GUEST BLOG: Xylo Aria (Music Production For Women)

Xylo Aria is the Founder of Music Production For Women (MPW), an online platform that encourages women to start producing music for themselves. After the success of her first FREE work-shop in London, we asked this inspirational woman to write about her thoughts on the music industry, and what fuels her creativity and generosity.

 

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about why we kill ourselves to be in the music industry, which from afar looks to be an unforgiving, self-centered being which really couldn’t care less about you. I’ll be honest, even at proximity it’s probably much the same, although I’m not sure I’d consider myself on the “inside” by any means. Still, I have to say as frustrated as I get by it sometimes, I still am in love with it.

This is for many reasons. Firstly, my project that’s so extremely close to my heart, MPW (Music Production for Women) as cheesy as it sounds gives me a very strong reason to wake up in the morning. Although it was launched not a lot time ago, the message seems to be spreading slowly but surely, and I often get lovely messages from women all over the world, something along the lines of “I’m so glad I found this, and have been looking for it for a while. It’s very encouraging to see and if there’s any way I can support it I’d love to!”.

This obviously puts a giant smile on my face. If my project helps reduce the self-doubt and lack of control over one’s music that I experienced in anyone else, then it’ll be the best thing. In saying that, it is a struggle. Although I love what I’m doing more than I’ve ever enjoyed anything, it’s a constant battle trying to stay afloat in many ways including financially and (although I feel I’m getting better at this) mentally when you’re trying to set something up from scratch, not having any clue what the outcome will be a few years, or even a few months from now.

And then of course, there’s the actual music side of things. There seem to be a million routes which you can take as an artist these days. Self release, pitch to small labels, pitch to bigger labels, try for publishing (I still don’t really understand what this is if I’m being honest) try for synch, release monthly to keep the flow, release periodically to keep people wanting more. etc. In some ways, it’s the best time to create music because we have so many options available to us; but it’s also enough to overwhelm any sane individual. Whether we are sane, fighting tooth and nail to work so hard to be in an industry which is doing so fine without us is another matter entirely.

Although it seems I’m straying from the point I’m trying to make – and yes there is a positive point – there is a clear reason why we do this. To say we love it seems to be an over-used cliche when it comes to the arts, but for me I guess it’s more the euphoria I get when I’m creating something I believe to be beautiful, as well as when I feel I’m helping people through MPW in a unique way which I somehow have the perfect skills in my opinion to do, is like nothing I get from anything else. And that’s pretty much all there is to it. You can be fighting every minute, and be getting beaten down but know you’re ALIVE while you’re doing it, or you can take the comfortable option and be dying a little every minute because what you’re doing has nothing to do with what you’ve been given the unique skills to do.

Thanks to Xylo for writing this piece for GIHE. Follow Music Production For Women on Facebook for more updates.

GUEST BLOG: Grapefruit

In a new guest blog feature, Angela from Maidstone-based, alternative band Grapefruit writes about what it means to take claim of being women in the music industry.

Sometimes I have mixed feelings about describing Grapefruit as a “female fronted band”. As someone who thinks of gender as a needless and suffocating concept, it can feel like we’re highlighting something irrelevant.

But, we can’t escape the fact that the music we create is intrinsically tied to and is product of our identities. And when that identity is female or femme or non-binary, I do think it’s important to highlight in an industry that continues to be dominated by cis-male identities.

You might not be fazed that our band is female-fronted but some young girl interested in the music magazines in the men’s section of the newsagents might be. Growing up I certainly clung to female-fronted bands; Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine was an idol; my girlfriend and our lead guitarist first picked up a guitar and spent hours learning and mastering it so she could play music like Kate Nash, PJ Harvey and Siouxsie Sioux did.

The point is that whilst inspiring female talent certainly exists in the industry, we’re still often the only female-featuring band on the setlist. We still have to assure some sound engineers that we know how to set up our own mic-stands, and have had to shrug it off when they make sex jokes whilst we’re focusing on getting the levels right. We still look at each other confused when we are compared to a bunch of (talented) bands we sound nothing alike except for that rare female voice.

