We’ve been pushing the gender debate here on Collapse Board, so it should come as no surprise that I was front and centre, 8:30am sharp, at the Women In Music conference on Tuesday. Pleasingly, it was sold out, with 300 women (well, technically, about 298 women and two beleaguered-looking male teachers chaperoning high school girls) packing out the Judith Wright Centre.
Leanne De Souza (a band manager with fingers in plenty of Brisbane pies) opened the proceedings with a rousing address, which by its very nature might have required it to be a bit “girls-are-awesome-amirite” in tone, but thankfully the forced-sisterhood tone didn’t stick around. The keynote interview with Angus and Julia Stone’s manager Cathy Oates, conducted by jmag editor Samantha Clode, raised some serious and depressing points: an average 16 per cent pay gap between men and women, the lack of women in music’s top jobs, the struggle for female performers to make a living.
It was also an interesting insight into the rise of one of Australia’s hottest acts right now (whether you like them or not, they’re bloody popular) and set the tone for a day of interesting and practical conversations about the industry. The second industry panel offered six helpful pointers when working in the biz:
After a focus on the feminist agenda in the morning, and a bit of networking, the sessions got underway and abandoned the girl-power tone to simply get on with industry shop talk. There was a focus on ‘emerging’ members of the industry, addressing how to break in, how to get ahead and plenty of sage advice across a good spread of business and artistic practice.
I stuck around for the whole of the Music Photography and Journalism and if I had been there a year ago it would have been amazingly helpful; as it was, the ladies speaking were interesting and engaged and it was a good insight into the more established end of music journalism.
I floated around for the second session, sticking my head into everything. The music breakout sessions were a stroke of genius: it was a brief glimpse into the world of making music, so anybody who played an instrument or was thinking about starting could ask questions and gain an understanding of not only the technical side but what it’s like functioning as an artist. Other industry sessions covered a wide range of topics from management to promotion and offered a similar window, albeit from the other side.
The last songwriting session was starting to make me feel tired and fidgety but I persevered; listening to female artists talk about their practice was a good way to finish the day on a lighter note.
It’s tempting to say “you can tell this was organised by women” because it ran so well and even the food provided was wonderful but I think it speaks more about the Q Music staff who were determined to make this a success, and they did. It was intimate, interesting and engaging, a good way to meet people and sort of comforting to know that music doesn’t have to be a boy’s club.