Julie Flanders is an expert in Creative Leadership, Self Expression and Change. She provides creative business consulting, excellence training, whole life coaching balanced-lifestyle approaches and dream achievement. She is also the founding member of the influential pop rock group October Project.
1) Ariel: How have you managed to keep your momentum and enthusiasm alive after all the many years and iterations of October Project—major label, indie label, your own label?
Julie: Artistically, that is easy. I love my work, I love music, I love other artists and I get excited by what is timeless and by what is new. I have to create—it is oxygen for me, so I experience the creative part as nourishment, not obligation. That being said, I keep a lot of discipline around my work. I write every day, I listen to music that is out of my own genre; I enjoy other art forms (novels, art, architecture and philosophy).
On the business side of life, I am most excited by inventing and innovating. I’ve always been sparked both as an entrepreneur and as an artist to challenge limitations in the marketplace. I like to defy “…isms”—whether it’s sexism, ageism, racism or any others. I am inspired to help others once I figure something out. It’s really exciting for me to watch other people succeed from seeds I’ve planted.
Doing one of the first-ever crowd-funded projects in music was amazing, but teaching it to other people and watching it blossom into KickStarter, RocketHub, and others was extraordinary. October Project touring with Sarah McLachlan at a time when female artists did not tour together was wonderful, but it was even more extraordinary when Sarah transformed that into Lilith Fair.
2) Ariel: You coach Creatives. What is your #1 advice around how to make money in today’s crazy industry?
Julie: My #1 thought is, if you can tour and want to tour, do so. Relationships are your way to supporting yourself. Your fans will give you all they can to keep you creating.
Another thought is to make money any way you can, and not to require your music to support you. Think of it as your sacred commitment to yourself, and give it to yourself any way you can—by teaching, playing with other people who can pay you, writing for and with others, or starting a hedge fund. Honestly, don’t make it about the money because until the industry settles, that might not be possible.
Of course, do what you can!
But if you are like most artists, the biggest mistake you can make is pressuring yourself or measuring yourself as successful or not, by how much money you make. Money is not the metric of music. Joy, fulfillment, and contribution are.
3) Ariel: What is your best advice for an artists just starting out today?
Julie: Stay connected to what makes you love music and yourself. Learn from everything and everyone. Be in a community of other musicians and creators. Do not take people’s responses personally, stay in touch with every aspect of what you do—the art part and the business part. You have to bring a lot of discipline in order to have success in both areas. Realize that it is like having two careers in one. Find good mentors. Stay away from people who promise things that sound too good to be true.
4) Ariel: What is the best thing that came out of being signed to a major?
Julie: It was magical to have such a culmination to the dream we had all held for a long time, under a lot of stress. At that time, being signed to a major was like getting all the way to Oz. We had the chance to create two albums in wonderful studios with great collaborators. For at least the first album, we had enough support to amplify our own efforts into something greater—to really pop into an international awareness and a stunning critical acclaim.
Many people think being with a major means they do everything for you. That is mistaken.
We were always a driven, hard-working, independent group. We did everything that we could think of to make things happen. We were thrilled when the label could take those efforts and magnify them so exponentially.
The other great thing is that people all over the world are still aware of October Project, and have followed and supported us across our careers.
5) Ariel: What is the best thing you have managed to do all on your own for your career?
Julie: It’s all “best!” I feel like our next full length album, The Ghost of Childhood, will be the best—because it is just such a masterwork of collaboration, extreme will and passionate dedication, not only on my own part, but on the parts of all the incredible musicians who are helping it come into being. We are still figuring out how it will move in the world, and I promise to report back on whatever I figure out, hoping it will help others.
My recent project, The Book of Rounds, was truly exciting. It involved a very personal daily practice of writing rounds with Emil Adler, leading to a Master’s class at Yale, and then blossoming into a mentorship project—21 musical rounds, with 16 extraordinary singers, a fantastic a-cappella arranger, and a finished piece of great power and spiritual essence, recorded with Ed Boyer, who engineers things like Pitch Perfect and Glee.
The Book of Rounds—which was independent—ended up being picked up by the Sounds True label and by Hal Leonard Publishing, and is currently being performed in pieces by choruses and a-cappella groups all over the world, with a world-premiere of the full work scheduled for November 2016 in Austin, Texas. In the current musical world, it represents a miracle.
I believe in miracles.
I also believe that the music business is reinventing itself, and that miracles are not only possible, they are necessary. Musicians are becoming ever more entrepreneurial; and when they have resources like Ariel and Cyber PR to educate them, they can take their love and passion, and see it become a true professional career on their own terms.