Patti Smith, Madonna, Kim Gordon, Sinead O'Connor, Courtney Love and Exene Cervenkova have more in common than their professions in the music business: They're all mothers.
So is Annie Melvin, who has recently established Mother Rock Star, a growing group of music business professionals who also happen to be mothers. It's a cross-country network of women connected through the Internet and telephone lines that provides various services to the music industry. The members also support each other in professional and personal endeavors.
"I tried to leave the industry for a while, but missed the freedom, the challenges and the people," said Melvin, who lives in Harrisburg, Mo. "The network allows me to pursue my career on my own terms and that's my wish for all the mothers."
From 1991 to 1994, Melvin was showcase coordinator of South by Southwest, the annual music festival in Austin, Tex., and also found time to handle the same duties for three years at the Midwest Regional Music Festival in St. Louis, Mo.
She later ran promotions and publicity for several music groups and played in her own band, Eleanor Plunge, which met with regional success.
When she became a mother, she decided to return to her first love, rock 'n' roll, rather than look for a more "stable" or "traditional" career. In doing so, she found a way to help musical mothers across the country.
As a woman -- and especially a mother -- in rock 'n' roll, Melvin encountered many obstacles, including "being paid considerably less than men doing the same or less than I was, having ideas that were considered to have come from higher-ups and not being able to accept, or being considered for, more intensive positions because of being a mom."
What she offers to patrons through the Mother Rock Star network is women who handle publicity, booking, radio and retail promotion, art, special events/projects and festival coordination. Although one woman may handle only promotions, Melvin explained, she can put a customer in contact with another woman who can handle artwork or booking duties.
"I would like to build the network to offer all possible music services and to be considered an entity in the industry to be recognized for excellence in its work while still helping and building the careers of the moms involved," Melvin said.
What the women of the network offer each other, in addition to work referrals, is advice, ideas and support in an industry that can be very unpredictable and difficult for mothers, she added. They can exchange creative solutions for unusual situations.
Touring can be a particularly difficult issue for musicians who are mothers. When Melvin's band hit the road for a tour, she brought her daughter along.
"For the most part, it worked out great, but you no longer can just sleep on anybody's floor -- there's a new standard that has to be met," she said.
Melvin hopes to further build the Mother Rock Star network when she moves back to the musical mecca of Austin with her husband and two children.
"It's where we became who we are, and it feels right," she said. "The music scene there is like no other."
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