1. For those readers who have not seen or heard of your collective yet, can you describe it in 5 words?
Connected, creatives, passionate, fun and miscellaneous!
2. Can you tell us about what brought you together, your mission, and the purpose that drives you today?
Why is this cause important?
The community started from a spark of energy created from a DJ course first hosted at the Southbank Centre in London. We hosted our first club night at Haunt in Stoke Newington, providing that initial follow on platform from the DJ course into playing live in front of an audience. This is where some of the residents played for the first time!
The mission has always been to be a platform for female-identifying artists wanting to enter the electronic music industry, whether this be through teaching from grass-roots up via the DJ courses, hosting a worldwide mix series connecting artists through DJ mixes online, or events. Over time we have also hosted some radio shows and will always keep evolving creatively to fulfill this mission in the best way possible.
The purpose that grows our motivation and inspiration all the time is the positive impact we are having in terms of platforming, teaching, engaging, hosting radio shows, and all of the above; this is not only from the DJ courses, but the Sisu community itself gives this sense of confidence, a sense that there is a growing community filled with like-minded people. Out of those people, one person may give you a strong piece of advice or direction and because of the everyday conversations, confidence building, growth and evolution it comes full circle to us to keep doing what we are doing and to keep contributing towards diversifying the industry.
As with a lot of spaces, diversity and inclusion is so important for so many reasons, including welcoming reasons. To have a sense of belonging in a community you are so passionate about contributes towards achieving a wider vision and dreams higher than you ever dreamed of: the possibility of exposure, potential collaborations and connecting with people who have always inspired you - not only for yourself, but for your audience too! Audiences mostly want something new and something fresh. They don’t want to hear and see the same thing over and over again, so the more diversity and inclusion in music the better for everyone.
3. If you could pick anybody to collaborate with, who would you choose and why? Are there any other collectives who inspire you?
Ouft! Where do we begin! Having only just turned 2 years old, we have established a little bit more of a direction and the list of potential collaborations is a little long (literally...there is a list!) but to name a few from the list we would say Female Frequencies from Finland/Sweden, Equaliser in Leeds, Primavera Festival and a million more which eventually we hope to reveal through the collaborations themselves! Collaboration is part of our core ethos and we are such an open community that our vision of who we wish to collaborate with reaches to the stars! We would want to work with other communities who have similar grounding and ethos to us, a cross-belief in what we do and vice versa; a passion for music and even more so if there is a particular focus on encouraging and promoting female artists within music.
At the risk of sounding lazy, we are inspired by all the groups that have come together to help women learn or progress their love of DJ-ing/production, or pursuing a career in the music industry! The passion and drive behind these groups is amazing.
4. Looking back, can you tell us about one of your collective’s favourite projects to date?
This has got to be our DJ courses. We are almost always over-subscribed for the courses and seeing a room full of nervous but excited women arrive, then leave with new skills is amazing. When some of them go on to get booked for gigs and radio shows it’s a brilliant feeling, as well as the warmth we get from bringing people together to go on and form their own communities and friendship networks.
And some Industry insight…
6. A 2018 YouGov survey reported that girls are much more likely than boys to say they enjoy studying music (48 per cent against 34 per cent). Yet, in 2013, Creative & Cultural Skills reported that the divide across all music industry related jobs is 67.8% male to 32.2% female. Why do you think this is happening?
Although girls enjoy studying music at school, they’re not getting to hang out with like-minded mates and groups to learn skills organically - or just ‘be around’ music and DJing without feeling like the odd one out or stupid. That stuff really matters when you’re a teenager, right?? Also, this enjoyment doesn’t translate into higher level education where girls are still not choosing music tech or audio engineering degrees. One of our collective members, Sam Warren, is doing a research project on the career experiences of female producers (www.inthekeofshe.org) trying to explore these attitudes, and also working with the Association for Electronic Music on a diversity and inclusion survey that will be the first to try and map gender disadvantage and women’s experiences in our industry on a global scale. The results are going to be presented at an opening panel at ADE this year.
7. Among the 75 female songwriters and producers interviewed by the University of Southern California in 2019, over 40% admitted their colleagues dismissed or discounted their work or skills and 39% have experienced stereotyping and sexualization. Have you ever had a negative experience in the music industry specifically because of your gender? Alternately, has it ever been an advantage that has worked in your favour?
Where we are right now, women are going to be booked because of their gender - it is inevitable as folks out there are actively trying to equalise the industry and that’s what you have to do! But that doesn’t mean those women aren’t also great DJs/producers - in fact, if you suspect you’ve been booked just because you are a girl, our advice is to shove your foot firmly through that door and SHINE!! That’s the key to changing perceptions, we’re sure of it.
8. A 2019 study (University of Southern California) examining the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 2012-2018 found that women only made up 21.7 percent of artists, 12.3 percent of songwriters and 2.1 percent of producers. Some advocates have promoted gender quotes as a means of placing external pressure on promoters to book more female artists and to ensure more inclusive programming. Do you agree with this? What more could be done to reduce sexism and create more balance in the industry?
Ultimately, reducing sexism is a case of education and breaking down the stereotypes that people take for granted to understand the world. At the moment, when anyone - man or woman - thinks ‘DJ’ or ‘music producer’, they think ‘man’. To change this, the minority group (whoever that is) need to be more visible in everyday life, doing their thang for everyone to see. But if the odds are stacked against them (as these stats suggest), then it’s going to take a LONG time before we regularly see women playing and making music in equal numbers (or sometimes in greater numbers!) than guys. This matters so that women see ‘someone like them’ up there on the stage, or on the ‘record sleeve’ or in adverts for music tech, or featured on Beatport etc. etc. and that’s inspiring. So, to go back to your question about quotas - as long as there’s a certain level of quality reached, then yes, there needs to be an active push towards putting women in the limelight. Quality is obviously important when you’re putting someone in the spotlight because they’re then hyper-visible and can end up letting the side down if they’re not a great artist!
9. Any parting words of wisdom for folx out there looking to pursue careers in the music industry?
1) Get help, friendship, love and support! Reach out to any of our collectives and connect on social media, meet-ups, workshops, parties, whatever it is and realise that there are soooo many women like you out there! We all keep saying there are so few women in the industry but when you scratch the surface, there’s loooooads of us - but we tend to think we are the only ones because a lot of the music spaces feel so male dominated.
2) Just do it. Whatever it is, be brave, take the plunge - upload your mix, connect with that organisation, send your track to that artist you love and ask for their feedback, commit to that course, say yes to the gig…
3) Be nice!
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Come meet SISU in person at our Femme Summer Fête taking place at Grow, Hackney (E9 5LN) on Friday 30th August, 6pm-2am!