Part one of this article showcased some of the amazing triumphs that women have made with hopes of creating equal opportunity to work in the music industry. Part two of this article will showcase some of my personal female inspirations in the industry. If I can send a message of determination to even just one person trying to make it in this industry, this article has served its purpose.
Firstly, what makes someone an inspiration in the first place? In my view, an inspiration is someone who makes you challenge yourself. Someone who, without knowing it, makes you feel like you have the power to do something that you never ever thought you could do. Whether it’s writing a song, applying to a music school, dying your hair a crazy colour, playing in front of a crowd, starting a blog, or even wearing leather pants – it can be truly anything that makes you feel invincible. So who are my personal inspirations?
Stevie Nicks once said: “Even in my really bad, drugged-out days, I didn’t go away. I still toured, still did interviews. I never gave up the fight. That’s why I’m who I am today because I didn’t leave. And I think I made the right choice.” The story of Stevie Nick’s life has inspired me from the day I read it. If you know anything about the incredible force that is Stevie, you’d know that she has faced so many challenges throughout her life and career. Enduring substance abuse, media criticism, emotional struggles, band turmoil, industry pressures, loss of loved ones, health issues, and if you can even believe it, that’s only the beginning. In my eyes, she is the complete and total embodiment of the strength it takes to both make it in the music industry, while also remaining a whole person in the end. Her songs have made such an astounding impact on everyone who’s had the pleasure of listening. Everyone has a memory associated with ‘Landslide‘, whether it be happy or devastating – that’s the gift that Stevie gives us within each song. The gift of feeling. Even during the most challenging moments of her life, she stayed. She stayed and turned to music to keep it all together. To become the role model she is today, to young girls across the globe. Stevie is an inspiration to me because she taught me that even when life pulls you by your hair and kicks you in the stomach, you have to come back one hundred times harder. It’s the only option. In her words, “Don’t let bad shit get to you, just get in your car, turn the music way up and always follow your dreams.”
Amy Winehouse, above all, taught me to embrace everything I am, for better or worse, in utter and complete truthfulness. For me, Amy represents being true to your character, true to yourself, and true to your art. I’ve been a fan of Amy for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I watched the documentary film ‘Amy’ (2015) that I fully understood just what it was that set Amy apart from all the rest. One of my favourite quotes by Amy is “Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen”. Throughout the course of her life, she struggled, she never did have it easy. I think that quote resonates with me so much because it puts everything into perspective. Whatever bad things you’ll inevitably go through in your life, you always have the potential to create something out of that unfortunate situation and out of yourself. Paired perfectly with her impeccable musical ability, her personality shined through in everything she did. I think everyone goes through periods of self-doubt, unsure of how people may perceive you. Amy most definitely had these moments too, but when I hear her songs, watch her interviews, replay the live performances, all of that negativity seems to slowly disintegrate into nothing. Amy has inspired me to continually put forth an effort to embrace everything I have. Here’s one of my favourite performances by Amy: Body and Soul with Tony Bennett.
Stevie Nicks and Amy Winehouse are only two of the many amazing and breathtaking female talents I have had the pleasure of listening to and loving. I think also, that it is hugely important to recognise the ‘behind the scenes’ creators too, for without them, who’s to say I would’ve had the opportunity to discover some of my favourite artists? As an avid user of the internet on all social channels, Youtube is my preferred network. Clicking around one day through all the suggested videos Youtube recommends to you, I stumbled across a video titled ‘VNYL #Grizfolk Unboxing’. It was posted by a channel called PaigeBackstage, and upon clicking the channel name, I found my way into a tiny speck of the black-hole that is the internet, a home to people with a passion for music. Paige’s videos are a blend between a pure appreciation for music and a personality that shines through in the most quirky way. Posting videos of vinyl unboxings, interviews, vlogs, music chit-chats and more, Paige’s channel opened my eyes to not only the talent side of the industry but also the industry side of the industry. At the young age of 25, Paige Williams has not only created for herself an online presence with just under 6000 Youtube subscribers and almost 2200 Twitter followers, but she is also the owner of her personal blog, PaigeBackstage and collaborative blog At The Barricade. Not to mention her work in marketing at a big label, working with artists like Halsey and other massively successful musicians you know and love today, Paige is seriously one of the most genuine people I’ve encountered. She not only inspired me to create this blog, but she is continually inspiring people all over the world. I had the most amazing opportunity to chat with Paige and talk about all the incredible work women are doing in the music industry. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Do you feel that your experience getting to work with a record label was harder/easier to achieve because of your gender?
“Definitely harder. My music tastes were judged more than my male counterparts, no matter what it was. Certain bands would cause me to lose credibility with other employees, and they would write off anything I said was good because “what do you know, you like *insert pop band here*”. I think the most frustrating thing was seeing the amount of work I put in over 3 years and hearing “you’re still new” whenever I proposed expanding my responsibilities to more marketing than admin…and then seeing my intern (who I trained so he was a carbon copy of my abilities) get hired after a month and trusted with a handful of artists projects. Plus, he was allowed to talk to artists without being accused of trying to be a groupie. I told myself I would never let the industry leave me jaded and then literally turned into a cranky old man living alone on a hill in about 18 months. It’s a mess.”
2. Thoughts on women opening record labels/producing music?
“My thoughts can be condensed to “HELL YEAH”. There is literally nothing better. I feel like just due to the way we are, women are more likely to get emotionally invested into bands in the best way. Do you want someone working for you that sees you as one of many bands and only part of their priorities, or do you want to work with someone who lives and breathes for you and wants nothing more than to see you succeed? I’m not in any way insinuating that this is a full gender divide, but I am saying that with the people I’ve met…the women are ride or die for the bands over the brands.”
