Podcast Spotlight – Episode #002: Lisa Lepine

DIY Musician Podcast — By on September 28, 2009 9:51 am

lisalepine-smallWhat’s your story?

Finding your identity as an artist is a crucial part of your career development. Drawing on your own personal experiences and building a “story” creates a unique foundation for your musical identity. For this month’s DIY Musician Podcast feature, we pulled an interview from the archives that instantly became a listener favorite. The interview features Lisa Lepine, an artist consultant/mentor in Portland, Oregon, who has helped countless artists develop and discover their musical story. This is just an excerpt from our conversation with Lisa, so you’ll definitely want to listen to the entire interview just Click Here! You can also subscribe to the podcast from the iTunes podcast directory.

When an artist comes to you, what sort of questions do you ask of them to help figure out where they’re at?

What I really advise people do is [to figure out] “What’s your story? What’s the big picture of who you are and where you’ve come from?”… I start with “Where were you born and how did you come to music and what is your experience?”… Out of hearing people’s stories about their life, suddenly this picture comes into play. One guy had this really interesting story about his ancestors, his grandfather had given him a guitar. As he said his story, it became really clear that he was bringing forward an energy from his grandfather that was now manifesting in a really unique and interesting way. And he [said] “Oh my god, I didn’t ever see that or think of that!” … The most valuable thing you have as a musician is what makes you different. That’s the part that people are going to pay for or want to connect with you rather than someone else. As that story unfolds, I’m looking for what’s unique… You can’t tell a very effective story until you know your story.

Once you know your story, where do you move forward from there?

It comes back to the idea of packaging, marketing, branding. What’s your image, what’s your persona? There’s your story and then there’s the persona that you’re going to create that can carry the story and the music into the world. If that persona is accurately built, it will resonate with people and will help move you forward.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by “persona” or “brand”?

This is not about appealing to everyone; it’s more like how can I create a persona or brand were people will be drawn to me who should be drawn to me? How do you choose a band name that really works? The name is so integral to how the world perceives you; if you haven’t chosen a name that reflects the totality of your story, you’re already starting at a disadvantage. I learned the hard way, with a couple different bands, about names. Both these bands would have really succeeded in a much different way if the names had been changed. If the name doesn’t work for you, it can work against you.

I’m sure there are artists who think they don’t need to worry about persona or branding… can you explain why those things are important?

Music is the last thing that’s important. If you’re an act that’s hoping to get booked or get the attention of an A&R person, the process that happens is going to be [sending] a press kit. [A given newspaper or booker] will have a stack of 70 press kits that came in that week, so which one gets opened first? You start with the outside of the package, and then the package gets opened, and then things get sorted, and this one that’s mimeo’d and [shrink wrapped] with no imagery – is that the one that I’m going to open? Or the one with full color and a handsome picture? Now I’ve read the bio and it looks cool and I’m excited, then finally, finally, finally I put the CD in. Now it’s the last thing that’s important, and now it’s everything. If it sucks – end of story. If it’s great you’ve probably got a booking or they’re going to come see you. Think about all that stuff – that marketing and that communication – that has to be together to get them to the point where they’ll listen, then the connection can be made.


  1. Bela says:

    Lisa is spot-on when it comes to music being the last thing that’s important. Offensive as it might be to some, branding and image comes first before the actual art that you’re trying to promote.
    Press people get tons of stuff sent to them every day. Imagine having to go through all of those packets and still get some actual work done!

  2. Keeth says:

    I’m an enormous Lisa Lepine fan. Via email, phone, and in person she has helped me brainstorm wild pull-offable ideas, get organized, and point the biz side of my music project in some superhelpful directions. Drop her a line if you’re feeling plateau’d out and want to take a few steps forward.

  3. Brian Henke says:

    Hi Lisa,
    You sooo nailed this one! This is exactly the way I planned out my own CD’s, my own story and personal/profesional image and what I’ve been telling my friends for so long.
    I myself, am not at all interested in sending CD’s to A@R people at record labels. I’m making a living and doing well enough without them. I am however, interested in radio and internet play and have been very fortunate that a lot of stations all over the world have taken the time to look at my “one sheet”, open the CD, listen to it, determine which song or songs to play and then finally, play it on air!! These people, like A@R people at record labels, also get a ridiculous amount of CDs in.
    Do you think that mabey they might ever get frustrated with people sending things in that say nothing about who they really are and what they might be spending time to listen to? You bet they do!! There is a special “circular” file for the things that never get listened to and it’s not what you’ve been working for and spending your hard earned money on.
    My own music is classified as either Instrumental Folk or, more often Acoustic New Age. This is because this is the “story” I want to tell. My music is a spiritual part of who I am, influenced by nature and my love of guitar.
    I spent quite a bit of time figuring out who the people are out there who would be attracted to my music, my story. Everything I do is instrumental, solo acoustic guitar, so there are no lyrics as part of the music to tell the story. That is up to everything else I do, bio, promo photo, one sheet, CD cover and liner websites etc…
    How often does a reviewer know what chords a guitarist is playing, whether or not the music is difficult (OK some are fooled by “Fast”),if you are influenced by going to the supermarket, trains, cars, roller coasters, or as in my case the natural Universe.
    Some reviewers and producers of radio and internet shows may very well find the time to try and figure you and your music out. Most just simply don’t have the time!

    If you have a story to tell, Tell it!! Don’t leave ‘em guessing. If you have yet to figure out what your story is yourself, I’d say mabey it’s time for a little introspection…

    Brian Henke

  4. Yener Korkut says:

    Quite interesting.


  5. Wendy Matson says:

    Very good, frustrating and true-I suck at business and now I realize I don’t really know who I am. Thank you! I live in boise, idaho-do you mentor folks in the outback?

  6. MAGGIE says:

    Lady, you’ve go it all backwards. Music is the last thing that matters? Not in the world I’d like to be in. If there is one thing I have learned when it comes to the music business, it’s don’t ever listen to people like this who think they have some perfect formula and if you don’t follow it you will fail.

    As independent musicians, we should all strive for SUBSTANCE AND QUALITY in our product, in an effort to bring the focus back to making real, quality music and off of crap like a “handsome picture.”

    To each his own, but I’d rather be good than handsome and average. Articles like this annoy me.

    PS- there are no more A&R people.

  7. Josh Haden says:

    did she really say “music is the last thing that’s important”?

  8. RJ Sharp says:

    No, I think she’s right, and that she means some decision makers will first judge you on image/persona THEN the music: “it’s the last thing that’s important, and now it’s everything. If it sucks – end of story”.

    I don’t know quite who I am either, genre/persona-wise, and this is exactly what I’m trying to figure out before I start my sophomore project.

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