The Independent Artist Spotlight is a behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for musicians who are building a career without the support of a record label. In this five-part series, you will learn about the pros and cons of being an independent artist directly from the bands themselves.
PART 3: Interview with Angry Phill of MADLIFE.
A four-piece hard rock band out of L.A. that incorporates elements of industrial and electronic music as a backdrop to their often-times angry lyrics. While unique, their sound is accessible enough to appeal to all fans of today’s hard rock music.
You’ve had a lengthy career as an independent band, dating back to 2000…long before social media allowed bands to connect with fans. How did you build a fanbase in the early days?
We did it the old fashioned way…standing on the corner handing out flyers and CDs in Hollywood. We also toured five times across the country in any place that would have us.
How did you book and finance those tours?
Our manager set up the shows with people that she knew in the industry. We hopped in a van armed with a cooler full of bologna, cheese and peanut butter that she put together for us. Oh, and also something she referred to as a “stripper shower” (baby wipes and body spray).
Beyond that, we had to put our own hard earned cash into funding the tours.
We did hire a booking agent, but on the first tour, our manager had to fire the agent half way through, fly to where we were and help piece together shows to get us back from the East Coast to California. After that, we mostly went to places where we got love the first time around, where other bands wanted us and where we were getting radio play.
Was it a conscious decision to remain an independent band? If so, why did you choose not to go the label route?
It was and it wasn’t. We would love the backing of a big label to get us more attention, tours, fans, etc…but we also don’t want to change who we are and what we are about.
Funding is always an issue for developing artists. How are you currently funding your recording, touring, merchandising, etc.?
Sometimes we get help from people who believe in us but mostly we bust our asses to make money to invest in the product we believe in the most…Madlife!
Do you have day jobs to make the money to invest in the band?
Yes, we don’t have a choice. This takes a lot of sacrifice by us and our families. Fortunately, we have people who stand behind us with lots of support, both financially and emotionally.
You’ve made inroads with your music into movies and television. How did you go about getting this done?
Connections! L.A. is all about who you know unfortunately.
How are you leveraging social media and technology to increase your fanbase?
We are finally able to reach out to fans outside of the US and Canada and that is a huge bonus. Being Portuguese and Carlos (bass) being from Puerto Rico also allows us to communicate with fans from other countries on our own. We are all about communicating with our fans. We don’t have some employee who pretends to be us…it really is us! The fans got us to where we are and will continue to take us where we need to go, so the least that we can do is create an avenue for them to get to know us.
You’ve shared the stage with a number of well-known hard rock and metal acts. How were you able to do accomplish this in the early days?
Beyond “luck” how were you able to land opening slots with high profile artists?
It’s all about networking and having the right people in your camp. From the beginning, we had an amazing manager who did a lot to help us. Unfortunately, when she went on personal leave, we had a bunch of people come in who didn’t have our best interest at heart. We have been very professional with every band that we have opened for, and very gracious for the opportunity that they gave to us. We hope to continue to find bands that believe in us and want us to play with them. We also hope to be big enough one day to pass that “luck” on to another struggling band.
What advice would you give to other hard rock artists who want to remain independent?
First, make a million dollars then do what you want (LOL). But seriously, always stay true to yourself and your music and NEVER stop trying!