3. What is your opinion on the media’s perception of women in the music industry?
“I like that more media is stepping up to the plate to showcase women in music and create forums for us to meet each other and discuss ideas. However, I think we also need to work to not separate us from the rest of the industry, if that makes sense. We want women to be part of the norm when you think of music, so it’s not “music industry workers” and “women in music” separately. It has to be part of the larger group, not running as a separate unit. I think it’s also really unfortunate when people think of women that work in the creative side as just front women or solo acts. It’s not like we have a lack of women who play other instruments or form all-female bands. We just aren’t promoting them to the forefront the way we need to be (it’s something I’m actively working on myself).”
4. What are some of your favourite female musicians/bands?
“I feel like Halsey is a given. I ran marketing for Badlands in Canada so I’m going to be connected to this project for the rest of my life. Even though we only met a couple times, I feel like a proud mom every time I see her accomplish something cool. She gets put down so often for being pretentious or extra, but like…it’s art. I love that I watch her videos and they’re so over the top that I feel like I’ve seen a feature length film. I can be critical of her when I need to be, but I have nothing but nice things to say about her.”
“I love the classics like Debbie Harry, Stevie Nicks, and Joan Jett. Plus there are the new classics like Hayley Williams and Gwen Stefani. If I had to recommend some new artists that I love for others to listen to, this would be my shortlist: Ryn Weaver, The Big Moon, Cherry Glazerr, Melanie Martinez, Grimes, K Flay, Bishop Briggs, The Beaches, Can’t Swim, W. Darling.”
5. Do you feel that women have to ‘prove’ themselves more than others to be taken seriously in the industry?
“UGHHHHHH (sorry) yes. It’s infuriating and I hate it more than anything in the world (and I’m easily annoyed so the list is long). I would be at the office from the time the doors unlocked at 6 am until they locked again at 11 pm some days (and I only got paid for 7 hrs/day), I handled issues from every department that was too busy to fix them, I connected with people all over the building to see what I could do in marketing to make their lives easier…and my boss would still tell me I wasn’t doing my share. When I asked her how I could improve, she’d say she didn’t want to wait for improvement and “just needed [me] to be perfect right now”. Literally, there was no way to be enough. But the same male intern I mentioned before was sent to hang out with Shawn Mendes to get a guitar signed after 5 days because he was “such a bro”. And all he had to do was send out some mail and copy numbers into a spreadsheet once a week.”
“Even when I was an intern in his position, I volunteered nights creating internet ad banners for the team because the turnaround time from our digital team wasn’t fast enough for last minute projects. I would be up until 2 or 3 doing changes and the only people that ever really thanked me or showed any support for me were the women I worked with. Honestly, I feel bad being so against Big Label because there were 3 women I worked with who I would take a bullet for. They were incredible and I love them like family. But one healthy branch can’t save the whole rotten orchard. I saw them fighting the same battle as me after 10-20 years doing what I was doing. What a nightmare.”
6. Who are some of your women music industry (PR, Independent recording studios, etc) inspirations?
“Jamie Coletta at Side One Dummy is a literal angel sent to earth to bring us cool punk music. I feel like she understands how people connect with artists, I’d never met someone who actually sends out fun press releases before I got on her distro list. She’s kind and supportive of people coming up in the industry, and you can tell how much S1D’s artists love her. She is exactly what everyone getting into music should aspire to be. “
“Another inspiration of mine is Michelle Owen. We’ve been best friends since we were 3, and somehow both ended up dropping out of prestigious Canadian universities to attend music business colleges. And then we both ended up working at record labels. And now we work together sometimes. It’s WILD. But the thing that makes her inspiring is the way she balances her musical career as Harlow with her industry career as a marketing manager for bands like The Glorious Sons. Most artists are too busy worrying about their own career and opportunities to spend 40+ hours a week doing it for another band. But that’s exactly what she does every day and she is absolutely killing it on both sides. How does she juggle it all?? I wish I understood, but alas, she’s just magic.”
7. Do you feel that women are being more accepted by the industry or less accepted in the modern day?
“It’s definitely getting better. When I was trying to decide what I wanted to do after high school, I didn’t know any women in music so I never thought about working in it myself…until my mom told me how shocked she was that I didn’t try to get a job at a record label. So I changed my career path and made it happen. I’m starting to see so many incredible women 30 and under getting into this, and I’m hoping it creates a more positive example for future women who are looking at career options. We need them.”
8. Thoughts on girl power?
“The Spice Girls taught me at a very young age how important girl power is, and that it doesn’t have to steal power from others to exist. Every time a man complains about girl power trying to destroy his chances at working because we want all men to die (literally what are you talking about my dude), I lose 4 years off of my life.”
9. How important is it to you that women are included/represented in the industry?
“SO important. I want girls to go to Warped Tour and see women performing on the main stage to a huge audience and to think “hey, I could do that”. And I want girls to go into record stores and not feel intimidated because the staff of men are rolling their eyes at her vinyl choices. And I want girls to feel like they’re welcome to work in music and not choose something else because they don’t see a place for themselves here. And I hope that I can help be that positive influence for someone someday.”
Be sure to check out Paige on Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, her personal blog PaigeBackstage and her collaborative blog, At The Barricade! She also mentioned that if anyone has questions they’d like to ask, feel free to email them to her at email@example.com and it might be answered in a video! Thanks so much for chatting Paige!
Well, there you have it. I believe that while the industry is going in the right direction with regards to inclusiveness, we’ve still got a long ways to go, and the only way we’ll get there is to keep going, without taking no for an answer.