Miss Alex White: the Artist, the Business
Posted Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 at 4:20 am
By Nick Harris, Anthony Molinaro, Business of Music, 8 February 2011
Alex White loves her job. She is the lead singer and guitarist of White Mystery, a Chicago-based garage rock, brother-sister duo. But more than that, she manages the fully self-sustained business that is White Mystery. It is a band without a label, manager or even booking agent, and instead, Ms. White is all of these things in one.
At twenty-six years old, Alex White has been playing in various bands with figures from the Chicago underground scene for thirteen years, already half her life. Her first band ever was known as Psychotic Sensations. After that she played in another drums/guitar duo called the Red Lights and played mostly basement house shows. Later she played in a band called Hot Machines, then self-released a song with drummer Chris Playboy called “Young Monsters”, after which she played in a band called “Candy Apple Killings” and put a song out on local label, HoZac Records. As her career continued, she pulled together a new backing band called the Red Orchestra, and a couple of shorter lived bands known as Headspace and Forestbride, which set the stage for White Mystery, formed in April 2008. Somewhere along the way she also managed to earn a degree in Entrepreneurship from DePaul University.
Alex White first dipped her toes into the business side of music with the creation of Missile X records in 2004 at age eighteen. She explained to me via email that she created Missile X in order to retain ownership and creative control over her music. The label put out three vinyl 45s in its existence, “Young Monsters” by Miss Alex White & Chris Playboy, “Cold River” by the Dirges, and “Spend the Night in a Haunted House” by the Spits. With the creation of her current band, White Mystery, Ms. White also created the label “White Mystery” to put out and promote the band’s material. With this, Alex White has achieved the kind of creative control that most artists only dream of. The label and band function in a way similar to a typical business, with plans of where they want to be in three months and in five years, and as White has said, “whoever does come on board with White Mystery has to be a part of that vision.” The artistic side of things (songwriting, recording and performance) is handled by the band, but also booking, touring, promotion and merchandising. During the winter a typical day for Alex consists of “playing guitar, booking shows, designing band art like posters or albums, and updating the White Mystery blog.” In the spring, summer and fall the band travels around North America in a hatchback playing hundreds of shows, and this is where the dedication truly comes into play. With somewhat limited finances, a self-booked tour can be an epic journey, full of struggle, highs, lows and rough sleeping conditions. As Alex White put it, “it’s like if you were an explorer, you might have a tent set up in the desert or jungle or tundra, and you just gotta roll with the bumps and scrapes because it’s the nature of what you do.” The band has developed logos and merchandise with the help of their mother, who “gets a kick out of it”. Doing things this way, the band manages to sustain itself as a business without any part time jobs to help out financially.
Alex says that there are a few keys to her success. One of them is social networking. She is a tireless extrovert, as evidenced by the connections she has built playing in the Chicago underground circuit for several years, and the fact that she knows people all around America who offer their homes as places to sleep while the band is on tour. Ms. White’s success has a lot to do with playing as many shows as possible with as many different people as possible. It is a kind of grassroots operation, where she inspires people and they inspire her in return. In addition, Ms. White has said that “Perseverance is key to sustained success”. This band proves that it is possible to make a modest living from your own music. It simply takes hard work, dedication, and true passion.
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