#69: Melissa Ferrick | Singer-Songwriter [Podcast] - Jenn T. Grace—Book Publisher, Speaker, and Author Skip to the content

#69: Melissa Ferrick | Singer-Songwriter [Podcast]

Thanks for listening to episode #69 of the podcast. Today’s guest, Melissa Ferrick, is a master of many trades – an acclaimed performing artist (currently listed as #20 of the top 50 women in indie music), a record label owner as well as a professor at Berklee College of Music. She shares her take on the evolution of the music industry in the digital age, her ups and downs and the lessons she’s learned as a business owner as well as the new music venture she started. I’ve been a fan for over a decade and I know after hearing her insights, you will be too. I hope you enjoy the episode. As always, feel free to leave your feedback!

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AUDIO TITLE:  Episode #69 – Melissa Ferrick Interview

Jenn T Grace:

My first question that we just kind of briefly went over would be how did you become to the place that you are today? Like what was the path that led you to being on your twelfth album for example that you are in the process of releasing now?

Melissa Ferrick:

Sure. Really started in 1991. I had an opportunity to open for Morrissey, the former lead singer of the band called the Smiths. And I was signed to a major label deal at that time, I was signed to Atlantic Records. So my first album came out in 1993, and I had an incredible opportunity to be an artist on a major label, which not a lot of people have that. It was really the hay day of the music industry. You’re talking about Nirvana, and Jewel, and Hootie and the Blowfish, and Sound Garden; it was a great time to be putting records out. And in ’95 I put a second record out with them, and didn’t sell enough records. I did have some success in Europe on those two albums, and some success in the states too, as far as just name recognition and having the ability to get on some pretty cool tours. Particularly Weezer I think for me was the coolest one I got to be on. And then that started my path of independent record labels, and DIY, and cell phones came out, and AOL started. So I really was one of these people- I am one of these people that had survived a lot of changes in the music industry. So I signed an Indie deal with a label in Boulder, Colorado and made three records for them. And that was a pretty standard 50/50 deal at the time. That was- from a business perspective anyway, that was the new thing. Look we’re going to give the artist 50% instead of 10% which is what major labels gave them. However you were going from a budget of a major label of $150,000 to make a record to a budget of $5,000. So the numbers didn’t really make a lot of sense. So that 50% back actually wasn’t as great as it seemed. However I do still get royalty checks from them, so that’s great because you recouped. You made the $5,000 back, and at Atlantic it was hard to make the $150,000 back. So that was really- after I finished working with Warp Records and Rob Gordon in Boulder, that was in 1999 I gave him the record ‘Freedom’ which the song ‘Drive’ is on, which is like my most popular song. And that was when I realized that I should be doing this on my own and putting out records on my own label. Certainly at that time Ani DiFranco, she was huge at that time, and she was owning her own record label and putting records out. And then this other woman named Amiee Mann that I’m a huge fan of had this record called ‘Magnolia’ and it won an Oscar, and the label that she had bet on didn’t want to put the record out. So everything was really, really changing and I thought, ‘Well I’ve got to just open up my own label.’ So I did, and I started my record label in the year 2000 with an $8,000 credit card, and just put the bet on myself, and released ten albums on that label between the years 2000 and 2009. And in that process released almost an album a year, and everything changed in that time period which I think is really important for people to understand. Is that going from selling physically probably 30,000 to 40,000 units per album in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003. 2004 came along and that’s really when iTunes started taking over. And so what we have here is a moment in time where you’re used to ordering 30,000 records from a plant Jenn, then suddenly you don’t need 30,000 units anymore because 30% of your sales is digital. And so now you’re left with 10,000 copies of your record in your house, and you’ve already paid for them, and you can’t sell them, and that’s a loss. So what ended up happening to me was I was on the road doing 200 shows a year, and I didn’t have a business manager, and financially things got completely out of whack. I continued to make records and basically I was spending money I didn’t have. And I ended up having to claim Chapter 13, which is something that I’m just starting to talk about now. It’s been an incredible experience, and I just finished that up this year. So for me as a 44 year old woman, I really have re-learned how to run a business in the last I would say eight years. I signed a deal with MPress Records and made two records with them while I was in this Chapter 13. Got completely out of debt, accrued no new debt, and relaunched my record label this last year with an entirely new platform, with an entirely new way of approaching business. And because I am a business owner, and an entrepreneur in that way, so I’ve opened up a separate company. So that’s probably a very quick version of how I got to where I am. Have been through- continuing to make music, and trying to stay current musically. I don’t even really try to stay current, I just write the songs I write. But I think more effort in trying to stay on top of things from a business and- like you’re talking about, in the marketing aspect is really staying ahead of the curve, and that’s difficult to do sometimes when you’re also the artist.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah I was actually- when you were first talking about it, and knowing that you had first- your first record, signed to the first record label in ’91. And then to jump nine years later to say, “This isn’t working for me, I’m going to found my own label.”

Melissa Ferrick:

Right.

Jenn T Grace:

So that had to have been a huge shift, my guess would be, between being not- I feel like in that first nine years, you were probably in the mode of being just the person producing the work. Versus now having to transition into being the one who’s doing the work in terms of the actual music, but then every other aspect of the business. So how did you I guess be able to switch from musician to business owner hat, kind of going I would imagine back and forth, especially since you had said that you didn’t have a business manager at the time.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, I didn’t have a business manager, and I have had historically really bad experiences with managers in general. And I think that part of this is just because I am- I probably am as strong of a business owner as I am as an artist. I might be stronger. And I remember when I was on Atlantic, I was 22-23 years old, and I was in the head of publicity at Atlantic Record’s office and in my head I was really confused and wanted to talk to her about why she was doing things the way she was doing them because I didn’t agree, and I saw a different way, and I saw a different way to market my music.  And being gay and being out and knowing my fan base better than anyone because I’m in front of them. And so that- in hindsight I certainly don’t think she appreciated me telling her how to do her job, and people don’t like that. And I was young, and brazen, and a maverick, but I had good ideas. And so it’s really important to meet people I think when they are having an idea, even if you get your back up a little bit and you think, ‘That’s crazy, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re 22, I’ve been doing this forever.’ But I find- and I find this with my students is really to try to stay completely open-minded. So in ’99 when I opened my label it just was really out of complete frustration because I just knew there was a better way to do it, and this comes around every time which is if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. With my students I use Beyoncé as an example which is a huge example, but I tell these kids, for sure Beyoncé has a manager, probably more than one. And she has lots of handlers that are around her in the think tank. But ultimately the decision is hers, and that’s why it’s working. Or for Jay-Z, or for any of these- Justin Timberlake, any of these kind of huge artists, Taylor Swift. These are extremely intelligent people, and they are good examples to look at, even if you are selling- I sell 20,000 records or 30,000 records. But even if they’re someone who sells ten times as many as you, it doesn’t really matter. It’s about trusting your instincts, knowing that you know better than anyone else your market, but also being able to take the information from people that do sit around and crunch numbers, and place ads, and take out radio advertisements, and play for free, and show up for the HRC, and make sure that you’re catering to your audience in a way that is most importantly that is truthful- for me, that’s what’s most important. And then if it also helps advance your visibility and your career and your sales, great. So for me it’s truthfully an integrity comes first, and then the rest of it comes second. For other people it’s the opposite, it’s flipped the other way. But I’ll tell you I’ve done gigs where that hasn’t been the case, where what came first was the check, and it always feels horrible, and the older I get and the more I do this, the less I’m able to do that kind of work. It really is- any time I do it I feel terrible for like a month.

