not get into anything. I couldn’t make it into the high school play or the chamber choir. I just decided since nobody is going to let me in, I’m going to create my own opportunities.
I got a job making smoothies, so I could pay for voice lessons. For five years it was just auditions for things and trying to get into things and I committed to it.
Vincent: Who was your biggest musical inspiration growing up?
Mindy: There are so many musical inspirations for me growing up. It’s hard to pick just one. But a few that standout are Lisa Loeb, The Sundays and The Cardigans.
Vincent: Give a shout out to another musician, club promoter, venue, or manager who you feel like you eternally owe gratitude. Somebody that really gave you a chance to shine when others wouldn’t and you were still wet behind the ears.
Mindy: I got really lucky to be able to work with Kaskade. Kaskade was just nominated for a Grammy and also for his previous album nominated for Grammy. Me as an independent artist and pretty new in the music scene, I was really lucky to be able to get on his album. That gave me just huge exposure to a new audience and a new genre of music for me. That was just such a great experience for me.
Vincent: Tell us about that process. How did that come about?
Mindy: I approached one of Kaskade’s producers to produce my first independent album. I didn’t know him at the time. But I just got brave and approached him and he turned me down after I met with him and he just said, “It’s not the right timing, not the right fit.”
But a couple of years later, a mutual friend said, “You should really listen to this girl, Mindy Gledhill. I think you’d really like her voice as collaboration with Kaskade.” He was pretty skeptical, because he had met with me, and that just wasn’t the right time.
But he gave me another try, and for whatever reason, the second time around he just loved the way my voice sounded on Kaskade tracks. It’s a good lesson to learn that sometimes timing is everything.
Growing Your Fan base
Vincent: Did you find it that it was harder to grow your first one hundred true fans or your first one thousand true fans?
Mindy: That’s a really good question. I guess it's apples and oranges for me, because growing those first one hundred fans, I probably did more touring then, than I do now, to grow those first one hundred. I would take whatever I could get as far as getting in front of people and getting heard.
I think that’s really important when you’re first starting out, is to play at open mics all the time and to open for people. Do what you can, I think that’s a really a strength building exercise as well as far as your craft goes. I think it really builds you and makes you better.
But then later, when you build that craft through fanbase and you have fanbase that’s starting to help generate income, I think it’s different. Because then you’re really exercising more of the business aspect of it. Learning how to manage those fans and from a business perspective, how to generate that income, and how to keep them engaged, and how to grow more fans. I think there are just different things about it.
The Pledge Music Campaign
Vincent: What was it like to run a successful PledgeMusic campaign? Am I correct that you had over eight hundred pledges? How did you pull that off?
Mindy: Yeah. I think I had about eight hundred and seventy-five pledges on my campaign. It’s interesting because I wasn’t originally going to do a Pledge Music campaign. But I worked with a company called Cyber PR.
They said, “Look you’d be crazy not to do a crowdfunding campaign along with your new album. Because you have such a great grassroots fanbase, and these people will want to be involved.”
It was a real leap of faith for me. I’ve mixed feelings about it still, because you’re just really putting yourself out there. At the same time it was just beautiful to watch it all unfold, and see how people that follow your music really do want to be involved with what you’re doing. It makes it more meaningful to them and it makes it more special.
It definitely took a lot of energy, but it was worth it. It was a great experience for me.
Lessons Learned from the Campaign
Vincent: Well let’s talk about the lessons that you learned from that. How involved did you allow your fans to get in the process? What mistakes did you make? What were the really valuable lessons that you learned from it?
Mindy: I’ll just be really open with you about it. I did a lot of incentives. The next time around, I’d probably have fewer incentives just to keep things more simple.
But I did private songwriting lessons, private vocal coaching. I took people out to lunch. I did private house concerts, a lot of one-on-one stuff, which I really love.
Because I’m independent and I do so much myself, part of what was tricky was that, is meeting with people and then having your personal contact information. Most people respect that. But it’s been interesting to have some people continue to try to get in touch and use that down the road.
There are great things about really being personal with your fans. But then sometimes there are boundaries that need to be set also, with people having your personal information. That was a little bit of a challenge.
But also fulfilling the amount of pledges, I think no one is ever prepared for that completely. That takes a lot of time. I felt like my time was really dedicated to that for at least 3 months after the campaign was over. You just have to be prepared for the time that it takes to fulfill all of the pledges.
Then you’re bound to have something go wrong or maybe some things that you shipped don’t arrive or some people are unhappy with their order. There is definitely trying to control all of those things after the fact as well.
Vincent: You’re known for running a grassroots style campaign of “do it yourself marketing.” If I heard correctly, your children’s nanny helps out with this. Talk to me about some of the creative ways you’ve connected with your fans. Why has this been the chosen methodology for marketing?
Mindy: I have to be creative, because I do have children. It’s really important for me to be super involved in their lives as much as I can. I have a nanny. At the beginning of this campaign, she was helping a lot with the campaign, doing some assisting as well as nannying.
Some days we just worked together at home all day long. We tag team with the kids where, if I really feel like I need to step into another room and get some stuff done, she would be playing with them. If she feel like they’re things that she can do, she’ll step into another room and take care of them, while I’m playing with the kids, or attending to their needs. We’ve definitely been creative about it.
Experience with Fans
Vincent: Talk to me about the most heartwarming situation you’ve ever had with a fan of yours.
Mindy: That’s hard, because there have been so many. But one cool experience that comes to mind is when I was doing my Pledge Music campaign, the very first day that I launched it, I think it’s the most nerve-racking day.
Some things had gone wrong that day and I was feeling pretty vulnerable. But I had a fan that got on and pledged a considerable amount of money. I was in the studio that same day starting to record the vocals for the first time on my album.
