Interview: Madalyn Sklar of GoGirls Music

GoGirlsMusic.com is a unique organization that focuses on advancing the careers of independent female artists. It was founded in early 1996 by lesbian musician Madalyn Sklar. GoGirls works tirelessly to help artists through education, networking, and events. Artists who become involved with GoGirls have the opportunity to perform, have their work reviewed, and get involved with a hardworking group of women who "get things done" in the music scene.

Madalyn is also a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent 12 years working with a wide range of independent musicians, helping them get focused and energized.

Lesbiatopia's special projects editor, Sinnerviewer, spoke with Madalyn about her role in founding GoGirls and about how GoGirls helps to promote women in music:

Shannon: You founded Go Girls Music almost 13 years ago. Tell me about that.

Madalyn: It started out of frustration of going to the local guitar shop and getting ignored. I started wondering if it was because I’m a female. The stores are all run by guys. I wasn’t sure if it was because I live in the south (Texas) or did other women get treated the same way in other parts of the country. At the time, the Internet was still very new. I was really big on the internet back then and saw the potential of what the Internet could do to bring people together.
I thought it would be really cool to set up a website for women in music to come together in a forum and talk about issues relevant to us. I didn’t really know exactly how it was going to come together. It was just an idea – kind of like a hobby. I had a job at the time in the financial business but was also learning web design and HTML. As a side business, I started a web design company. I figured GoGirls would be my website that I would play with to try out the new tips and tricks that I was learning.

That was kind of how it started. It has evolved over the years into something huge. We are literally an international organization promoting women and music. That’s why we say we are the oldest and largest organization promoting independent women in music.

Shannon: In the course of speaking with the Atlanta Chapter of Go Girls leader, Anne Marie, it occurred to me that women can sometimes be competitive and sometimes catty. Is it a particular challenge for you to get GoGirls members to support each other and not feel that sense of competition?

Madalyn: I think I do a really great job at this and it’s because I was born to be a leader. When it comes to the cliques and the cattiness, it all has to do with leadership. I don’t allow for it. This is not high school. It’s not a place to go start cliques. There was another ‘women in music’ organization that started a few years after us and I can remember some of my musician friends telling me about how it was very cliqueish. It was very frustrating for them because they just could not get into the “club”. I was just astounded. We’re grown-ups! There’s no need for that. My thing from day one is our mission statement: To promote, support & empower women in music.” If you’re going to do those things, there’s no room for it here. No favoritism, no cliques.

Not many people know this but when GoGirls was still pretty young, I had a singer/songwriter girlfriend. I made it very clear to her that just because she was with me, it doesn’t mean that you get to go play everything and do everything and get special treatment. That’s not how I operate.

Shannon: You could have really undermined your membership by doing something like that. That was very insightful of you.

Madalyn: I saw all of these other organizations trying to copy me and do what I was doing but I can’t even name one that did not show blatant favoritism. This music business on the Indie side is not very big. There’s a lot of obvious “I’ll help you and you help me” that goes on that they don’t even try to hide.

Shannon: I’m glad that you brought up the terminology of “Indie Music” because I don’t think a lot of people know what that means. Could you define that for Lesbiatopia readers?

Madalyn: Absolutely. When we think about main stream music, it’s what we hear on the radio. It’s what we’re stuck with, like it or not. And there is a lot of crap. Britney Spears – who cares! And yes, we all love Madonna but I’m so tired of all this music that these major labels support.

What independent (“indie”) is – it’s what you don’t get to hear on the radio. Its people doing their own thing: DIY – Do It Yourself. That’s a term that you hear a lot associated with independent music. Most of what these people are doing is their own thing. All of those women that you met (at the Atlanta Go Girls Chapter meeting) are out there doing it on their own or starting their own labels. You won’t always hear them on the radio and they won’t always be playing the big venues in town. It’s usually smaller venues and maybe internet radio or community radio. That’s where you typically find the indie artists.

Shannon: In your opinion, which I am really interested in your answer to this, which women artist do you think have kind of paved the way for the rest of them to be more accepted as female musicians. I know there must be a lot, but who really stands out to you as pioneers/trailblazers?

Madalyn: You mean in rock?

Shannon: I would like for you to interpret that question for yourself.

Madalyn: When I think about who paved the way for women in music in general, I think of Heart, Pat Benatar, Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) – all of that old school rock. When I was in high school, I wanted to be the next Joan Jett. I was this rocker guitar chick. Those girls were my role models. It kind of dates me – I’m a lot older than I look.


Shannon: Ahhh, I love Joan Jett, too. She is my absolute favorite!

Madalyn: Oh! I went to the True Colors concert here in Houston a few months ago. I had not seen Joan play since I was in high school. I was completely blown away. I mean, she still gets out there and rocks the house! I was just wowed by that. It was great to see the longevity.

I went to House of Blues in New Orleans a few weeks ago to see Heart. I was amazed to see them play in this intimate, small venue. I also got to see Melissa Ethridge here in Houston and she played for 2 ½ hours. I was like, “Oh my God! These women are amazing!” To me, those are the women who paved the way and have inspired so many of the people that I know through Go Girls.