Jenn T Grace:

Not a good choice.

Melissa Ferrick:

Sometimes we all have to go to work, because we need to pay our mortgage. But it’s hard, it’s a hard thing to do.

Jenn T Grace:

So there’s so many things that you just said that I feel are so beautiful. Number one, the fact that you came to founding your own record label was merely because you knew that there was a better way of doing it. I feel like really kind of proves the point of what you were saying, where you feel like you actually might be a stronger business owner than you are a musician, which I think is amazing and so not the norm. And I don’t want to generalize or cast a very large blanket on artists, but in my experience I find that artists really do struggle with the business side of their business. So it’s pretty awesome that you just saw- and I think it’s funny that you were saying that it’s not always appreciated when 22 year old comes in and tells you how to do your job. But ultimately, obviously that decision has worked out really well to your advantage.

Melissa Ferrick:

Well I think so, and I think it’s about continuing to do that, and that’s why I keep my teaching gig at Berkeley. Because it’s exhausting and it takes away from my- teaching does take away from my ability to tour as much, to write as much, and to run my company as much- as focused I should say. But what it gives me is an unbelievable look into what is happening right now. Because these kids are 17 to 21 years old, and that is a market that I don’t currently hit. And the only reason I am hitting it now, in the tiniest way, is because of those students. And I’ll tell you what, none of them care that I’m gay. None of them. It’s not even an issue, it’s not even brought up, they just love the songs. Like my new song ‘Careful.’ I played that demo for my students before it even came out- the rough mixes, and they just- there is not gender discrimination and there’s no discrimination around me being queer. And they just hear the song, and they- but they know me, they see me in the class, and so they like me. And I think they also know that they can say, “I felt like the intro was too long. I didn’t like it when you went to this part-” they’re really helpful.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s like having a mini focus group.

Melissa Ferrick:

And I’m glad that I’m able to hear that.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, it’s like having your own focus group, right? So that way you can just say, “Here’s what I’m doing, what do you think?” And it’s from a completely different perspective.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, exactly. And I’ve always wanted to be a member of a think tank, that’s kind of my new bucket list goal, is to get employed by some sort of think tank, because I really do love working in small groups of people, figuring out better ways to do things. It’s such a turn-on for me. I’m going to start helping other artists now too, but more from a publishing standpoint, and then placing songs. I really think that that’s a place that I have strength in, and hearing songs and hearing placement, and so I’m going to start. I have one student that I just actually produced some of her work and I’m going to help try to get her some placement, and open up a little tiny Indie placement company. Because I think that that is something that I could see myself doing and getting real satisfaction, and filling that space inside me that needs to be really nourished and exploited for lack of a better word. I need to do that kind of work, which is getting people to listen to great new music.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, that’s awesome. And it’s great that it’s just kind of expanding your services, if you will, of your business, and starting new businesses and really impacting a much broader reach.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, for sure. For sure.

Jenn T Grace:/h5>
That’s awesome. So I want to ask you a question around coming out. And I know that you had just said that with your students, they could really care less. They like your music, they like your music, and your identity gender-wise or sexual orientation really doesn’t matter to them. But this is now in 2015 and you first came out on the scene in ’91. And from my recollection you’ve been out the entire time. So in that time I would imagine there’s probably been some interesting instances where being out may have either been a benefit or a negative. Can you share maybe just maybe an example of a time where either one of those scenarios may have been the case?
Melissa Ferrick:

Sure. Let me pick one. You know I haven’t been out the entire time, to be completely honest. I mean as far as from a public standpoint. So my first record came out in ’93, and at that time Atlantic Records opened up the first- as far as I’m aware, the first ever gay marketing division at a major label. And it was run by a man named Peter Galvan who had written a piece on me for Detour Magazine. Great guy, wonderful, wonderful guy- gay guy. And he was running the gay marketing department and they wanted me to come out. And promote my album through the gay marketing division. At this time there was also a record coming out by an artist named Jewel, and they were also going to be marketing that album towards the gay market. And I didn’t want to come out. I was unwilling to do that at that time. And I remember being in Ireland at a show with Dwight Yoakam, and I was doing an interview on a radio show, and the interviewer- I was wearing a ring at the time on my left ring finger that my girlfriend at the time had given me. And the interviewer asked me if I was married. And I lied, and I said, “I’m married to my music,” rather than this is ring from my girlfriend. And I remember that feeling which was terrible. I was denying who I was. And then when my second record was ready to come out, the first record hadn’t done what I wanted it to do, meaning I didn’t get famous. And I went to Atlantic and I said, “Let’s do the gay thing now,” because I wanted to use my queerness to sell more records. And whenever you come at something from that standpoint- and this goes back to me talking about really trying to come from a place of truth first rather than selling first. And so it completely failed. I tried to use my being gay as a way to get more press, and sell more records, and it came from not a pure place. And it didn’t do those things. It did get me a lot of press in the gay world, and I was dubbed the other Melissa, but it just was such a clear example to me of intent. It really- a lot of life comes down to what your intent is when you walk into a room. And I learned a lot through that experience. I wish I had been strong enough to do it with more integrity, but I wasn’t. I was where I was. At that time in my life I was also heavily drinking, and my recovery is a big part and I’ve been out about that for a long time. I really was struggling, I was in my addiction- active, and I really just was not in my body so to speak. I really was making decisions from a place of fear, and so that’s what happened. Since then of course, ’96 I really have changed a whole lot about myself and how I’m getting better with a whole bunch of things. So you know, now I just- so I kind of came out, but it’s one of those funny things that I always say to people it’s funny when someone ‘comes out.’ You come out and it’s like you’re on the cover of Out Magazine or The Advocate, and we already knew that you were gay.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Melissa Ferrick:

That’s why like what Melissa Etheridge did, like that’s impactful. That kind of stuff changes the world; KD Lang and Ellen DeGeneres. Get a billboard in the middle of Times Square laying with your girlfriend with a snake wrapped around you that everybody has to stare at every day. Now that’s visibility.

Jenn T Grace:

That is good marketing.

