Morgan Kibby has come a long way from classical piano and the cello. Her musical odyssey through the indie band The Romanovs, the French electronica band M83, and movie soundtracks for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water led her to the stage of the July 2014 SXSW V2V. Her topic: The Artist as Startup.
Kibby was interviewed by media and business consultant Chris Denson.
Denson asked if music was like other businesses.
Kibby said “Like business, it’s based on discipline and practice. You have to put in the 10,000 hours. At a certain point you have to become creatively proactive.”
“Does lack of money get in the way of creativity?” Denson asked.
“Well you need enough money to not have to get a day job,” she said. “After my first record I had a year off before the next one, and not enough money to hire a producer or sound man. So, I did remixes for other artists.”
“Did you wish you had an investor?” Denson asked.
“Of course,” she said, “but the more I learn about my craft, I don’t have to foist things onto someone else. This has allowed me to be able to understand and have more tools in my tool box.”
Denson wondered if when she created, she wanted to have something that’s finished or just good enough.
“You have to sift a lot of sand to find the gold,” Kibby said. “It takes time to do good work. If it sucked today, it will get better tomorrow. My skills will evolve the more mistakes I make. It takes time for good work, and for me personally, I’m not as prolific as other artists, but when I put something out, I can stand behind it.”
Denson asked Kibby how she used social media.
“My emphasis for posting is not ‘OMG I have to further my brand.’ It’s a need to communicate with my audience.” She continued. “It’s engagement. Many people are focusing on numbers, but not engaging in a meaningful way is a mistake. Building who I am one small moment at a time is what it’s about.”
“What do you focus on?” Denson asked. “Money? Touring versus merchandise versus appearances?”
“Ultimately I am the CEO of my company,” she said. “If I didn’t do all the different things I do I wouldn’t make money. It’s a struggle for me but it has created vast opportunities for me to do things I wouldn’t have done otherwise.”
“Do you have a mentor?” Denson asked.
“I have a fantastic manager,” she said. “Very very smart. Ten times smarter than me. He taught me it’s OK to make mistakes. You have to try things and if they don’t work then just move on. I’m the queen of failure, but that has led to triumphs.
“Also, when I released my record in May, instead of doing the typical thing of inviting hundreds of journalists or sending out press releases, we curated the press down to only 20 people. I stood up in front of them and said, ‘I want to talk to you about my music so you can understand how to write about it.’ So, we actually communicated with them for four hours.”
“What do you want to be known for?” Denson asked.
“I want my music to touch people and if I’ve done that I’ve accomplished something,” Kibby said.
Denson concluded with: “When did you find your voice? Did you always have this power?”
Kibby smiled. “Ironically, the one thing I have not studied is voice. I’d like to think that everyone is brilliant in one thing. My thing is my voice.”
Kibby demonstrated that voice for SXSW attendees a few hours later at the Cosmopolitan’s Book & Stage showroom. Watch Kibby and her current group, White Sea, below.
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