I got on Instagram and took a picture in the vocal booth. I said, “I’m going to dedicate this vocal of the album to this fan,” who just had pledged a sizable amount of money to the campaign.
He got on, on Instagram and he said, “You know what is really cool? I actually keep bees. I play your music to one of my beehive as an experiment to see if it affects how the honey tastes.”
Vincent: That’s awesome.
Mindy: I was like that’s absolutely crazy, because the name of the song that I had just dedicated to you, that I am about to record, is called “Honey.” That was kind of a cool experience. One year later, this fan has now become my manager. That was a really cool relationship that was made during the campaign.
Over the years on the Road
Vincent: I’d love for you to share with us a story about the worst thing that’s ever happened, and what about the best thing that’s ever happened to you on the road.
Mindy: The worst thing that has ever happened to me is actually probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me on the road. For a Valentine’s concert that I did a couple of years ago, it was a sold-out show in my hometown venue, and I had totally lost my voice.
I had never cancelled a show before at that point and I really didn’t want to cancel a sold-out show. I just decided to go through the show, and if I had to just whisper through the whole show and just see what happens.
I really had lost my voice. I didn’t even have squeak left in it. Honestly I kept praying that a miracle would happen and my voice would come back. I just stepped on the stage and I got up on stage that night and I went through the show. You know what, my voice did not come back. There was no miracle there.
But the miracle was, that my audience singing a show for me. That’s probably the best thing that has ever happened to me performing on stage. I was so emotional.
Vincent: I’m sure they totally appreciated that.
Mindy: Yeah. It was really cool experience to get up there and have the whole audience sing the whole show with me. But I just whispered through the words and they were my voice.
Getting your Music on TV/Film
Vincent: I saw that you recently had some placements on television. Talk to us about the process of getting your music to publishers and music supervisors. How were you able to capture their attention?
Mindy: That’s a great question and I know it’s something that’s on the minds of a lot of independent artists right now. TV / Film is a great part of the business. It’s lucrative and gets you exposure.
I go to conferences. That’s the number one thing I tell people when they ask, “How do you get your music placed on TV/Film?” I go to TV/Film conferences and I pitch my music myself to music supervisors. Most of the time when I’ve done that, I’ve gotten a placement out of it. That’s one way that I’ve gotten it.
But the other way is just your networking within the music business. The people that you know in the business - that’s so valuable. Unexpected contacts and friends in the business can often bring you those placements.
I’ve had a lot of those, just through my networking within the businesses. Like, “I know this girl. Her song will be great for this film.” So, that’s what happens.
I think my music it lends itself well with the TV and film because it has a pretty positive vibe in general. Positivity and happiness, at least for advertising, usually are really a great fit together. So, that how that’s worked out well for me.
Vincent: Tell the audience some of the television shows that you’ve been able to get your music on?
Mindy: I had my music placed in Bones, the TV show on Fox. A TV show called Jane by Design on ABC Family. I’ve had it on 60 Minutes. I had Fruit of the Loom commission me to write a song for their Olympic ad campaign. Then I recently had a commercial in the Super Bowl. And then the Winter Olympics, which is happening right now.
Vincent: Wow. What was it like to get your music in a Super Bowl commercial? What kind of conversion did you know notice from that to your fan base? Were there huge spikes in traffic? How does that work?
Mindy: Well, the song that I did for the Super Bowl wasn’t one of my album songs. It was a commission instrumental piece. It was more of a composition, not as much as song and more background.
The main part of the commercial was the story and the narration. It wasn’t the kind of thing where people are like, “Wow, I need to go look at that music,” because it was supporting a story that was being told in the commercial.
But the Fruit of the Loom commercial for the Olympics was really big for me. It was a song, there were no words in the commercial. The song was the commercial. So, that was huge traffic for me.
Also Fruit of the Loom offered the song as a download on their website, and people kind of went nuts over it. That was really cool for me.
Advice to Artists and Creatives
Vincent: That’s great. Do you have any advice you think other artists or creatives should know in about in this business? What would you yell from the mountain top?
Mindy: I think the first thing that stands out to me when artists ask for advice is, and I know this might sound as kind of cliché, but to be authentic. Because I think so many people ask the question like, “Am I good enough?”
I think as soon as you ask that question, like you’re not going to go anywhere. Because there is nobody that can give you permission to be good enough to make it in this business, except for yourself. You’re the only person that can give you that permission.
Once you give yourself permission to be authentic and to be you, that is what is attractive to people. That’s what will gain your fan base. That’s my main piece of advice to musicians is don’t try to copycat any other musicians. Just totally be yourself, and be authentic and own it.
Vincent: What are your plans for the future?
Mindy: All right. My biggest goal this year is to get a tour bus. I really want to get a bus that looks cool. I’d love to get like a retro looking bus. But it’s got to be mechanically sound. That’s going to take some bucks to put into it.
What I really want to do is get some sponsors to help me document and resurrect a tour bus and how to be something that people can watch as a web series. We’ll film and this bus being restored and then taking it on the road.
That’s another thing as I want to tour. I want that bus to help me tour more this year. We probably wouldn’t have it in time for next month. But I have a cross-country tour next month. I’m going to Denver and Ames, Iowa. I’m going to New York, to Brooklyn, then New York City and then Washington DC.
You can check all of that out MindyGledhill.com. I’m on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook.
Vincent: Well, hey, Mindy thank you so much for this. I really appreciate your time.
Mindy: Yeah thank you so much. I’m really passionate about this stuff. I love talking about it. Thank you for having me as a guest.
Vincent: Thank you guys so much for tuning in. We’d love to hear your feedback. I am @cvpmusic on Twitter or hit us up at @Bedloo. You can find Mindy on Twitter @MindyGledhill. Don’t forget to use #Fangagement.