Melissa Ferrick:

That’s amazing, yeah. I remember that, and that was incredible. What a powerful thing to be able to do. Yeah, I remember talking to Brandy Carlisle about this in New York, she asked me if I had any advice on whether or not she should come out or not. And I remember telling her- this was during The Story record, before it really, really hit. And I remember saying, “It seems like you’re about to break, and break huge, and if you can do this on Diane Sawyer, that changes people’s lives.” It’s just really great. Anytime someone comes out it does change people’s lives I think, and it helps young people not feel alone, and I think it does impact the youth. And that’s what’s most important, is that kids don’t feel like they have to kill themselves because they’re queer. And that’s the impact it has, it’s a huge responsibility. And it really does make a difference to be out, it really does.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. And I think you’ve said a couple of really important things though, because for you at the time when someone was asking you to come out, it wasn’t right for you at that time. And I feel like you can’t have any guilt or regret around choosing to not come out when you knew in your heart that that wasn’t the right time for you. So I feel like a lot of times people are feeling like they’re forced into a situation where they have to come out, whether they want to or not. And then they have like guilt and regret, and they’re like, “Oh I shouldn’t have come out.” And it’s like you know what, you have to do what’s best for you. Even if it is really important to be out, it still kind of has to be on people’s terms when they feel like they’re going to be most effective. And going back to your truthful and integrity coming from those places, so I think that it’s really important. And then I also think when you were just talking about having an impact on LGBT youth, I remember when I came out when I was 19 which was probably in 2000, 2001-ish. You were one of the first artists that I came across.

Melissa Ferrick:

Oh wow.

Jenn T Grace:

And I don’t know if I was intentionally looking for LGBT artists, I have absolutely no idea, but I remember specifically that you were one of the first I came across. So even to that degree, it’s interesting now when we’re fast forwarding fifteen years or so, and it’s really cool for me to be able to talk to you, and just kind of hear about all these things because ultimately in the grand scheme of things, you have no idea how many different lives of young LGBT people you’ve impacted over the course of your career. And it’s probably really, really high.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah. One, thank you. I mean I just have one very specific memory of a show that I played in Santa Cruz, and a young queer kid came to the show, a young girl, she must have been 16. And it was a 21+ show, and she was standing outside, standing outside, and I was in the back of the dressing room where the door goes into the parking lot. So from the dressing room and then onto the stage, so it’s door outside and then a door onto the stage. And so I went outside and I started talking to her, and she had told me that she snuck out of her house and took a bus to come to the show. But she couldn’t get in. And so I went to the club owner, and I told him, and so I said, “Can she sit in my dressing room in a chair, and watch the show? Because there’s no booze in my dressing room.” And he agreed, and so it’s just like the little things like that which at the time for me don’t seem like a big deal, I’m like, “Well I’ll just put a chair-” like because I remember being so nonchalant about it. Just being like, “Well let me see if you can sit in my dressing room,” and she was like- And I see now that that’s probably I need to continue to think outside of myself, because that’s really what a lot of this is. Is it’s really not about me. And so I felt really- and it also made me feel really good to help this girl, and it was like wow, you snuck out of your house and you took a bus because you know, her family wouldn’t allow her to go to this gay show kind of a thing, as it was dubbed. And all you’ve got to do is get a folding chair, and set it up, and let the person sit there. It’s really not that big of a deal. For me it’s not a lot of work to do that. And the club owner said yes, and so you do have to clear it with the club, sometimes it’s impossible. But you do what you can, and you try to help people, and that’s really just- Being a musician, really I don’t know that people think of it as a service job. It really is. It’s like when I go get a massage from my Joan Ellen, who’s like this master Reiki woman who I go and get a lot of body work done with, and she’s the one that really taught me that. She was like, “It’s so important for you to do this kind of work for yourself because you give away constantly, you’re in a profession of service.” And I was like, “What is- really? I never thought about being a musician that way,” and she was like, “Oh yeah. You’re constantly giving.” And so it’s weird though because you’re standing on a stage and people are clapping for you, so I think from an audience perspective it’s sometimes people can forget that it actually is a revolving door. The door goes all the way around. So I give, and then you give, and then I give, and then you give. And that’s one of the most beautiful things about art. And particularly performance art. But I don’t think painters get as much, unless they’re having an opening and they’re standing there. But all performance art is that whether it’s a dancer, or slam poetry, or music.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. And you probably made such an impact on that person’s life, and you have no idea. And I’m sure there’s probably other people too, but like that one person, I’m sure she’ll probably remember that forever.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, well people helped me- I remember the people that have helped me along the way for sure. And like that’s just- it’s kind of my responsibility. Like that’s- if that was me and I had had to sneak out of my house and take a bus to see whoever it was that I was looking into, and then I couldn’t get in, I mean that’s devastating. Like then you’ve got to just wait around in the parking lot, and then take a bus home? What a bummer. What a bummer. So yeah, it was fun. It made me feel really good, and like I know she had a really good- I could see her every time I looked over to the right she was sitting there with this huge smile on her face.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Melissa Ferrick:

Sometimes I think about that moment. I hold onto that. That’s a really nice- I know it’s not really a coming out story, but it is in a way.

Jenn T Grace:

No that’s totally awesome, and I feel like it really goes well with my next question which is really kind of about inspiration and motivation, and what kind of keeps you inspired and motivated to continue doing what you’re doing every day? Especially since you’re balancing both the owning the business hat, and producing the music hat; which I’m sure at times can be- oh and being a part time professor at Berkeley. So combining those three things alone, I’m sure you have a lot to do.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, and what inspires me to keep going, I think is that I just want to be able to keep doing this. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to fall off the grid. I don’t want to become- I want to continue to be a valid artist. I think that my name recognition is really high, especially in the GLBT community, and then more and more in the song writing community which is great. In the singer/songwriter world I have a bunch of shows this year with Joan Armatrading which is huge. And I’m doing some shows with Loudon Wainwright III down in Florida this year, and those are like elders that have come before me that are known as great song writers. I mean Joan Armatrading is like the reason- like that was who I was listening to when I was in college trying to learn how to sing. So the fact that I get to open for her, and like be in the same room with her is mindblowing.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome.

Melissa Ferrick:

And so what keeps me going is really this desire to stay relevant. And that takes a lot of work, it’s much harder for artists now because the industry changes so rapidly, it’s still changing, and I have to find new ways to make a living doing this because the royalties are just not happening. So it’s like doing- basically just doing this job of being a musician and being an artist, and basically not getting paid. You get paid for your live shows, so thank God I can play live, and thank God I have a good live show. But royalty-wise, it’s just not happening, and it’s going to take a huge change I would think at kind of the Supreme Court level probably to get this copywrite infringement that’s going on everywhere fixed, because if every woman- or if every queer person in the United States that has heard my music, bought a copy of ‘Drive’ or whatever, like actually spent the $0.99 on it. I would be able to pay my mortgage a lot easier than I am. I’m an every other month-to-month person now. When I spent years as a month-to-month, like a lot of people in the world. But it’s not like I’m rolling in the dough. I still work really, really hard, and I just- the YouTube stuff is really difficult, I’m affiliated with a company called www.Audium.com right now whose job it is to kind of go out and get you your royalties due for YouTube streams, and- but the truth of the YouTube world is that basically an artist gets paid $1.50 for every 1,000 streams. So every time somebody listens to ‘Drive’ on YouTube, I get $1.50.

Jenn T Grace:

Wow.

Melissa Ferrick:

So that’s really, really- so right now I have over 200,000 plays of that song on YouTube, and the check I’m owed is $52.80. And it’s really sad, and I don’t think anyone thinks that that’s right. So it’s just really too bad, the fact that when you’re watching a YouTube video and the advertisement comes up, it’s so annoying, everybody is so annoyed that they have to watch this ad for five seconds. An artist doesn’t get paid unless you click on that ad. So the whole monetization thing is just- so the advertisement is getting in front of your face for five seconds, but nobody is getting- the artist isn’t getting paid, or the TV show that you want to watch isn’t getting paid unless you click on the ad. Which just seems insane to me.

Jenn T Grace:

I agree.

Melissa Ferrick:

You know, this is all business stuff that drives me crazy that I love to think about. But I really hope it changes, and my suspicion is that this will change once it really hits Hollywood, because I don’t think the music industry is worth enough money really for anyone to make any real change, and unfortunately that’s the way the world works. But when Tom Cruise doesn’t get paid his residuals, there will be a change. So because there’s all the writers that write all that stuff, and all the actors that have been used to getting paid for every single time Friends gets played on TV, Courtney Cox gets a check. Well what happens now? What happens now when you’re watching that on Netflix? Like nobody is getting any checks, so- but somebody is. Somebody is getting a check, and it’s not the artist and it’s not the writers, and that’s not fair.

Jenn T Grace:

How long do you think it’s going to be before some kind of change- like before I guess the technology kind of catches up with Hollywood?

Melissa Ferrick:

Probably- I don’t think long. I would think within five years.

Jenn T Grace:

Which is still five years longer that you have to go without being compensated properly.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, it is. And I want back royalties, you know? Right now you can’t collect on back royalties on YouTube, and I think that that’s the thing. I wish I had endless amounts of money so I could hire some amazing lawyer. I mean there’s a song on YouTube called ‘I am a Lesbian,’ which has my name on it that Clear Channel created. Which is not me, and it’s a Melissa Etheridge song that they changed the words to which are offensive and disgusting, and then they said that it was me singing it, and released it. And it’s on YouTube, I can’t get it off YouTube, and I have no recourse and I’d love to sue them for defamation of character. Because that’s really what it feels like, and then they sold it to E! with that song on it, and they supposedly gave the money to a children’s hospital. But I just think the whole thing is just so bizarre. So I have no idea how to handle situations like that. I guess I should call a lawyer at the HRC, because they would probably help me.

Jenn T Grace:

Oh I’m sure they would. I’m sure they would.

Melissa Ferrick:

But then you get a fan who comes to a show and says, “I head your song, ‘I am a Lesbian,'” I’m like, “That’s not my song.” I have to constantly- but do it without making them feel bad, because-

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, it’s not their fault.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, they thought it was funny, they thought I actually did that and that I was making kind of light of stuff, and then they realized that it’s a total ploy by this female DJ in Baltimore somewhere who thought it would be really funny. Yeah it’s weird, weird things like that happen to me.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, I’m sure you’re not alone, and I know this is all kind of like business related, and just the struggles of having- you need like a team of ten lawyers to be able to kind of go after all of the things that are like out there that are rightfully due, and that’s obviously expensive.

Melissa Ferrick:

But yeah, but this goes back- I mean this is- and so many people need lawyers to get what’s rightfully due to them, but they don’t have the money to hire a lawyer, which is why rich people get richer, and they’re able to protect themselves and people with less money aren’t able to protect themselves which is completely insane. You know, why I was fortunate enough to be able to be in a position where I was able to hire a fantastic attorney to help me through the Chapter 13. That was an extremely difficult and time consuming and emotional process that cost me a lot of money, it cost a lot of money to claim bankruptcy. And to learn how to start over, and to have a lawyer hold your hand through it, and teach you how to make sure that you don’t ever get in debt again. So I was fortunate enough to be able to do that, and I own a house I pay for every day, my fans bought this house, I worked hard for it, and I have a car that I paid off, and that’s about it. I live a pretty simple life, but it’s a good life and I just want to be able to continue to be a musician that puts records out and plays shows, and is able to do that without the fear that I’m going to lose my house and have to move in with my parents at 48. But you know, it’s kind of funny, it’s still the same. But it’s kind of like do you get more patient as you get older, or do you just get tired? I’m not- You get a better sense of humor, and life is short. It’s really the day- I have to stay in the day with it, life is good right now, and that’s really all that matters. I can’t see the future, and I can’t- like you said about I don’t really have any regrets about my past, and when I talked about the not having it in me to come out in Ireland that day, or tell my truth at that time, I wouldn’t be who I am now and I wouldn’t have learned the lessons I learned had I handled that differently. So I do believe that I’m better for it.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. And I’m wondering if you have any piece of advice that you’ve been given along the way that’s just kind of been one of those guiding principles for you; whether it’s from twenty years ago, or even two days ago. Is there anything that just kind of keeps you focused and brings you back to center?

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, one piece of advice that I still give to myself all the time, and I have to remember, is to never say yes or no right away. So I always think through every decision I make for at least 48 hours, I sleep on things for two nights. Even if- and I recently made a mistake around the [Inaudible 00:36:22], I was offered the west coast tour with her and I said yes right away because I was so excited. And I had to then call her agent and say, “I actually can’t do this,” which was devastating for a lot of my west coast fans. I mean it went up that I was going to come, and I couldn’t do it, I was in finals at Berkeley, I couldn’t afford to pick up the west coast with what I would be paid as an opening act which is not a lot, it was more for the exposure. And that was a great example of like, “Uh Melissa, you know better than that.” So I always tell that to my student and to anybody who asks me, like really try to take at least a day or two days before you make any huge decision. That’s probably the best- And then the other one is just normally I really do know what the right thing to do is immediately. There are very few instances in my life that I really didn’t know what to do. Very few, maybe inside myself, inside my soul, knew what the right thing to do was. And so I always try to instill that reminder in people. You know what the answer is, whether or not you’re willing to admit it, is a whole other bag. So I really try to ask my inner most self if I’m ready to really say, ‘This is actually what I want to do,’ or ‘I’m not willing to do that.’ But that takes a long time to learn how to do really well.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, and refine over time.

Melissa Ferrick:

Absolutely, yeah the time that it takes to recognize that answer.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really good advice though. I feel like I should definitely take the sleep on it for a night or two advice myself, because I do have a tendency to be like, “Yes! Let’s do it!” And then like, “Oh I can’t believe I just did that.” But yeah, I totally get it. So I want to switch gears slightly and talk a little bit about marketing to the LGBT community specifically. I know that in a couple questions back in the beginning, you were talking about conscious decisions to not go down the avenue of Atlantic when they had that gay marketing division for example. So that was obviously then, and we are talking now in 2015. Are you at any point now consciously trying to continue to reach out to the LGBT community because you have such a strong base there? Or is it just kind of something that is happening as part of a larger, just marketing effort that you’re doing? Or I guess maybe just give a lay of the land of maybe what your tactics, or what your thoughts are these days.

