Funding the dream


Emily Satterlee’s dream is to make music her career. But for now, she’s working toward her break and waiting tables at two Huntington Beach restaurants.

The 27-year-old commercial music student at Orange Coast College wants to sell her original songs to music supervisors for TV shows or films. But when she submits demos of her work to music supervisors, she always gets the same answer: “Bring back a professional recording.”

That’s something Satterlee just can’t afford — at least not yet.

Satterlee, a nine-year Huntington Beach resident, doesn’t necessarily want to be famous like Sara Bareilles or Taylor Swift, two artists she said her sound is often compared to. She just wants to make music behind the scenes by selling her songs for use on movies, TV and for use by major artists.


“She’s in this popular realm but she has this blue-eyed soul to her,” said music producer and teacher Gary Gray, who previously taught Satterlee and now works with her. “She has this soul that’s just infectious.”

Satterlee is a relative newcomer to the music business, without any real background in music.

“I guess I was always into music, but I never realized I wanted to write it myself,” Satterlee said. “I was always into the ‘90s female writers, like Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette. I always liked them but I never put it together that I wanted to be like them until recently.”

It wasn’t until she got a guitar and started writing songs about five years ago that she realized her talent and decided to pursue it. She was inspired to start writing when a romantic relationship ended, an event she still refers to as her “muse.”

There are a number of characteristics about Satterlee and her sound that give her a bright future in the music industry, Gray said. It’s most notably her hard work and well-crafted lyrics that set her apart from other aspiring artists.

“The industry right now is rife with average material and average singers,” he said. “It’s not like how it was when I was growing up in the 70s. … Now it’s rare to find someone with such a great voice and insightful lyrics as Emily.”

In order to bare her soul to a wider audience, Satterlee turned to Kickstarter, a website that provides artists or inventors with a fundraising outlet, to raise money to record her first professional extended-play album about eight months ago.

In need of an estimated $10,000 to $12,000 to book time in a studio, record three of her favorite songs and pay a music producer to edit her songs, she didn’t know where else to turn.

“You have to have a professional recording of your stuff to even get recognized, and that takes a lot of time and money,” Satterlee said. “A lot of people give up because you have to give up a lot [to make it]; I don’t do anything else but spend my money on this project.”

Satterlee recorded her first single, “What’s Left Now,” with the $4,852 she raised on Kickstarter, most of which came from her friends and family. She’d set her expectations low at $3,223, needing to hit the goal or get nothing, according to website policy. She walked away with about $4,100 after Kickstarter and Amazon took a percentage of the amount raised, and she spent most of that recording the single.

Satterlee — a waitress at Mamas at 39 and Buffalo Wild Wings, both in Huntington Beach — is still not even halfway to recording her three-to-five-song EP, so she went back to a similar website, IndieGoGo, for another push.

“This time I am trying to target my community and school more and get them involved,” Satterlee said. “I don’t know what to really expect from this one.”

IndieGoGo is similar to Kickstarter with one major difference: The artists keep all of whatever money is raised, whether they hit their goals or not. For Satterlee, that goal is $8,500. She has 12 days to hit that mark, a period that ends next Thursday.

Satterlee has offered six prize packages for potential donors. For a $1 donation, people will receive a digital download of “What’s Left Now.” There also are potential donation levels of $5, $25, $55, $100 and $1,000, with the top donation earning an executive producer credit.

Minoti Vaishnav, who earned her associate of arts degree in music from OCC in 2010, also used Kickstarter to help her record her second album, “Secret Garden,” which is set to release in two weeks.

The 25-year-old Los Angeles resident raised $3,700 in August for the 10-song project.

“It’s all thanks to the Kickstarter funding, because I wouldn’t have had the money to do it otherwise,” Vaishnav said.

It generally costs up to $100,000 to create a professional album, said Vaishnav, who was able to do it for much less by having her friends work on the project for free. Websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo aren’t just sources of money, but also motivation, she added.

“I think that’s what’s great about Kickstarter,” Vaishnav said. “It pushes you to better your career because you’ve promised all these people you’re going to deliver.”

To donate to Satterlee’s project visit her IndieGoGo website at

Twitter: @TCNShortall