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Women And Music Industry Challenges At ASCAP Confernce

Women discuss their challenges breaking into the music industry at ASCAP conference. photo credit: Groundpunk Productions

Women have a strong appearance in pop music, or so it may seem. At the ASCAP “I Create Music“ Conference, a special panel entitled “Women in Music” illustrated that it was still a challenge for women to not only make headway behind the mike, but in front of it.

Before welcoming the panelist to the stage, moderator Erica Grayson Explained why she fought for the panel’s creation. Grayson, the president and COO of Made (a talent management firm representing musicians including Jim Jonsin and Rico Love), climbed her way up the ladder in a male-dominated world. She encountered women who often felt the abuse they received as they tried to achieve their goals wasn’t worth the humiliation and aggravation. She realized she should bring together a group of strong women who could serve as role models for those starting out, or feeling like they’ve reached the end of their rope.

Joining Grayson were: songwriter Goapele (Closer, Strong as Glass) Senior Vice President of Creative and Business Development at Reservoir Media Management Faith Newman, songwriter Santigold (L.E.S. Artistes, Creator) and songwriter Sevyn Streeter (Yeah 3X, New Day) Grayson kicked the panel off by having each woman share how they came to stand on their own fee in the music industry.

Santigold knew she wanted to be a song writer, however she chose to take on internships working with music producers in her hometown of Philadelphia to understand how the business worked from the “inside out.” With experience under her belt, she moved to New York to chase her dream of performing. However, she soon found she was losing sight of her individuality and goals. She decided to relocate back to Philadelphia.

“I wanted to disappear,” said Santigold. “I learned how to sing and practiced performing at clubs around Philly, and regained my confidence in my own voice and vision.”

In addition to performing the type of music she enjoys, she also has become involved in crafting her own costumes and fine tuning her set design to provide a fully unique experience for her audience – an experience true to her vision.

Streeter also worked diligently to create a style that was true to her vision. Having sung in her church choir as a girl, she began performing backup vocals at the age of 15, and soon became part of a moderately popular girl group. While her aspirations were to become a solo singer, she was grateful for the experience working for years in groups provided.

“The good thing about a group is you learn to be self-less,” said Streeter.

Recording in the same studio as Chris Brown, Streeter consistently asked if she could sit in on writing sessions. One day she caught Brown’s attention. She was invited to drop in late after a busy day of recording. While the members of her group opted to visit a bar after their long day, Streeter logged additional hours with Brown. She learned what he liked and before long, had an opportunity to write a song with him. This opportunity has since blossomed into a longstanding collaboration.

“You can’t be afraid to work hard. You have to want to work hard,” said Streeter. “The one thing people can’t take away from you is how hard you work.”

Goapele began singing a capella. Recognized for her beautiful voice, she was having a hard time moving forward due to music she was given. She began writing her own music in order to have “the words I connected with.”

“I was finding my role as an artist. I wasn’t looking to get signed but I had more of a focus on putting out the music I wanted to do,” said Goapele. “I never wanted to be on the business side, but I didn’t want to be taken advantage of.”

Growing up with a household of boys involved in rap and hip hop, Newman began DJing at the age of eight. She spent her teenage years playing with musicians and felt that was the only career in music she could aspire to, until she went to a job fair during her late teens.

“I met a stylist whose job was to outfit performers,” said Newman. “I discovered there were many other jobs in entertainment that weren’t on the stage.”

Also taking internships and being willing to learn, Newman was presented her first job in New York at a major hip hop company. She feels every step in her career has been the result of forging strong connections with the people she’s worked with coupled with a willingness to go the extra mile.

“I don’t think of it as network but building relationships,” said Newman.

Before opening the panel to audience members eager to ask questions, Grayson asked the panelists if they had any final words of advice. They all agreed upon these final statements.

“Always be re-inviting yourself. This isn’t just for artists but for everyone. Keep them guessing.”

“Don’t see yourself as a woman, but as a deserving individual.”

“Use the power of being a woman and the unique understanding you have to your advantage.”