Melissa Ferrick:

Sure. I’ve never specifically targeted the LGBT community from a marketing perspective. As far as, okay when I hire a publicist to help publicize the fact that I have a record out, I’ve worked with a lot of publicity companies in the past. Press Here is one of them out of New York, Sacks & Co. out of New York. Toolshed which does all the online social media and marketing. And then now with Mona who- Mona I think probably has the largest LGBT clientele than anyone I’ve ever worked with before. So this is a new relationship of finding her. And I found Mona because I got an email from She Magazine in Florida, they wanted to do an article on me so they emailed me. And I reached out to the editor and said, “Hey I’m thinking about hiring a publicist for this record. I don’t know if I really have the funds for it,” that was the honest truth. “But do you know anyone? Who would you suggest?” And they suggested Mona.

Jenn T Grace:

Nice.

Melissa Ferrick:

So that’s how I met her. And what I do think about- and I kind of ruminate about a lot in my head, is particularly the gay male market, and dance tracks, and remixes, and how do I get- for instance can I play Bear Week in Provincetown? Because I know that I have some fans that are bears. And if those guys tend to like female singer/songwriters, how come I’m not selling more records to them? How come I’m not seeing more people at my shows from that community? So I think about things like that, and then eighty other things get put in the top ten list of things that need to get done, and more time goes by, and then you don’t do it, and then you put another record out. But I do have a goal with this album as far as particularly- which I guess would target a market, although- So there’s a song called ‘Scenic View’ on my new album which is like an anthem, it’s turned into a bit of an anthem because of the bridge which is specifically about a personal experience I had with the woman that I am with, has a family member who is not thrilled about her being with a woman. And that has never happened to me before. I’ve always been completely accepted by my girlfriends’ families, and there’s just- I’ve been very lucky in that way. And this was really upsetting, and so I wrote this song called ‘Scenic View’ and the bridge has the lyric, “People who don’t want to see our happiness I suspect they’re deeply sad. People who sit in judgment of us are twisting words to justify the stance that our love is wrong.” And then there’s an entire last verse which is, “No more of a downer, it’s an upwards which is don’t stop trusting. Open up your eyes because we are standing on the edge of the rest of our lives. I know it’s been exhausting to be grave for this long, but we are approaching the scenic view. You carry me, I carry you.” And when the record came out, it came out like right after the Caitlin Jenner thing came down, and marriage was legalized. And my father was like, “Listen, this song is like so right now what’s going on.” So then I had this dream that I was performing the song with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Choir because I have a friend who sings in it. So then now I want to like arrange the song, and try to get- see if it can be arranged by someone so that it can be performed with maybe the Gay Men’s Choir here in Boston.

Jenn T Grace:

That would be awesome.

Melissa Ferrick:

And then I exploded that idea and I thought there’s got to be a youth LGBTQ choir somewhere, because I want to incorporate all generations, and try to get an arrangement of this song because I think it would be beautiful musically. So then if you were a marketer you would say, “And this is going to then break you,” and blah, blah, blah. But the intent for me comes from a really pure place, which is I think this song is really- I think it came to me, and it’s an important song, and I want people to hear it because it makes them feel good. And when I played this song in front of the Rosie O’Donnell crowd, I opened for her in Provincetown. I mean people started clapping and hollering like in the middle of the song while I was still playing. Like people get it when they hear it, and so I’ve just got to figure out how to get this song to Hillary Clinton, and how to get this song to the HRC, and how to get it to people who can help me exploit it more so that more people can hear it, because I do believe that song does change people, and it does empower people, and songs are given to me as gifts to give away, and so it is part of my job. And if in the end more people buy it, or more people come to the live shows, then that’s great for me. But really it’s just about getting it out there. And my girlfriend thinks I should do a dance remix of it, and like send it to all of the gay bars, but I don’t really-

Jenn T Grace:

It might work.

Melissa Ferrick:

Maybe I’ll do that, I’ll send it to my friend Pete Nappy out in LA. He does great remixes, so I don’t know.

Jenn T Grace:

And I feel like that is the way to go about it. Because obviously every business has a different type of I think marketing channel that may work better for them. In terms of like your music, I think going down the avenue of utilizing the gay men’s chorus for example. I think that’s beautiful, because think of the impact that it would have on so many people who already are big fans of those gay men’s choruses, because they’re all over the country, they’re everywhere. And then you do have the impact to the LGBTQ youth in terms of trying to get the different generations involved, and I feel like that is really good kind of viral marketing versus just saying like, ‘Oh hey, I’m going to put an ad in She Magazine, or I’m going to put an ad here.’ Like that’s not the same- that I feel like is a really awesome idea.

Melissa Ferrick:

Well it’s really about doing things- I have so many students that are triple threats. I mean this whole world of musical theatre is huge, and I mean huge on Broadway, off Broadway, spoken word; I mean these kids are like crazy for this stuff, and you’re right about it being in every- and it certainly didn’t go by my brain that I was like, “Wow I could do Chicago, New York, I could do like Atlanta, I could probably do every major city in the United States if I were to get some sort of repertoire together with a choir. And do it as a tour, you know? And give a portion of the proceeds to each city’s whatever. And you really can- but I need somebody to like help me do that. I can’t do all that by myself. I have one friend Mark Corteo who books me in P-Town, and he manages a quartet- I think it’s a quartet of men who are singers. And so I’ve been talking to Mark about just the very beginning stages of how would we do this? How would I get Symphony Hall in Boston, and can you rent those places. I mean it’s a huge endeavor though to do something like this.

Jenn T Grace:

Oh yeah.

Melissa Ferrick:

But people do it, and I could do it if I had a couple people help me and maybe I could kickstart it or something. I don’t know, I don’t know.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah I think you just need a strong strategy.

Melissa Ferrick:

I think out of the box. It’s not really- the great news is everybody can put a record out. It’s also the bad news, everybody can put a record out. So you can’t really just put a record out and get the same kind of press that you used to. There’s got to be a whole other story to it because people get music for free, that’s it. Any time someone comes up to me and wants to play me a song, they show it to me on YouTube. So music is visual, it’s no longer just audio anymore, and if you think it is you’re out of touch. So I really need to finish, I need to have like lyric videos for every single song on my album, I’m on YouTube, and that’s how people are listening to music. Thank God I have hardcore fans who’ve been following me for years who come to my show, and buy a CD or thankfully I have vinyl coming out at the end of this month, or they’ll buy it on vinyl because the artwork is beautiful because I spent some money on getting beautiful photographs taken and design done. And then I’ll sign the thing, and that marks a moment in time for them as something physical and tangible that they can remember, ‘Yes I was at Town Hall when Melissa played with Ani DiFranco, and she signed this record for me and we got our picture taken.’ And thank God, because that’s where artists make their money, that’s how I continue to be able to fill the gas tank to drive all over the place and play shows. But if we’re talking about getting my name recognition in line with my sales recognition, then that’s a whole world that does need- that I’m approaching learning how to do. On my bucket list too is to be on Broadway. I mean I would love to go audition and do something on Broadway, I think it’s within my ability, and I want to do other things. I’m more than just a singer/songwriter. I’m a producer, and I’m an arranger, and I can act, and I can dance. So I want to have the time to be able to kind of fall on my face on Broadway, or write a book. I’ve been wanting to write a book for a long time. But there’s really- when there isn’t a lot of time, and there isn’t a lot of kind of padding in the bank account, it’s harder to take the time to do those things too as an artist. So I’m just trying to figure new ways to do that, and I did- which I know I didn’t talk about before, I just want to talk about briefly which is that I opened up a new company last year called Voxco Audio, which is a website, and I built it with a fan who wrote all the code for it, and we copywrote the code. It’s an online platform for anyone really to have a member sponsored site. So I had over 200 fans give me $100 to access this site with a username and a password, and they get all of my music as direct downloads, and they’re also a part of all of the decision making that happens as far as like should I make tee-shirts? What kind of tee-shirts should I make? What brand should I buy? Do you like long sleeves, do you like short sleeves? And so this idea, I’m really excited about it because I do believe that this company could be something that other artists could use. So with a kickstarter you give away 30% of the money that’s accrued. So that’s a lot of money. If you have a $30,000 kickstarter, you’re letting go of $9,000 of it. So now you have $20,000 which is- $19,000 which is a lot different than $30,000. So with this platform, with Voxco Audio, a fan gives me $100, and it’s direct through PayPal, it goes right on the What Are Records bank account, so I actually get $98.70. Minus the credit card transaction. And this is something that I want to give artists- independent artists for free. So Voxco won’t take a cut of that $98. That’s the whole point, that the artist gets all the money that’s funded. And I’m really excited about that, because I think it’s another way to cut out the middle man, so that you can give your fans- and this might be the way that music is delivered period. And if you want a physical copy, maybe they are made on an as-needed basis. Maybe you click a box that says, “Yes I want vinyl,” and then I will press the correct number of vinyl. I’m not out here in Boston guessing how many pieces of vinyl I should press when they cost $11.75 a piece to press. That’s a lot- so you’re guessing at how many you’re going to sell, which is really scary because you pay up front.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah then you have a lot of overhead you don’t need.

Melissa Ferrick:

A ton of overhead, yeah. And they’re heavy, so the shipping is not cheap.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. So can you spell out the name of that website, so for anybody who’s listening to this and they want to go check it out.

Melissa Ferrick:

Sure, it’s Voxco which is V-O-X, which is Latin for Voice, VOX. CO, C-O.audio. So www.Voxco.audio. But you can’t see much because if you’re not a member you can’t get in.

Jenn T Grace:

Well good that gives more people an incentive.

Melissa Ferrick:

You’ve got to join, which is a secret club, but not a secret. Because I’ll tell you, my suspicion is that the future is about privacy, and I think that that’s what’s going to change. I might go so far as to say that I would suspect that in a decade, I would think maybe all of my music would only be available via a privately accessed website.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s quite possible. It’s interesting because you’re talking about having- I don’t know if you’ve read the book, I don’t even know if this is the title, but ‘The 1,000 True Fans,’ and I think it goes for basically any type of business, not just musicians or authors, or anything like that. But it’s really the premise is you need to focus on getting 1,000 true diehard fans, because they will amplify to get you to reaching millions, if you just focus on getting the 1,000.

Melissa Ferrick:

Well you’re exactly right, that was the original concept and I talked about that with George Howard who’s a professor at Berkeley, and he teaches one in 1,000 and that was the goal. And I said to him, I said, “I have 1,000 people. I bet I have 1,000 people that would give me $100 a year to make art.” 1,000 because that’s $100,000. Now that’s the kind of budget that I can- that’s the kind of budget I was getting when I was on MPress. That’s make a record, promote a record, market a record, make videos, hire somebody to do your radio, hire somebody to make beautiful artwork, it cost $100,000. And that’s Indie. That’s not major label, you know? And that’s not about touring, that’s not touring expenses, that’s just to really do a fantastic ‘proper job’ with the packaging, and being able to breathe while you do it. So my first shot in my first year I think it was $247. So I’m getting- but I didn’t do any publicity around it, I just did it completely grassroots, I just did like an email blast. I think the more people realize when you see it as what it is, which is a donation, that’s what it is. You’re saying that you believe that I am worth $100 or $99.99. That you would give me $100 so that for the rest of this year I can write songs, and produce songs, and play shows, and that that will help me be able to do that. I think probably the trick might be, the Voxco is currently LLC, but the thought might be that maybe it should be a 401C and maybe it should be a nonprofit organization, because there really isn’t any profit. Out of all the money that I raised from that went to making this album, and that is why- and this comes back to what we spoke about before, but that is why when I reached out to the editor of She Magazine I said, “I don’t know if I can afford,” because the money was gone. So the $24,700 that I had, or whatever it was, it’s gone. I mean it started last November and I had to make a record, and do the artwork, and have the shrink wrapping, and get them shipped, and make the posters; all that kind of stuff is like expensive. And then now is there any money left over to have someone call all the radio stations for you, and try to get you press? The answer when I look at the bank account is no. And so for me as someone who did this the wrong way before, and just put it on a credit card and said it doesn’t matter, we have to do it, it’s not the answer. The answer is no. There is no money left, so we are going to do the best we can do with what we have. And we’re going to use other- people are emailing me, and there’s word of mouth, and I’m going to stay on- and I talked to Mona about this at length and she met me halfway. And that’s what you love. You love people who show up because they believe in the project, and they’re willing to work with you. Which you can make requests, you can say, “Can I pay you over time? I’m good for this.” And that’s a beautiful thing when you find people that will help you in that way, and I really, really do appreciate her for that.

Jenn T Grace:

That is awesome, and I just love how much you know your business, while there’s plenty of headaches that you get from it. Like it’s just so obvious how well you understand it in terms of like even just the packaging, and the products, and what a pain, and the weight of it, and the fact that vinyl costs $11.75, and then it’s $98.70 in the bank account. Like you are so engrained and just in your business which I think is really helpful because it does help you make these really sometimes tough decisions because, yeah of course it’s easy to just put $9,000 on a credit card and be like, “Oh yeah, the money’s going to come.” But because you really understand how your business is operating, and all of just the cash flow problems that almost every business has at some point or another, if not routinely. Then you’re able to make much, much better decisions that are going to affect the long term outcomes.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, and you know this is just- so November 1st will be year one of this Voxco thing, and we’re moving into year two which I think we’re going to initiate a monthly subscription versus a yearly subscription. It really- you don’t know until you’ve been there which is also kind of that old school advice. And I remember laying in my bed and hearing the tow truck come and take my Suburban away, because it was repossessed, because I couldn’t pay for that truck, because I was over my head in debt and I couldn’t afford that vehicle, which was what I toured in. So to have been there just five years ago, six years ago- I guess it was six or seven years ago now. I remember that, and I won’t ever let that happen again. So you’re right, when you run a business sometimes the answer is no, we can’t. And that just has to be okay, and you have to believe. If the product is good, and the song is good, it will find its market. Whether that’s 1,500 sales, or 15,000, or 150,000. It really doesn’t take away from the worth of the song. There are plenty of fantastic songs, and fantastic movies that have never ‘seen the light of day.’ But I want to be able to see the light of day driving a vehicle that I’ve paid for.

