Dear Lizzie and Marlowe,
Could you please share your background prior to starting The Swingset Mamas?
LS- I am a graduate of UMass/Amherst with a B.A in communications. I worked as a creative arts therapist and facilitator of therapeutic music group with elderly nursing home residents in CT. I also performed and recorded in a rock band in New York for fun.
MB- I am a graduate of Cornell University. I worked at Chase Manhattan Bank, Yves Saint Laurent Cosmetics, Paloma Picasso Accessories in Sales, Marketing and Promotion positions. I always wanted to make music a bigger part of my life after growing up playing piano and guitar and being involved in musical theater. After my first child was born and my husband’s job moved us to another state- I took the opportunity to do just that!
What inspired you to start the business?
Our business really grew out of our passion to “connect families through music”.
At the birth of our first children, we were inspired to write songs to comfort of babies, our new roles as mothers and our growing families. After recording a few of these songs for fun and performing live, we saw that many families were looking for music in varied styles that was relatable to adults as well as kids. At the same time, we found ourselves naturally incorporating music into our routines as parents. Power-struggles over accomplishing everyday tasks like “buckling seatbelts, getting dressed, putting on sun-screen, leaving the playground, became easier for everyone involved when accompanied by songs. As our families reached new stages, challenges and developments, so too did the music and song subjects. People emailed us asking us for more songs so we kept on creating new music and videos as well as performing live whenever we could. We include our kids in the song-writing and recording process as well, which makes it a fun family experience. We feel strongly that music is a way to connect people of all ages and also helps adults and children to teach, learn and enhance everyday tasks.
How has the journey been going through the creative process and running the business with each other?
Having been in many bands before, I had experienced the obstacle of “BIG EGOs “getting in the way of moving forward. Marlowe and I don’t have that problem.
As busy working mothers who don’t live in the same state, we are constantly juggling job responsibilities. We have learned to be patient, jump in and take over for each other when one of us is swamped with other work or family responsibilities.
We try to remain focused on the end result and not the petty personal issues that always seem to break-up bands. We discovered early on that as partners, we know how to compliment each other and when necessary take a step back in the creative and business side of the project. We share songwriting duties as well as the business side marketing, web presence, booking shows, taxes etc.
How did any advisors make a difference in your company?
We have tried a few business managers, but most of our success has come from our own hard work. In 2006, we did form a company with an LA based producer to film and distribute our award winning DVD “Swing, Dance and Sing”. He was an equal financial and creative partner with us and really helped get the music distributed to a national audience.
The best advice we received was from a well-known children’s television director. He believed in our music and encouraged us to remain true to our belief in the power of music to connect families and that success would follow. He was right.
Tell us about The Swingset Mamas and its products:
Our products include 3 music CDs and a 15 song music video DVD. The music of the Swingset Mamas has been awarded Parents Choice Awards, NAPPA Awards, Dove foundation awards to name a few. Our songs are played on satellite radio and our music videos are currently shown as inter-stitial content on TBN.
We write, record and perform upbeat songs in a variety of styles including reggae, zydeco, blues, funk, rock and hip hop all with sing able, memorable lyrics for kids, and parents alike. Incorporating American Sign Language with call and response singing, our live shows create an inspiring and unique shared social experience for people of all ages and abilities.
What were the most difficult challenges you faced as you began to grow?
One of the biggest challenges all musicians face is getting the music out there to new people. We have always had a strong grass roots following, but to reach a new and broader audience you have to tour constantly or have major media exposure. Since we formed the band, Marlowe has lived in 4 states. We travel all over the country to perform, but you can imagine this requires a lot of logistical planning as we each have two children. This has been a challenge, but our families have been so supportive, that we are able to make it work.
What are your plans for the future?
We remain strong advocates of music as a tool for building community togetherness. As the mother of a 12 year old with Autism, Autism awareness is a top priority for the Swingset Mamas. In addition to performing at Ability Awareness and Diversity Assemblies at schools across the country, Marlowe teaches music to kids with autism at the elementary and middle school level. We continue to spread the message of Inclusion and Awareness of all people through our music video from our latest CS ‘Mamamorphosis” “Take a Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes”; and are constantly creating new content for families, children with autism and the community at large.
We are also in the process of creating a song- book with some of our favorite songs, visuals as well as tips for families on the best way to use the songs to teach, move, connect and have fun with each other.
What do you find most rewarding as entrepreneurs?
When we hear our music on the radio or see our music videos on television, we feel really proud of our accomplishments. Getting our first royalty check was also pretty cool.
Our children are also now performing and playing instruments in the band with us, so as mothers this has made the project even more special.
Seeing parents and children sing, dance and make music together in a carefree way is always rewarding because it re-enforces our belief that sharing music across generations creates a shared consciousness. We love it when parents and kids share with us that they have been inspired by our music to make up songs with their own families.
We have heard so many incredible stories from families who connect with our music. One in particular is of a child with speech delays that had a major breakthrough from singing one of our songs.
What advice would you give women interested in starting an educational and/or music business?
Beware of anyone who promises to make you a “Big Star”. We have had our share of entertainment industry mishaps from people with seemingly the “right credentials” making false promises for their own interests.
We also would advise anyone entering the music business to get out there and perform live as much as possible for all populations and situations. Also, the social media is a great tool to build a fan base and get exposure. Offer to perform at schools during lunch periods and assemblies. Many schools have budgets for this. Ultimately, just love what you do and remain focused and true to your goals and dreams. We did not start this business to make money, so whenever we are compensated financially, we are truly grateful.
How can people learn more about your music and Swingset Mamas?
Check out these two clips to get more of a feel of the Swingset Mamas.
Swingset Mamas DVD Compilation – Clips from our 15 song music video DVD
Take a Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes: A song from our 2011 Parents Choice Award Winning CD inspired by our journey with autism and to promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion of special needs kids and all people.
More at www.swingsetmamas.com