Until it’s not so rare to see a woman in a band at your local pub, we’ll continue to proudly announce our female-ness and to get excited when we get to play alongside other female, femme, and non-binary musicians. It is our responsibility to make ourselves a space and to fill it to the point of overflow; your ownership of your identity and musical mastery is an important “fuck-you” to the “music has gotten too girly” types (thanks for the words of wisdom, Bono).

 

A massive thank you to Grapefruit for this piece. Follow the band on Facebook for more updates.

Guest Blog: Artist Manager, Ella Gregg

In a new guest blog feature, 20 year old Ella Gregg shares her experience of being an artist manager, and her journey to get there… 

I began my career as an artist manager at the age of 18, almost completely accidentally.

Since the age of 15, I have always had an interest in emerging artists – listening to music by artists who people had never heard before, like knowing a secret that no one else knew.  Through social media platforms such as Twitter, I was involved in a community where new  artists were fighting for your attention and craving your support, and I began heavily supporting the artists I had discovered who I knew were worth supporting and putting my time into. I would promote these artists on social media and, without really knowing, I became a semi-guru in new music; artists would then start asking me to promote them in the same way I had promoted other people.

At the age of 17, I had just finished my A Levels and, after being a police cadet for 5 years, I was adamant I was going to take a gap year before joining my local police force. However, this didn’t go to plan. In the Summer of 2016, I was approached by artist development platform Secret Sessions, run by Harriet Jordan-Wrench, to join the team as an unpaid intern for the Summer. My role would be to invite emerging artists to join the platform which gave them the opportunities to apply for live shows and sync deals that the platform had on offer. I would have input in curating the secret live shows and choosing artists who would be appropriate for the opportunities we had available. To be able to have such an immediate and beneficial part to play in artists’ careers was incredible and I was completely in love with my job. I stayed at Secret Sessions a lot longer than just the Summer, scouting and working with over 1000 artists in 18 months.

Working and discovering new talent every day meant that I was going to come across gold dust and I did so in a band called Blushes. Their music was incomparable and I spent hours watching videos and listening to their music in awe. The band put me in contact with their manager at that time, and I set up a meeting with him for the next day. I explained what Secret Sessions did in depth and how I would love to have got Blushes involved, but instead he asked me if I would like to begin working for his management company, working alongside himself and Blushes.

So, at the age of 18, I began working with Blushes as their booking agent. I had absolutely no experience or contacts in booking gigs, but I wasn’t scared to learn on the job and I booked the band numerous shows, as well as their first UK tour. Within the first 6 months of managing Blushes, they completed their first UK tour, they had been featured by NME and their track ‘To The Bone’ had been played on BBC Radio 1. The great publicity and support from NME didn’t end there, Blushes have been featured in 2 separate articles since the first, they have been featured in NME’s 100 Artists for 2018 list, and they have had a 4 page spread in their magazine. With this confirmation that, hey, maybe I’m not doing too badly after all, I decided to set up my own management company and officially manage Blushes under my own name, with my own company – 321 Artists.

I’d be completely lying if I said it had been easy. Being a young artist manager with no experience is HARD. I’ve never made a huge thing of my age or gender in the work I do, but there have been many occasions where I’ve stopped and thought “Would you be speaking to me like that if I was 40 year old man?” because sometimes I feel as if that’s what it comes down to.

I’m in an incredibly fortunate position to be in such an impactful industry at such a young age, and I know I have a very long way to go, and a lot to learn, and I was very lucky with how I ended up working in the music industry. If I hadn’t been scouted, I don’t know if I would have been able to navigate the different avenues to get into the industry. That’s why my aim with 321 artists is to work closely with colleges and schools, giving young people the opportunity to experience the music industry – helping the next generation
of photographers, journalists, producers and artist managers to find their way into
the music industry.

Huge thanks to Ella for sharing her experience with us! Find out more about her company 321 Artists here