Now, for the indie movement, one of the biggest influences for the past decade or more has been Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) who started her own record label which is there in Atlanta, I think. Ani DiFranco has also been amazing. She’s truly shown that you can do this. You can put out your own music on your own label and have a music career.

Shannon: Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records was the first independent label owned by a woman.

Madalyn: You are right.

Shannon: She did it first because none of the major labels would sign her. Then she hit with I Love Rock-n-Roll and they all wanted her. But it excites me that she is bringing all of these other bands like the Dollyrots & Girl in a Coma onto her label and helping them get their music out. She isn’t intimidated by these younger women, she empowers them and they all adore her. I love that about her.

Madalyn: I think that says a lot about how these women can help each other. I don’t know if the women from back in the day see how they can help the new ones coming along but they can!

Shannon: When I started looking into Go Girls, I realized very quickly that you really help your members out with social networking and internet marketing like nobody’s business! You must have understood the importance of that before most people in the music business. How did you come to realize that social networking would be a necessary tool and then become an expert on it?

Madalyn: Well, here’s what’s interesting. All we keep hearing about is social networking – especially for musicians. From time to time, I will send out e-mails to our Go Girls Elite members. Recently, I asked them which social networking site was their favorite. One of them replied GoGirlsMusic.com. I hadn’t really thought about it but that is really what we are all about. It’s a place to bring female musicians together.

You went to the Atlanta Chapter of Go Girls Meet-Up. All of those women getting together to help each other and all these women came together just because I started a website years ago. Through that, they do showcases together, tour together, take turns opening for each other at their shows, networking, motivating each other. It’s all social networking, but it goes beyond the website… beyond the Internet.

Shannon: I noticed that you have several sites like IndieMusicCoach.com and SocialNetworkingForMusicians.com.

Madalyn: Oh, I do a lot of stuff. That coaching is my consulting business. It came about because for years, I was leading Go Girls and talking to them as a group. But many of them needed one-on-one support. It just made sense that it was a natural progression.

Shannon: I want to transition a little more into your personal life.

Madalyn: How personal?


Shannon: Besides being a lesbian, the founder of this big music venture, personal coaching and owning your own label – you are also the mother of a son. Do you find a way to balance it all and if so, how do you make that work?

Madalyn: You know, that’s a great question. I do have a balance in my life but it’s not easy. A lot of people don’t realize that I have a child. They’re completely blown away when they find out because they know how much work I do and how much I travel. It just blows them away.

Having a child keeps me very grounded. That’s where I think the balance comes in. I love my work and I would not trade it for anything in the world. I will sometimes be on my computer for 14 hours, easily. But there is always time for my son. He’s 12 now, almost 13. He’s at that age where he likes to get on his own computer or play video games or whatever – it’s much easier now than when he was younger. We still have a great mother/son relationship though.

He was just recently my intern over the summer. It was awesome. We are very close. I adopted him from an orphanage when he was 19 months old. He was attached to me at the hip from day 1. It was an incredible experience. We had this great relationship already, but then we got to spend the summer together with him sitting next to me at my desk and working with me. It was really great. I’m actually bummed that he’s back in school now.

Shannon: You have my dream job. I wish you lived here in Atlanta because I would fight your son for that internship. Who cares that I’m 39? I’d pull my chair up to your desk and we’d kill 14 hours. I hope he knows how lucky he is to have had that opportunity.


Madalyn: I think he got a really good understanding of what I do, where as before, he knew what Go Girls was but not really the stuff I do. I hope it was a good life lesson for him.

Shannon: It had to be. I have one last question. Don’t be shy. Who do you have a girl crush on?

Madalyn: Well, first of all, let me say that I am single. I’m getting tired of it – it’s been about a year. My work keeps me so busy that I don’t really go out much. Gosh, who do I have a girl crush on?

Shannon: I asked Kelly Ogden of The Dollyrots. I barely finished the question before she was shouting out “Drew Barrymore!” – There wasn’t even a pause for reflection on the question for her.


Madalyn: That’s something that I have to really think about because I’m so into work and so busy. There are some members of GoGirls that I find very cute that I would consider my girl crushes but I could not divulge any of those names, that’s for sure!

Shannon: Give me a celebrity girl crush.

Madalyn: I don’t know…

Shannon: C’mon! You could at least give the standard lesbian answer of Angelina Jolie.

Madalyn: I like Angelina Jolie. The thing is, all my friends don’t and they’d be pissed at me if I said that. Then again, I don’t really care. We’ll say Angelina Jolie. I think she’s hot. Yeah, she’s my girl crush.


Madalyn Sklar said...

Great interview, Sinnerviewer! You made my day.

Keep rockin,

Renee Gannon said...

This was a kickass interview, Sinnerviewer! I feel like Madalyn is an old friend after reading this... you asked some really great questions and it seemed like you guys had a great time, too! Congrats on such a successful interview!

Paula Brooks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thewishfulwriter said...

Sinnerviewer, you give good interview, and that's the truth! Apes and I haven't forgotten to donate to the walk you're doing in honor of your Grandmother. We're also counting on seeing you guys in December. :)

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