Despite humble beginnings on the prairie, Kathleen LaGue has herself poised for a run at the big time. She’s achieved this through a solid work ethic. The fashion model turned singer/songwriter is getting a great deal of buzz with her self titled debut album, released on her own label, Lioness Records. LaGue has logged the miles on the road playing clubs, but also has sprinkled her resume with high profile gigs like opening for John Hiatt and a segment on CNN’s Showbiz Today. I first encountered Kathleen playing one of those private, industry schmooze parties at SXSW this past March. She recently took time out of her hectic schedule to discuss the use of the Internet to market music, Metallica’s Napster lawsuit, and what it’s like being a rocker in Nashville.
How are you using the Internet for your music?
How am I using it? Definitely for marketing and exposure. The first thing I ever did was to get on to MP3.com, upload free MP3’s for free, easy downloads by anyone, anywhere who knows how to do it. Basically giving them a snippet and hoping that would lead people to buy the CD. OK, from the MP3.com website, at the same time I was building my own website (http://www.kathleenlague.com), so I’m using the Internet to sell and market my merchandise and make my tour schedule available, I have a message board where people can write in, ask questions, I write back, posting pictures of current gigs. Oh news, reviews, things that Phil Bailey writes. I keep one page only for things Phil writes.
My ego doesn’t need help to get any bigger.
It’s called “Kat with Phil.” My message board actually is called “Kat’s Couch.” People can sit down in my living room and have a little chat.
Do you get much traffic on that?
Surprisingly. Not like long winded conversations that go back and forth, except for when someone was trying to find this song called “Unglued” on La Femme Nikita, a television show. It can really be that way… people you’ve never even heard of just search and find you and if they have the guts they’ll come on to Kat’s Couch. I think a lot of people think that it’s something that it’s not. So they don’t go there.
Yeah, it kind of plays off of casting couch.
Right, right. Well, you know, I thought [that] was kind of funny. I’ve been up against that many a time.
Where do you stand in all of this Metallica outrage that people are trading their songs on Napster?
You know, I’m for and against. Right now, for me as an artist, what I really need is exposure – of course, I want to sell records, but I’m making more money touring and selling CDs at my gigs than I am selling CDs on the Internet. Because giving away free music doesn’t necessarily convert into selling CDs. So far. People think if it’s free, then they deserve it for free. And unless they’re just really into it, they’re not going to make the effort to go to the site and buy it. Although that has happened a lot, not in the thousands, millions that I need. So I don’t know. I’ve had upwards of 22,000 downloads from MP3.com, and who knows from other sites… probably 25,000 downloads total. That has exposed me to people in England and Ireland and Iraq… well, not Iraq, some countries I don’t even know where they are. That’s really cool. So for me as far as giving away MP3’s as a marketing thing, it works. Actually, I have put my songs up on Napster as an experiment. Napster is not really a place, that site is not really a place for exposure for new artists by any means. It doesn’t really work. Napster doesn’t really work for me in that way at all. I guess it’s really up to the individual artist. I don’t think Metallica should be suing their fans. If anything they need to be taking it up with Napster, the CEOs that came in, and decided to make this a venture capitalist… company. The nineteen-year-old guy in Connecticut, who was bored, sitting around decided to come up with this program. The kid’s nineteen years old who came up with this program to allow people to share your hard drive, basically. Not to say he doesn’t want to make money, but he happily gave away the business end of this thing. I’m not saying he gave it away monetarily, but he’s still writing programs, he’s not trying to market this thing as a money making, tour sponsoring venture.
I think that most people trading Metallica songs also buy Metallica CDs.
Sure. I mean, if you want to hear a song again that you haven’t had or you’ve had on an album. I mean, you bought the album, so if you want to hear the song again, I don’t know, I really don’t see that as being bad. But then, that goes to all different levels… what about a new song that no one’s heard and it get leaked out? It could hurt sales of singles, for sure. It’s kind of hard. It’s really hard to take one side or another.
Just taking you as an example, with 25,000 downloads. If you got a dollar every time someone downloaded one of your songs, you wouldn’t be nearly as concerned with selling CDs.
Yeah. I definitely would have paid for my record by now. I spent twenty grand to make my first record. At full price, if I sold two thousand records, I’ve made it. At full price.
Of course, you have to reach two thousand people willing to pay, what, like fifteen bucks for your CD?
