Elise Roller - Misfit Music Management
Where were you at in your music career when you had your first child? Was there much discussion about how that life choice would affect your career within the music/entertainment industry?
I was just starting out, it was my first serious year as an artist. In fact, I had just been signed by a boutique label and my first thought when I found out I was pregnant was, "this is the end of my dreams." I didn't let it stop me and continued to work on my music despite being a single mother - I released a solo EP and self-booked my first 3 week X-Can tour which I did when my son was only 15 months old. After joining my band, I independently released one album, 3 EPs, 4 standalone singles, won $35K in songwriting prize money, booked countless tours, and yet wasn't being given the same opportunities as many of the male/non-parent counterparts in my circle. I was told by industry professionals (including a major label who initially expressed interest) that I should hide my motherhood and that it wasn't really conducive to a career in music. People often backed away as soon as they found out about it, especially with me being a single mom. It always felt like other people made it a barrier even though I was able to prove that it wasn't.
As a working parent in the music industry, what are some of the biggest challenges you are facing?
Work-life balance: This is already difficult for anyone in the music industry as it's one that requires a lot of evenings, weekends, sporadic hours, working in various time zones, and travel. Throw children into the mix, and that makes it all the more complicated to feel like you're able to keep up with everything and spend enough time with everyone.
Financial stability: As an entrepreneur in the music industry, riding the financial roller coaster while ensuring that the business and team is still functioning is always stressful. Adding that to the worry of financially providing for my children (especially when I was a single-mother who did not receive child support) has made it increasingly difficult to feel like this is a safe space to operate, career-wise.
Constant guilt: If I'm spending time on my business, I feel guilty that I'm not spending as much time with my kids and vice versa - the narrative in the music industry is that unless you're endlessly hustling, you don't deserve to be successful and that's something that's continually hanging over my hand.
What is one small change within the industry that could make a positive impact for working parents?
Accessibility that promotes representation: I spent last year traveling with my baby and a caregiver as a nursing mother to represent my showcasing artists and participate in conferences. Nearly every person I talked to told me that I was the first breastfeeding mother they've seen "doing this," which is actually really problematic considering the number of mothers in music that I know. I had a handful of artists tell me that they always felt like they had to choose between a music career or a family and that seeing me in that space gave them hope that it was possible. Representation not only inspires future mothers, but it also shows the rest of the industry that it's acceptable to have a family and a music-career. That said, it was incredibly difficult trying to manage a breastfeeding schedule in addition to an over-programmed conference schedule and without any nursery, nursing, or pumping area (I pumped in dirty bar bathroom stalls), it negatively affected my mental, physical, and emotional health. To be honest, I would never do it again, and that's probably why we don't see enough of it. That's why it's so important to take actual steps for being inclusive rather than just giving a platform for visibility.
How do you find support and community with other working parents in or out of the music industry?
I mean... I don't really because I feel like none of us have the time or space to have community or be supportive to each other.
What’s one specific example of an organization/venue/company doing something great to help support working parents?
There is a TON of work to be done and I honestly was going to respond to this with *insert crickets here* because I couldn't really think of any great example within my circle. That said, I think Canada Council for the Arts does a great job of engaging in two-way conversations and flexibility with demographics of people who don't fit into a systemic box. CCA is the only funder who allowed me to include the expenses of my caregiver (including flights, transportation, and per diems) in my travel application and actually funded it. They also don't put in unnecessary deadlines, eligibility requirements, or have pages of guidelines that are impossible to understand - they really just seem to want their applicants to avoid stress, anxiety, and burnout as they move towards sustainability in their artistic careers. And truly, that's what parents need.
What could a music event (festival, conference, etc.), do or provide to make it easier for you to participate?
Breastfeeding/nursing rooms, nurseries so your baby can nap onsite (because Airbnbs are better than conference hotels when you have a baby), separate budgets and plans to support parenting onsite rather than an afterthought. If this happens more regularly, you will see them being used more.
Can you shout out another music mama doing great things?
Miesha from Miesha & the Spanks - just a total badass mama with TWINS who she brought to a showcasing conference when they were newborns, and then rocked some sets. I'm still amazed. Also Tao Ming-Lau who started Blue Crane Agency then lived that mama/business owner/entrepreneur life with a wee one. Tao was a big inspiration for me, showing me that it was possible to be a mom and entrepreneur in music.