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Over the last few decades the music business has undergone a seismic disruption, and not just because the internet cracked the foundation on which it was built. Once a field controlled by men, today’s industry is making way for female power players—slowly.
“There is a change going on,” Alf Olofsson, an artistic director and product manager for several Swedish organizations, said at the recent Berklee Women’s Empower Symposium. “It all changed the day when all the ladies out there basically started to take space. It’s the music industry—you basically go in and you have to say, ‘Hi, this is me, this is what I’m doing, and I’m really good.'”
The symposium, on March 27 at Berklee’s Valencia, Spain, campus, explored why women haven’t taken space in the industry until recently and what obstacles they face when they attempt to. Panelists also discussed breaking into the Latin market, and the future of the music industry for all artists, male and female.
Watch a video about the symposium:
The event was the brainchild of music business student Michelle Golden and her classmates—Clais Lemmens, Julia Hoffman, Megan Himel, Jennifer Buglione, Janay James, Gabrielle Mella, Mayra Jiménez, Laura Shand, and Stephanie Hernandez—as well as the director of the program, Emilien Moyon.
Last October, the women started talking about why very few of the wonderful speakers coming to campus on behalf of the music business program were women. “I was floored because I didn’t even think about it. I just thought these are cool speakers who are coming to speak. But if you want to get a global perspective—the master’s program is called Global Entertainment and Music Business, and we’re in Valencia—it’s important to hear from many different voices, men and women alike,” Golden said. The students came up with the idea of having Skype sessions with women in the industry, and brought this idea to Moyon.
“I think she was touching on something very true and very important, and that we should really pay attention to,” he said. He urged the students to think big and aim higher. The result was a full-day event with three panels, five workshops, several performances, a mixer and after party, and an impressive lineup of speakers.
They included Olofsson; Yvette Noel-Schure of Schure Media Group and Parkwood Entertainment (and publicist to Beyoncé); multi-Grammy-nominated artist, composer, and producer Patrice Rushen; Victoria Morales-Kuhne, founder and CEO of Latin America’s biggest recording studio, Victoria Records; film composer and music producer Jeanine Cowen, who is also the assistant vice president of curriculum at Berklee; lawyer Angie Martinez, executive producer at MeccaLani/Universal Music; Judy Cantor-Navas, music journalist and critic who works as Billboard’s Barcelona correspondent; publicist Christine Krzyzanowski of ARK Publicity; and Allie Silver, founder of Free Radical Productions.
The panelists tackled such diverse issues as asking for a raise, building meaningful relationships and networks, the importance of being tough but nice, making personal priorities, being resilient, and thinking globally. Below are some edited excerpts from the day’s event.
On building and maintaining connections
Martinez: “This is a business that’s definitely driven by relationships. Your network defines your net worth. The wallflower in the room is not going to do well.”
Krzyzanowski: "Staying in touch is key. Little things count in relationship-building.”
On parenting in the industry
Noel-Schure: “If you’re a parent in this business. . . don’t make yourself so available to your business, and not available to your kids, that (the executives you report to) expect you to always be there. Be a parent first. It will make you a better executive.”
On emerging markets
Olofsson: “I really do believe (targeting the global market) is the way to go. That’s actually where the money is today. The U.S. and U.K. costs too much money (to tour in) and the competition is really, really hard. Brazil, fantastic. Mexico is good money. You just need to look around a bit where the competition might not be as hard.”
On women in the industry
Cowen: “As a woman, your confidence should be that you’re bringing something really valuable to a changing economy and a changing world.”
On women in power
Silver: "Having female role models is really important. Make the example for the other females. It completely changed my confidence level seeing another female in a (powerful) position."
On the advantage of studying music business at Berklee
Rushen: "You can see what (musicians) are going through. You feel it in terms of watching them practice. You understand what happens when they get in front of the microphone.”