Berklee As A Frontrunner

Just two weekends ago, Berklee College of Music hosted the Women’s Empower Symposium at their campus in Valencia, Spain.

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With speakers from all over the spectrum, the event brought the likes of music journalists, producers, composers, PR agents, and everything in between. Featuring some of the top names in the business, the affair drew in sizable crowds for the various lectures, workshops, and presentations by women such as Beyonce’s PR agent.

This puts Berklee in a significant position in relation to other music schools across the globe. Though they’re certainly not the first to host an event like this, this particular event garnered enough attention to make it one of the more significant ones. Upon Googling “women in music symposium”, 7 of the 10 top hits on the first results page link to Berklee’s event.

What does this mean for Berklee, then? They’ve shown that they’re willing to put a foot forward when it comes to matters of diversity in their business- and their business is creating musicians ready to storm the industry, and what good is that if your female students lack equal encouragement? Of course, with a hefty handful of music schools within the US as well as elsewhere, there’s been a slimming disparity between the genders of students. Which is great news- more women are feeling more confident in their abilities and are, therefore, more willing to pursue their dreams in lieu of “more practical” options. Guys don’t have to be the only rock stars.

And so Berklee has set a precedent not only for other music schools but also for themselves. While other institutions will have to up their pace to keep in stride with them, Berklee will have to continue clearing boundaries and making an example of themselves. Perhaps this is contingent on the promise of more events like this in the future, perhaps it’s reliant on their emphasis on their female students. No matter- it’s a huge step in the right direction.

See, the reason an event like this is so monumental for Berklee is in its impact. Looking past the search engine results, there was a resounding physical response at the campus. Not only was turnout an indicator of the event’s success, but the coverage throughout the school it received proved that as well. There wasn’t a hallway you could walk down without passing a poster for the symposium. Professors altered class times to ensure students could attend the event. In maintaining the appearance that Berklee was really passionate about the event, it fostered the same passion in the students. Write this down, Juilliard.

Throughout the day, attendees could sit in on panel discussions regarding various topics in the music industry- particularly how the particular women speaking were involved. Or they could attend various workshops crafted for specific interests, such as music blogging or banishing stage fright. When it came down to it, there was something for everyone, and there was something at almost every hour throughout the event. Never a dull or free moment.

If you’re interested in seeing some of the event, you can watch clips from some of the panels here.

 

Who Run The Industry?

Sadly, unequivocally, and unsurprisingly: men. Whether you’re scanning the Top 40 list, or searching for the names of the people in charge of your favorite record labels, you’re more than likely to read an overwhelming amount of male names. We have our lady diva pop stars, sure. And there are people like Michele Anthony and Julie Greenwald– but the thing is, women on top are few and far between in any industry. And these two aren’t even the head honchos- they’re assistants to them. “How progressive,” said Peggy Olson.

Billboard cultivated the Women In Music awards as well as a series of articles on their website in 2007 in order to shed some well-deserved light on the female musicians, executives, and everyone in between in the industry. You’d recognize Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and others who have won the award- but skimming their list of the 50 Most Powerful (Female) Executives from last year, after first being blindly impressed, you begin to realize something terrifying- you’ve never heard of any of these people.

Okay, perhaps you’re a little more well-versed in music industry businesspeople than I am and you do recognize them. But chances are, each name is equally unfamiliar and frankly disturbing in this right. But it’s easy to rattle off the names of Brian Eno, Quincy Jones, Mark Ronson, and so many others.

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That’s why organizations like Women In Music are so important. We need more females not only stepping up as musicians, but on the business side of things as well. Started in 1985, Women In Music is a collective of women in all fields of the music industry, working to make what they do seem more attractive and plausible. They host events such as workshops and panels to encourage girls to break into the industry, no matter how off-putting it can be.

Although, it’s worthwhile to note the growth we’ve seen in the past few years. With pop powerhouses like Beyonce and rap queens like Nicki Minaj promoting feminist ideals (more on that in another post) in their music, and heartwarming singer songwriters like Taylor Swift proving that girls can pick up a guitar and make a song just as catchy as any flannel-clad, horn-rimmed glasses wearing guy can, this past decade has certainly seen lots more girl power. Not that girl groups or female-fronted groups haven’t been present in the past- each decade has certainly been host to some talented ladies. It’s just that we seem to be on the cusp of an estrogen fueled revolution in the music industry, as well as the world. There’s recently been a noticeable influx of these female artists, and certainly more of them stepping up in business.

And we can’t lose momentum. Billboard took a step in the right direction with their awards, Women In Music is a beautifully empowering organization that only has room to grow and everything to gain, and there are emerging publications like She Shreds that showcase some talent that might not get picked up in Rolling Stone. More and more ladies are picking up the microphone, the guitar, the drum sticks, you name it. But we need more. We need to keep going until Queen Bey is satisfied, and the industry, and maybe some day the world, is run by girls.

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