You know, I probably have done that, but I haven’t made the full amount because I have a distributor, as well. I’m a little unusual [compared to] the typical Internet artist in that I also have a regular distribution deal, so my CD is available in Tower and Barnes & Noble and the brick and mortar retail stores that we’re accustomed to going to, if you were born before… if you were around ten years ago. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to sell there, because without any exposure, without any marketing, no one knows it’s there. It’s good for me because I can say, if someone’s totally not Internet savvy, I can say go to Barnes & Noble. And half the time it’s not in stock because I don’t have a team out there that I’m paying monthly to make sure my CD stays in the store, to make sure it gets into listening stations to get exposure. I’m not paying that kind of money out in marketing. I would if I could, that would probably really help my sales. To have it available that way is great. That’s how my mom got it. That’s how my aunts and uncles got it. They didn’t go on the Internet.
How did you get started on the Roxygen on Oxygen competition, and where’s it heading?
I found out about the Roxygen contest through another website, all girl, called Girl Power Flour Hour. It’s a radio show this girl in Sacramento, California has. She found me from the MP3.com site. She contacted me and said she wanted me to be part of this radio show. I get so many things like that. I get e-mail probably three or four times a week wanting me to join their Internet/radio/whatever dot com. This happened to be a real radio show as well as an Internet radio. She was through a college station. Anyway, she kept me updated on, she sends me stuff that is all girl stuff, I don’t know how she found out about it but she turned me onto it and I submitted, and they have twenty finalists right now that are up on their site, and you can listen to a song, go to message boards and talk about who you think should win, but in the end it’s going to be judged by a couple of members of Luscious Jackson, Moby…
What do you get if you win?
Two that win will go to their national TV show called Tracker, which is on the Oxygen network. It’s live bands. I know Paula Cole’s been on there, and Snoop Doggy Dog. It’s cool. It’s like David Letterman, with only music. And it’s for young girls and I think the girls vote and it’s all very interactive, it’s all interconnected with the website (http://www.oxygen.com).
What is the Oxygen Tank Tour?
I did a very interesting gig with them at the Indianapolis 500. We were infield like fifty feet from the track. I performed the day before the actual race. Of course, you couldn’t perform during the race. You’d have to play really loud. But it was really amazing. I’ve never liked racing. I’ve always thought, “racing, oh god how boring!” And I still feel like that after watching for about ten minutes. But it was pretty cool to watch vehicles going that fast. Wow. How do they control them? And the track is tilted at an angle, like a ninety-degree angle practically. I don’t see how they’re able to stay on it. The Oxygen Tank Tour has like two semi trucks full of [stuff], it’s totally interactive – you can go right in and they have all of our songs, the finalists, songs up with our bios and stuff. It’s not only the music. But it’s also about the other aspects of Oxygen.com, which is all about women empowerment, basically.
Do people get certain ideas about your sound when they hear Kathleen LaGue from Nashville?
I get all kinds of… especially when it’s singer/songwriter from Nashville. I always try to say I’m a “solo artist.” Somehow, that’s a different vibe than a singer/songwriter. I think it definitely reflects what my record is about much more than singer/songwriter. It’s just more of what I’m about. I was born and raised in Kansas and spent a lot of time in New York, and I was just brought up on pop music. Top 40 radio is what you listened to. We were raised, eight people, on ten thousand [dollars] a year, so we couldn’t just go out and buy whatever record you wanted. I have to say my dad did to turn me onto the Beatles and Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell.
Are you looking for a major label deal, or are you content doing it yourself?
No, I’m not content, because it’s so overwhelming from the business end of it. I spend a month just setting up the next month as far as touring, exposure, [and] Internet, and during that month, while I’m trying to do the cool things I’ve set up, I’ve got to set up the next month. The business end of it is never-ending. Since I released my record in August, I’ve had so little time to write, it’s ridiculous. I miss that part terribly. I’m not completely against a major label deal, but it would have to be the right one. Not just whoever gives me an offer and take whatever they give me. Hopefully I’m going to build my own thing, I’m in the process and already have started to build my own thing, that eventually they come to you and see your successful after you’ve done all the work, and they just want to cash in on it. If they want to cash in on it at a rate that I can handle and it will give me exposure to thousands more people than I can touch out of my living room in Nashville, then yes. Luck, timing, what else is on the market – there are so many things against you. If I was embarking on a new record and someone wanted to give me a quarter of a million dollars to make a new record and I had all of these songs, hell yeah, I’d go for it.