What’s Working in Indie Music Today: Lessons in Success from New Artist Model Member Margaret Dombowski
By Dave Kusek and Lindsay McGrath of the New Artist Model: Turn your passion for music into a rewarding career.
Music is a family affair for manager Margaret Dombowski.
The band she represents — “pop punk” phenom The Magnifiers — is made up of four of her five children. Elliott, 16, and Eden, 15, play guitar and sing. Eliza, 12, plays the bass, and Everett, 10, handles drums. Together these siblings write and perform edgy alternative music that is winning fans at concerts and online.
The Magnifiers’ EP Report Card sells on their website http://themagnifiers.com for $5 and is filled with original songs like “Zombie Raid on America.” In addition, the group offers individual songs on iTunes and Bandcamp. The band performs regularly at festivals and clubs in Chicago and beyond. In June 2015, they won the Illinois Teen Battle of the Bands.
In May, The Magnifiers appeared for the second consecutive year at the Hong Kong Pizza Party Music Festival in Piano, Illinois. Then in June they will grace the stage at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago.
Margaret made the decision to manage The Magnifiers right away even though she had no prior experience as a manager, booking agent, or publicist.
“Initially I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Google Drive was my best friend,” she says, adding that identifying herself as a manager and not a mother helps her succeed. “I’ve gone out of the way to be really professional. If I tell them I am the Mom there is a stigma — that I’m the ‘Mom-ager.’”
“New Artist Model is great,” Margaret says. “I came across it when I was looking for a degree program in all of this. This is exactly what I was looking for. I’ve learned so much.”
Margaret says she decided to have the band do a cover of a Weezer song for its YouTube channel after watching the DJ video on New Artist Model. She also found important information about how to protect The Magnifiers name with a trademark. Recently, Elliott has jumped on board, reviewing New Artist Model lessons and videos as well.
While The Magnifiers is a band made up of young people, it is not a group in search of a children’s audience, Margaret says. They want to play for everyone — everywhere. That is one of the hardest things to communicate to promoters, producers and others. “The Disney Channel isn’t us,” Margaret says.
“This is the biggest challenge in managing a kid’s band,” she says. Sometimes they are not old enough to play a certain club. That makes it harder for them to develop a fanbase. A major label could give them a bump up but I don’t want them to lose creative control.”
Margaret uses Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, ReverbNation, and Bandcamp among other social media tools to spread the word about The Magnifiers. She has even used Periscope to share performances with people out of state. Recently, Elliott took over much of the social media work, communicating with other bands online and responding to posts on all of the group’s channels.
Instagram and Reverb Nation are two of the most effective tools she has used to promote the band, Margaret says. Not long after the band was born, Margaret used Instagram to connect with the originators of The Aquabats, her kids’ favorite band. Margaret struck up a friendship with show co-creators, Christian Jacobs and Jason Devilliers, and The Magnifiers were invited to Salt Lake City to appear as extras on “The Aquabats Super Show” television program.
Margaret says there have been discussions about the possibility of the band opening for the Aquabats during a future tour. “Their audience is our audience. In our mind, we should tour with them.”
Margaret also used Instagram to establish a relationship with Threadless, a t-shirt company in Chicago. As a result of this connection, The Magnifiers were invited to play at their warehouse and then at the company’s holiday party. “That is where I was introduced to Brian Keller (aka Brian Killer) who recorded our video for Zombie Raid on the USA,” Margaret says.
Reverb Nation is great for “messages out of the blue,” Margaret says, adding “Last year, a big time producer contacted us and now we are talking about working together.”
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Who you know makes a huge different in this business, so I’d tell any parents helping their kids pursue their dreams, make connections, lots of connections,” Margaret says. “Do lots of online research. Attend lots of local seminars and build relationships with people in the industry.”
Check out the Magnifiers here http://themagnifiers.com.
New Artist Model is an online music business school developed by Dave Kusek, founder of Berklee Online. The online school is a platform for learning practical strategies and techniques for making a living in music. Learn how to carve a unique path for your own career with strategies that are working for indie artists around the world. Learn to think like an entrepreneur, create your own plan and live the life in music you want to live. New Artist Model provides practical college-level music business training at a mere fraction of the cost of a college degree. Programs start at just $29/mo. For more info on the New Artist Model visit http://newartistmodel.com.