Jenn T Grace:

There’s a difference.

Melissa Ferrick:

It just comes very simply down to some people I think, think that I’m in a position that I’m not in. Fans will think a certain thing. Like ‘Drive’ for instance, again with ‘Drive,’ it’s like if you YouTube my name, ‘Drive’ comes up and it appears as if it was on The L Word. That song was never on The L Word, I never got any music on The L Word during any season. No placement. So that’s to a fan it might look like, ‘Oh that’s Melissa Ferrick, she has that song ‘Drive.’ That was on The L Word. She must have made a ton of money off of that.’ And I didn’t. So not that it- I’m kind of like pulling the curtain from the awes here, but like I think it’s important and it humanizes me. Like this is- when I drive to Connecticut, and play a show opening for someone, like when you’re buying every CD I sell, I’m making $8.00. So like that’s really important to me, and it really, really makes a difference because that $8.00 goes back into a bank account that allows me to buy a new microphone so that when I go to make my next record, it’s going to sound really cool and I’m going to be really psyched that I have that mic. And that’s how direct it is, it’s that immediate. It’s not- it doesn’t go into some- I haven’t taken a vacation since 1994, I went to Laguna Beach with my girlfriend for the weekend, and I didn’t pay for it. So it doesn’t go into some obscure vacation account here. So really Indie singer/songwriters, all of us, I’m not the only one, all of us really do benefit so greatly, and I’m so grateful for fans who buy a ticket to my show, who support their local venue. It goes a long way, your dollar goes a long, long way, and whether you’re coming to your local theatre or you’re coming to your local queer bar, or you’re seeing me at a coffee shop that’s owned by some couple that lives in town, it’s huge, it affects everybody. It’s affects the kid that’s working behind the counter, the person who’s cleaning that place at night and has the keys, to me who’s driving away in my Subaru that’s paid for right now. It really is- you should feel good about yourself for supporting artists that you love. And if you’ve never seen me live, I want you to come. If you’ve heard of me before, I want you to come to a show because my shows are better than any- except this one, any record I’ve ever made. This record I just made is the best record I’ve ever made. So it makes a huge difference. So know that part of coming out to a show, or coming to a live show of mine is supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be a night out for you, but you’re also being of service. You really are, you’re helping a fellow queer artist survive as an artist, and that really should- I hope that makes people feel good, and I hope they know that I know that. I think my fans- I know my fans that know me do know that I know that.

Jenn T Grace:

I feel like this is such important information for people to hear, because I think some people do understand it, but I would imagine that the majority don’t get how direct it is. I just saw something on Facebook that was like- or some kind of advertisement maybe for like Small Business Saturday, which is in November usually. And it said something like when you support a small business you’re not supporting the vacation fund of a CEO that’s paid millions of dollars, but you’re supporting their child to take dance classes, or to take karate classes.

Melissa Ferrick:

Exactly.

Jenn T Grace:

And it’s like- it’s the same scenario with you, because not only is it supporting you as an artist, but it’s also supporting all of the other vendors that you have to source from as well, and then of course the venues and all that kind of stuff. So it really does have a huge impact on the local community.

Melissa Ferrick:

Huge, and then when people wonder why all of the venues are closing, it’s because people aren’t- because what’s at the root of this though, which I hate to just keep banging on, but what’s at the root of this is that the population is being taught, and has been taught that they can listen to music for free. And so that is the problem. ‘Well why should I pay for it? I’m just going to listen to it on YouTube.’ It comes back to that kind of taking accountability, and it’s stealing. I mean this goes back to Napster when that happened.

Jenn T Grace:

I was just thinking of Napster.

Melissa Ferrick:

When everyone was like sitting in their living room afraid that the FTC was going to come knocking on their door. Well it won’t be me, it’s not me, why am I such- And it’s like if they jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge? It’s kind of like that, but people are, people are just jumping off bridges all the time. And I think I tweeted a thank you to Taylor Swift when she stood up for all songwriters, and all artists, and someone like that taking a stand, and changing policy at Apple. Like that’s what we need more of, we need more of our huge famous in the spotlight artists to stand up and say, “No, this isn’t right. And songwriters need to be paid, and performers need to be paid royalties for their performances.” I don’t think that anyone in any other job would ever expect- I don’t think that teachers would expect to go teach kindergarten and have me just not pay my taxes.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Melissa Ferrick:

Do you know what I mean? Or go to second grade, “I don’t feel like paying my taxes this year. Did you fix my road yet? I don’t feel like paying my taxes, I’m not going to.” It’s kind of like that.

Jenn T Grace:

Sorry your family is not going to eat today because I’m not paying my taxes.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, I should be able to just take this food from the store because food should be free, because we should be able to- it’s just a completely insane way of thinking but the problem is it’s already engrained, because people are walking around with their phones, and showing people new songs on YouTube. And it just goes beyond making a mix tape, this is beyond that. So I don’t really know how it’s going to get fixed. I think instead of waiting around for it to get fixed and not making music, and being bitter about it, what I’ve chosen to do is to continue to voice my dismay with it and say something needs to change. But what I’m trying to do is find a new way to create income for myself so that I don’t rely on something that isn’t there anymore. It’s just not there. So that’s why I created Voxco because I was like, ‘Well if I’m going to open up my own record label, I have to find a way to fund the making of a record. And if I don’t want to give away a large percentage of that fund to a third party, be it Indiegogo or Pledge Music or Kickstarter, all great companies. I’m not knocking them, I’m just saying how can I control this money more? And how can I create something where my fan base of people that are giving me that membership fee, have their voice heard in the outcome of the product? And that is what I’ve done, is I’ve turned my fan base into my A&R division. And so they are basically a member of the record label, they have a voice in what photographs they like the best. I mean it’s really kind of a fascinating social experiment as well.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s brilliant, it’s awesome. I think that’s a brilliant way.

Melissa Ferrick:

But you have to be prepared to hear what you don’t want to hear which is- one person was like, “Yeah you look like you need a cup of coffee in that photo,” and I was like, “Ahh!” Because I posted the like unphotoshopped photograph.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, and then you can almost guarantee that the final product that you may have chosen a different direction for is actually going to resonate with your audience, because they’re commenting on it from the start.

