If you combine an enormous void in a major market with a genius innovator, you have Lisa Roth and her brainchild, Rockabye Baby.
Anyone with a child or even anyone who knows a child, knows their choices in entertainment can be annoying at best and ear-bleedingly awful at worst (is Barney still a thing??). Enter Rockabye Baby, a musical solution that makes everyone happy, and if you can make everyone happy, you’ve won at life.
What gave you the idea to create Rockabye Baby? How did you know it was the right time to go for it?
About two weeks into my job at CMH Label Group, I was shopping for a baby shower gift and saw nothing in the music department that I considered parent-friendly. I wanted to give something that an adult would enjoy, that had a sense of humor and a little irony. Working at the record label, I thought maybe we could do something about that. My co-worker at the time, Valerie Aiello, had a similar idea, and about a year later Rockabye Baby was born. Now, almost ten years in, Rockabye Baby is going strong as an internationally-known brand.
As far as timing, I guess necessity was the mother of invention. There wasn’t a lot available at that time for parents who love music, and who have a sense of humor. My desire was to appeal to the parent, to the adult who existed pre-baby and who might get a little ignored after baby, because that’s who I identified with. I got a kick out of our idea, and knew in my gut that it was funny, fun and useful. When my gut speaks, I tend to listen.
What type of business background do you have? Do you feel like you were prepared for this endeavor? Did you meet any resistance along the way?
I saw this question and thought to myself, “I don’t have a formal business background, and I am helping run this company …busted!” Yet upon reflection, it’s very clear that everything that came before provided me with everything I need. My business background was gained through practical experience. Up until my tenure at CMH Label Group, I was self-employed.
For 20 years, I was a nutritionist and ran my own practice here in Los Angeles, and part time in New York. I was responsible for the bookkeeping, the marketing, all PR, the office space, employees, taxes and so on. I was intimately familiar with the rhythm of money in/money out. I was also a freelance segment producer for Discovery and National Geographic programming. I was a cog in a very large production wheel and came to understand how important each person’s role is to the bigger picture.
My own personal version of business school came after my father passed away and I became the executor of his estate. For several years I had to honor a number of contracts he had with the government, and see to it that services were rendered, his employees were paid, the lights were kept on in the office, and all the wheels were turning, and initially, it all had to be done without any cash flow. All great lessons that I have in my arsenal.
As far as feeling prepared, I don’t think I’ve ever felt prepared for any new endeavor I’ve undertaken. It has always felt like trial by fire. Many new endeavors are filled with unknowns and by their very nature are daunting. Yet again, in retrospect, and sometimes only in retrospect, I can trace all the life experiences, conversations, education, personality traits, and mistakes that came before and contributed to the success of a particular pursuit.
What has been your biggest (or favorite) success moment to date?
Shortly after our first three Rockabye Baby albums came out in 2006, the New York times did a story on the series. I was away at a music conference, when we got a phone call from the office saying that the article came out and that the massive traffic to our website caused it to crash. I remember initially focusing on the fact that the site was down and feeling concern, and then it slowly dawning on me that in fact, this was probably a pretty good sign that the series was going to be a success. It’s also fun when an artist we have lullabied compliments our series in the press like Elton John, or Kirk Hammett from Metallica, or when Steven Tyler wrote the liner notes for our lullaby renditions of Aerosmith.
What advice do you have for other women who are starting their own businesses or projects?
Lend your honest, individual perspective to everything you pursue. That’s what will make it unique and interesting. Constantly tune in and listen to your gut; it never lies, you just have to simmer down long enough to hear it. Educate yourself — surround yourself with smart, supportive, talented people and ask a lot of questions, don’t be shy. Pay attention to detail, don’t cut corners. Don’t let fear deter you. Know it’s not going to be easy, but the discomfort doesn’t mean there’s something wrong. In fact, whenever we start a new project here at the label, there is always a period for me when everything feels painfully stagnant and impossible, but I’ve come to accept that as part of the creative process, and the more the discomfort, the greater the outcome. And as Dori says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.”
What women inspire you?
So many women inspire me, but here’s a few that come to mind immediately:
When I was very young, I remember watching Joan Rivers and Barbra Streisand on our black and white Zenith television. I think I was five or six years old and I was mesmerized. Neither of them looked or acted like the other women I was watching. Joan was waving her hands and talking loudly, and making people laugh. Not something a lot of women were doing at the time. Barbra was equally boisterous and comedic, her voice was amazing, and I thought she was beautiful. Every night I’d stand up at the dinner table and regale my family with my best imitation of Hello Dolly. In retrospect, I was drawn to their humor, their uniqueness, their confidence, and that they were bucking the trend of what was considered safe and acceptable.
I also love Fran Lebowitz, she’s the Bruce Lee of social commentary. So perceptive, intelligent, quick witted, and again, humorous.
I admire Hillary Clinton, her accomplishments are vast. I will never achieve one sixteenth of what this woman has done in her life. I like that she’s controversial and unapologetic. And what’s not to love about a very public figure who says it’s not acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights?
What books, music or other media have had an impact on your life?
One of my favorite movies, and probably the first movie I ever watched was The Wizard of Oz. I think I was about six or eight years old, and in my immature way, I perceived for the first time what a metaphor was. I had a child’s version of an epiphany, when I realized that everything and everyone on that screen had a deeper meaning then met the eye. And that in real life, there is more to everything and everyone then meets the eye. I was blown away by this insight, and to this day I am compelled in life to look beyond the apparent, to see what’s not being shown, to hear what’s not being said. It’s my way of being in the world. I use it to make human connections, to solve business issues, everything. I feel like it might be the one skill I have to offer and that I’m confident in.
And I LOVE music. I can’t carry a tune to save my life, but I am enthralled with how music can access one’s emotions at warp speed. It is a conduit to the heart, and anything that facilitates feeling in this day and age is awesome in my book.
Honestly, all forms of media have an impact on everyone’s life, whether you are the one doing the reading, watching, listening or not. Film, television, books, music, YouTube are a part of our culture, and they influence and inform our societal values, behavior, politics, everything.
What’s your favorite thing about yourself?
I guess that I’m pretty perceptive and insightful, and have a sense of humor about it all. And that I still love The Wizard of Oz.
Photo credit: Earl Gibson