Maybe your daughter seems obsessed with being the next Taylor Swift, Adele, or Rihanna. Perhaps this makes you nervous because she seems to have the chops and drive to actually pull it off. Or, maybe she can barely sing a note but wants to set up a YouTube channel to share her “music: with the world (gulp). What kind of advice do we give girls when they tell us they’re planning to go into the music biz? What do we do if it’s not just a phase?
We found just the right person to answer questions: singer-songwriter Laura B. Whitmore. She is the founder of the Women’s International Music Network, the editor of Guitar World’s AcousticNation.com, creator of the blog series, Guitar Girl’d, and moderates workshops on topics such as marketing, PR, apps and music making. Plus, she’s an empathetic mom.
My 17-year-old told me she wants to skip college for a career as a musician. She’s talented but we all know how competitive the business is and I want her to have a fall-back position. She says I’m not being supportive. What do you think?
I know this feeling. I wanted to go to music school and focus on performance, but my parents insisted I go somewhere that I could take business classes. It’s hard. I do feel like I missed out on some great musical training, but on the other hand, the business classes have come in really handy. What does she think about music school? Perhaps she can go to school part-time and work on music as well. Also, ask her what is her plan for success as a musician? What steps is she going to take? For all you know she has an amazing plan. Or maybe a conversation like that will get her to start thinking about the realities of the industry. Don’t be dismissive. The more she fights for what she wants, the better. That means she has the kind of passion that it takes to succeed!
My teen daughter wants to put up a YouTube video of her singing for honest feedback, but I’m worried about nasty comments that will be left by trolls.
Sadly that’s how social media works. Your girl might get some nasty or disrespectful comments. But happily she will probably get some positive feedback too. I still get nervous posting videos online. But I don’t post to read the comments anymore. If she’s going to be an artist in today’s industry she’ll have to get used to getting past the haters. Just let her know that you love and support her and her work.
What do you do if your daughter creates beautiful music but doesn’t want to share it with anyone because she’s painfully shy? How much should I push her?
I would say, don’t push too hard. Maybe she can start small? Sharing with close friends or family might be a way to get her to start opening up. I have been very nervous in the past about sharing my music because it is so personal. But once you get positive feedback it helps take that next, larger step. I also find that the more I play in front of people, the more confident I become. I would also have a heart to heart in a very open and non-judgemental way asking about her goals with music. Perhaps she only wants to make music for her own enjoyment, which is just fine. Respect her perspective.
My daughter lives for music and wants to get a career in the industry but not on the “talent” side. What jobs do you recommend?
There are so many. She could look into studying or a career in music business, which includes areas like public relations, artist management, promotion, and talent booking. Or if she has an interest in recording or producing, she can learn the technical side of working in those fields. For live events, there are sound engineers, concert promoters, event producers. Remember, the music industry is also a business, so we need accountants, attorneys and finance people too, and if they love music, all the better!
Are there any young singer-songwriters on YouTube you think are good role models (preferably fully clothed)? Would love to share with my girls.
One group I love is a team of sisters from Canada called the Command Sisters. Sarah and Charlotte Command are super talented writers and performers. Another wonderful teen singer/songwriter is Sabrina Lentini. She’s from the L.A. area and won a slot at one of our showcases in the past. One more talent that comes to mind is Bryce Hitchcock from Nashville, TN–a wonderful young talent!
I’m a little worried about my daughter. She is a pretty happy-go-lucky girl but writes painful and haunting lyrics. She says it’s just fantasy. Should I be worried?
Maybe. Sometimes song lyrics are a safe way to explore different concepts and feelings, without necessarily experiencing them yourself. And sometimes they are deeply personal. I’d just keep my eyes and ears open. And maybe ask her about them in a thoughtful way if they really concern you, like, “That’s a beautiful line, what made you think of that?” or “That’s song is lovely but so sad. Did you write that about someone you know?” Those kinds of questions might give you some insight, and show that are really listening.
What do you do if your daughter says she’s going to be a pop star but it’s pretty clear she is not gifted, at least musically?
There are plenty of people who are pop stars who are not the most accomplished musicians. But they have drive, charisma, and stick-to-itiveness. Sometimes the prize goes to the last one standing! I would say, be supportive without lying. Maybe she needs more training. Or more experience. Let her explore her dream; when it’s time to do something else, let her decide. But also, don’t be afraid to let her fail. It’s an important lesson and it can help her become better…or move on.
Any last tips?
I have two kids and I try to impress upon them to follow their passion. Live a life that makes you happy to go to work each day. That passion may not be something we as parents agree with or understand, but it’s important to be supportive and give them the chance to lead a vibrant, purpose-driven life. And I’ve found that if you follow that passion, somehow everything else works out. Just keep an open mind.
Learn more about Laura here.
Michelle Cove is the Executive Director of MEDIAGIRLS®, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to critique the way girls and women are portrayed in pop culture with an emphasis on creating empowering content.
She is also an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
Visit www.mediagirls.org to learn more.