Visibility: Keeping the Door Open For Women in Music

deers1

In her blog last month, BBC 6 Music DJ Lauren Laverne picked up on the recent New Statesman article suggesting that, whilst it’s currently a good time to be a woman in politics, a question we should be asking is why so many of the most successful women in politics are childless. Lauren extended the conversation, arguing that for women to achieve equal status in their careers, there must first be equality at home, crediting her supportive partnership as a major factor in her career success. It seems that currently, in many areas of social, cultural and working life, we are talking about women.

The music industry has duly been asking itself some questions of late, from festival lineups left glaringly stark once stripped of their male only acts, to Bjork’s Pitchfork interview in which she talked about how much harder women have to push simply to be credited for their own work — particularly in technical areas like production and engineering.

When we sat down for our first Bristol Women in Music meeting, we had a long discussion about why we were there, and ask ‘what are we about?’ Catalysed by Abbé Rodgers [The Agency Group] and with a core of 10-15 women set to regularly work on the project, we’d reached out across the city to those working within different scenes and areas of music; from labels, management and PR, to radio, education and of course artists.

We discussed our personal experiences as women in the industry. Unsurprisingly, the experiences discussed varied greatly (as do the jobs, backgrounds and ages of the woman who make up BWIM), and I realised that my personal experiences in the industry had been comparatively very positive. Prior to my current artist management role at Bristol’s Futureboogie, I spent ten years in London, first in records and then artist management. I credit my positive experiences to the fact that I worked for a woman for those ten years — my very first years in the industry. Having a boss and mentor who who’d reached great success and who never seemed deterred by her gender was crucial. I met agents, managers, promoters, producers and label execs, of whom many were women; my experience was very balanced.

Sure, there have been times where it was less so. Notably, being told on one occasion that I made the office ‘look nice’ and on another being referred to simply as ‘the girl in the office’, interestingly by a man about eight years my junior — but these incidents are relatively few in over a decade of work. It goes without saying that these are the kinds of comments women, more so than men, endure in day-to-day life, so it’s unsurprising when they creep — and I mean creep — their way into the professional environment.

While there’s a neverending supply of unpleasant stories, BWIM is principally driven by celebrating and creating positive experiences; the value of seeing someone like you already doing what you want to do. It’s widely accepted that, if people can see examples of those they can relate to, then that door of opportunity will not seem so closed to them. It’s for this reason that our aim of raising women’s visibility in Bristol music is so vital. You could say, I want all women to have what I had.

When I think of the companies we each work for, and those we work closely with, the directors are men. Regardless of the reasons behind this and the degree to which it must change, many of these organisations have grown either predominantly, or certainly equally-balanced, with women. Yet this is not always obvious in their publicity. We want to make more visible the many women that make up the music industry and connect them with each other; an informative network, useful to professionals and those starting to work in music — an area already difficult to access.

Having launched in May at the Bristol Festival of Ideas, we’re now set to put together a new annual event, beginning in 2016, for music industry professionals and those aspiring to work in music. Not just a Bristol industry event – but an important industry event that happens to take place here, for both men and women. But, being powered by BWIM, you won’t be seeing any all-male panels and the like at *our* event.

Bristol has long had a thriving creative scene, with a developing industry growing around it. Let’s keep it a viable city in which to develop your career in music – man or woman!

Check out a recent track from Hinds right here: