The new sound of music
There’s a revolution brewing down at Byron Bay. High on a hill in rural Myocum, there’s a multiaward-winning American megastar about to make history in the music industry.
Meet Toni Childs.
You may remember her as the Grammy-nominated, Emmy-winning singer who ruled the charts in the ’90s with hits like I’ve Got to Go Now and Don’t Walk Away.
You may remember that she was diagnosed with Graves Disease and retreated to an Hawaiian island where she spent the next decade.
With any luck, in the future you’ll know her as the Aussie girl who done good – and turned an industry on its head.
The 55 year old, who looks a good two decades younger, is plotting and pioneering a musical evolution from her new NSW home base.
“My fans have completely funded my new album, Citizens of the Planet. Every cent is from them. Now we’re raising money for the most amazing mind-blowing tour, and it’s going to be fan-funded again,” Toni says.
“I don’t even like to say how much money we’ve raised because it’s kind of embarrassing. But it’s a lot.
“It’s incredible, I have never been so empowered as an artist before. Finally I can say what I want and need to say and the fans have given me that freedom.
“I’ve written my own 91-page business plan about how to make your art work as a sustainable career. I’m the guinea pig and if – or when – this works, I hope it will be the model that artists of the future follow.“This is not about making money but making a living out of your passion.”
It was passion of a different kind that brought Toni down under, but she says her new home country is the best place from which to base her artistic assault.
Aboard a Qantas domestic flight in September 2010, Toni was seated next to NSW bush artist Mik Lavage when a lightning bolt struck their plane while on the tarmac.
“It was just meant to be,” says Toni, who married Lavage and set up home with him in the foothills near Byron Bay.
“People have really welcomed me. There’s so much warmth here in the community.
“It’s a really eclectic place too. There is so much support from local artists for what I’m doing.
“Mik is a huge part of this. We’re in this together and it’s an amazing ride.”
Toni says while her album was funded from her website and Facebook page, the new campaign is being run through the Kickstarter website, which administers artistic and creative funding endeavours.
Fans can pre-purchase albums, concerts, artwork and experiences – including personal performances – from Toni with funds going towards her tour.
She says she opted for this alternative route because she felt there was simply no other option.
“The recording industry has always been driven by corporations and the dollar,” Toni says.
“To make it you had to be signed up and part of the machine, you were the commodity that they sold and you had very little real power.
“But now it’s an all-new extreme. There is just no room for self-expression. It’s about computer programs predicting hit singles, not telling your story and connecting with an audience.
“If you have that soul fire that needs to come out and connect with an audience, you just can’t go through that process and thrive.”
Toni says that having been chewed up and spat out by this same machine, she has at least accrued a huge and passionate audience.
She said her loyal following gave her a head start when it came to launching her independent endeavour.
“The real challenge is for new artists to figure out how to get people to support them. It is easier for me as an established singer,” she says.
“But technology like YouTube means they can get their music out and find their audience. I’m hoping that I’m paving the way for them.”
Toni says the concerts, which should kick off at the end of May, will incorporate an interactive LED floor, a three-dimensional mapped stage and set projections.
“It will be two-hours that I hope will change people’s lives,” she says. “As well as music there are art installations, visuals and the show will also be interspersed with spoken word about my thoughts and experiences.
“I haven’t taken the easy route here but that’s not what life is about.
“It’s about fighting to evolve and creating history that future generations will remember.”
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