You might think that heading up a record label in 2014 would look very different to doing it in 1984. We may have fully embraced the digital age but when it comes to representation of gender, it's hard to say this has been equally fully embraced. A recent trip to the annual Amsterdam Dance Event, a huge networking conference connecting the worldwide music industry, was a stark reminder of how few women work in front of the stage (or decks), or indeed behind the scenes. Over the last nineteen years, ADE has become the leading light in music industry conferences and offers 'the ultimate annual business and inspiration platform in the field of electronic music'. Finding myself on a beautiful canal side street talking shop with many of our international colleagues and clients (of which 95% were male) definitely didn't offer the ultimate platform in gender equality! Still, it was a hugely beneficial and productive few days for our record label MTA Records, an independent label owned by multi platinum selling British act Chase & Status.
As label manager, it is really important that we attend, both for the profile of the label and for forging new and exciting partnerships with international labels, promoters and the marketing teams who work our artist's music in their respective territories. I also was invited to speak on a panel within the conference to promote an organization of which I sit on the board called The Association for Electronic Music. The AFEM's mission is to represent the common interests of those whose business is in electronic dance music and to advocate on behalf of the community as a whole. The Association is in its infancy but topics such as education and bringing more awareness to the fantastic work within our industry are both areas that I am heavily involved with. No music industry conference would be complete without the parties, and on Thursday night we headed out to Pete Tong's party at Air to see Waze & Odessy (just ahead of this weeks highest new entry on the Official Chart with their remake of R Kelly's Bump & Grind.) It was then off to Chicago Social Club for MK's night to see DJ Hannah Wants - one of the scene's most exciting new female talents who has been making serious moves all summer at UK festivals and at Amnesia in Ibiza. She didn't disappoint and had the entire club screaming and shouting as she tore the roof down.
I then headed back to the UK and straight to Manchester to attend the first of five events our record label has curated to celebrate our 5th Birthday. Unusually we do actually have a fair split of male and female employees, something I don't often see within equivalent sized indie labels. It definitely wasn't like this in the beginning and I clearly remember multiple assumptions that I was the director's personal assistant in early meetings rather than the label manager. While music as an art form is universally appreciated, the sector of the industry that beckoned me toward it, echoes the stereotype that precedes it. Electronic dance music (and I do not mean the frustratingly painful hash tag inducing term 'EDM,' coined by the Americans in the last 5 years) but more simply dance music that covers a wide range of tempos and genres, has long been the playground of male DJs, producers, agents and managers.
Just taking a look around the legendary Warehouse Project where our birthday event took place confirmed this; every single DJ, MC and artist on the line up was male. There has been a feeling more recently that as technologies advance and the 'art of DJing' becomes more simplified and accessible, that this would be an advanced entry point for more women. This is not to say that a woman's ability to DJ is only possible if it is made easier, more so that the archaic world of turntables, cutting dubs and collecting vinyl was a cliquey and inclusive scene, and not one where many women were regarded with any respect. Figureheads and tastemakers like Annie Mac, Maya Jane Coles, Heidi and Hannah Wants demonstrate that there should be no gender conversation at all; we just need more strong women like these to break through.
I strongly advocate the need for positive role models and mentors within any industry and we actively encourage work experience and mentorships through MTA. I had a few very important people who guided me in my early years and I attribute some of our successes to these relationships. MTA has had a fantastic debut five years, with highlights including a Number 1 single & album (with Nero), a Grammy award last year (again for Nero) and to date, we have sold over 5 million singles and 360,000 albums. It hasn't always been a smooth journey but it has always been a fun one and I consider myself very lucky to be in such a privileged position. I genuinely believe that being a woman hasn't hindered that journey, just made it more challenging at times, but that challenge is exactly why I keep doing it, if only to prove all the men wrong.
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Come down to the Oval Space MTA 5 show. Tickets here.