Melissa Ferrick:

Well I have a think tank that’s telling me, and they are the reason why this album is self-titled. That was not my idea. They heard the demos, they heard the final mixes, they helped me choose final mixes for the record, and then I put the album titles up on Voxco and asked the members to vote on what title they thought would be best for the record, and one of the members said, “This album sounds more like you than anything I’ve ever heard. Why don’t you self-title it? You’ve never self-titled an album.” And then there was a whole discussion around that, and the album is self-titled. I wouldn’t have thought of it. It really was a great- and she was like, “You started this new company, you’re starting over, it’s like a first record again even though it’s your twelfth.” And people normally self-title their first album, and I just thought it was a brilliant idea.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Melissa Ferrick:

I mean I just- I think if it’s your fans that are buying it, then why aren’t we asking them what they want? Every record I’ve ever made with labels and stuff in the past, you hand a record in, you have these meetings about what the single is going to be. And the artist is very rarely involved in that conversation, and then you have like four or five people who work in an office in a city, who don’t tour with you, who aren’t necessarily even in your demographic that are sitting around trying to decide what song sounds the most radio friendly? As if radio is even something that exists anymore, or is even anything that I should worry about. And then that’s what shows up as the single, or the song we’re going to work, rather than playing the songs for your fans and saying, “What song do you like best?” Because on my last record, the truth is which I’m really proud of, the single on that record was ‘Home,’ and I really wanted it to be ‘I Don’t Want You to Change’ which I made a music video for. And my niece who’s seventeen- and I still think she’s right, said ‘Take in all the Plants’ is the best song on this record, and it is the best song on that record.

Jenn T Grace:

Wow.

Melissa Ferrick:

And so if it’s about the best song, and not about what sounds the most radio friendly, I’m really glad that the music industry has changed and I do have that control now. So that’s really cool. So even though people are showing you music, and yeah I’m getting paid $1.50 for every 1,000 views, that’s a bummer. But the great news is those 1,000 views of whatever song it is that I choose to put out, I get to choose what song that is now, and it’s not about what sounds like everything else that’s on the radio. I don’t have to make songs like that anymore, I really can just do what song do I like the best on this record?

Jenn T Grace:

Which is probably why you feel this last one, the self-titled one, is the best, and this is why your fans are thinking it, because you don’t have any of those restrictions.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, no I don’t. I don’t even- no I never even though of a- I am shocked when I hear that people have heard ‘Careful’ on the radio. I’m like, “That’s amazing!” And now it feels like- honestly it feels like some of the radio stations that I’ve known for years, since the ’90s, are like psyched again because they’re really loosened up, they really can play what they want to play.

Jenn T Grace:

Which is awesome.

Melissa Ferrick:

That’s kind of a wonderful thing. I don’t know, I don’t know that it’s so interesting right now that I think it’s awesome. I think it’s the best time ever to be putting music out, and I think really for me what I really want to kind of focus on in the next year is getting more gigs, doing more lecturing and workshopping at universities, or private functions, and talking about entrepreneurship and listening to your gut. Whether it be song writing or whatever, and angled, and ways to- well for me as a queer woman, just keep on. To keep on doing it, don’t give up, you know what I mean? There’s never- it’s never over. I mean you can constantly reinvent yourself, and if it’s a good idea, it’s always a good idea, you just have to keep sanding it down. And that’s just what excited me, and I think writing for me, and I wrote a course that I’m teaching at Berkeley in the spring called Launching Your Career For The DIY Songwriter, and that’s been really incredibly awesome to learn how to write curriculum. So I’m really looking forward to doing that, and I’m teaching on a bi-weekly basis at Berkeley now, they’ve been incredible to me, allowing me to only teach in the spring, and to teach bi-weekly while keeping my faculty position.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome.

Melissa Ferrick:

I’m excited about kind of- I enjoy being a part of groups of people, and speaking stuff like that, on being on panels, and things like that, and little Think Tank things, and seeing how this music industry is going to kind of work itself out over the next three to five years, I think a lot of stuff is going to kind of settle in a little bit. Because this constant change is- nobody does Facebook anymore, and now it’s Snapchat versus Instagram versus Twitter. And your YouTube needs to be a channel-

Jenn T Grace:

Now Periscope is popping up, yeah.

Melissa Ferrick:

It’s crazy. So it’s kind of about settling down a little bit, and I think after any huge change there’s a settling period. Certainly I know that in my personal life. I think that’s what’s happening in the music business, is we’ve had some huge change over the last decade, and it’s just taken a little while for stuff to kind of settle.

Jenn T Grace:

Well I feel like you would be brilliant on a speaking circuit in terms of- because you obviously are so passionate about- equally about the entrepreneurship and the music focus, and you just have so much knowledge that I feel like there’s probably tons of young artists that could just learn a ton from you if you were speaking in colleges and universities.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah, I mean listen if you want to help book me that would be great.

Jenn T Grace:

I am all over it, we will talk offline.

Melissa Ferrick:

I love to do that kind of stuff. I spoke at the University of Pennsylvania, at UPenn, and that was amazing, and I loved it. And I’ve been on some panels like I said, I’ve had some experience with it, but I think it would be in my best interest to write a little something so that I have something to sell when I get there.

Jenn T Grace:

Smart.

Melissa Ferrick:

Because that’s important from a marketing perspective, I think that that’s important. How can I walk into a university and speak up on the trials and tribulations what I’ve been through as a small business owner, without- and sell a record. Maybe you can, maybe I’m wrong, maybe you can. I don’t know.

Jenn T Grace:

Well it’s worth a shot trying, that’s how I see things.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

Well I know that I’ve taken up a good amount of your time today, so number one I so appreciate this interview. I’m so happy that you are so passionate about entrepreneurship because I think this is exactly what my audience needs to hear. But I know you talked a lot about the album, I want to make sure that people listening to this, whether they are current fans or hopefully new to-be fans, how would they find information about you? How do they purchase the album, et cetera?

Melissa Ferrick:

So they just go to www.MelissaFerrick.com, that’s the easiest way. The album is on iTunes, it’s in your Mom and Pop, or your Mom and Mom store, or your Pop and Pop store, if you still have a record store. And I know that the album is coming out on vinyl and from what I hear, Barnes and Noble sells vinyl, so I would think it would be in there too.

Jenn T Grace:

Nice.

Melissa Ferrick:

However you buy the record, however you purchase the music whether it be on iTunes, or directly from me, or from your local retailer, that really does go- or whether you come to a show and buy a CD from me, that goes a long way. And I do have my Facebook account, my main Facebook account is fun, and Instagram and all that stuff, YouTube channel and all those things.

Jenn T Grace:

Well I will make sure that I link up. Yeah I will put information for all the different ways they can access you on social media to make it super simple for people to listen to this say, “I need to find out more,” and then just go find it because I think that would be awesome.

Melissa Ferrick:

Yeah and if they have any information, or if people have- if they really sparked up when they heard the thing about the gay men’s choir, or how to- if anybody has any ideas of cool ways to do something, or an idea that they have. I love being pitched ideas, and so I would hope people would feel free to reach out if they thought of something, I’m open to it.

Jenn T Grace:

And how would you recommend they do that? On your Facebook page? Email? Website?

Melissa Ferrick:

They would do that by emailing me at ferrickteam@gmail.com which is posted everywhere on all my websites, and I actually read it with two other people that help me. A woman named Susan, and a woman named Alisha that help me with that.

Jenn T Grace:

Nice.

Melissa Ferrick:

But I’m on that, I’m a lunatic about my business so I’m on that email all day long.

Jenn T Grace:

I’m not surprised. Awesome. Well this has been awesome. I really, really appreciate it, this has been a great interview.

Melissa Ferrick:

Thank you so much, it’s been great talking to you.

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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