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by Silke Hartung

Jess Haugh: Women About Sound

by Silke Hartung

Jess Haugh: Women About Sound

women about sound poster

Click to enlarge

A group of local musicians have announced the launch of Women About Sound, a project aiming to help more New Zealand women to develop and record their own music. The project is led by Jess Haugh, who performs as alter ego Scarlett Lashes. She has been active in the music scene for the last eight years as a performer, composer and audio engineer. 

Why do you think women get booked for events less often than men?

I think its partly because most of the promoters in the industry are men and they may not even realise that they are booking less women and its not something they are consciously thinking about.

Often when you ask men about the imbalance they get defensive and claim they have booked women musicians before, or can’t even recognise that there is a issue.

I have also noticed that one of the biggest gaps is women playing instruments in bands, and so often women are more isolated as musicians as they don’t have the camaraderie of the boys club of bands, who most of the time ask each other to play gigs.

To talk about quotas can be controversial – do you think there’s a place for them in music?

I think quotas can be problematic as it might not address the systemic issues in place, and it can create attitudes within the industry of people thinking “Oh she just got to play because they needed to tick that box, not because she is good”.

Yet I do think it is the responsibility of people in positions of power in the music industry to consider how they are representing and supporting women in the industry, as for a long time it has been a boys club, and women need extra support to break through some of the barriers in place.

Promoters should look at how many women they have booked and whether that it is a fair representation. A big focus of the women about sound project is to provide a network of support, and also create more visibility of women musicians through producing recordings of their own songs in a comfortable environment which they can use to promote themselves.

What was the last straw before throwing yourself into your project? Was there a situation that made you think “That’s it, we need this!”

I was at a new years festival a couple of years ago and realised that out of 20 bands/acts there was only one band with a female lead and one band which had a female bass player, and I was really disappointed and upset by this. As a musician myself, I love to see women on stage as it’s inspiring for me and is part of what keeps me going as a musician.

From that point on I started to look at other festivals and gigs, and noticed that the under-representation of women was across the board, from large professional festivals to small local gigs. I decided that instead of just complaining about it, I needed to do something to encourage and support women musicians.

For starters you’ve scheduled a sequence of three events, can you tell me a little more about your thought process here – why three and what are you hoping to achieve at each of them?

The three workshops have two main aims.

Firstly to create a support network for women musicians that can continue into the future by creating a place where they can come together, meet other musicians, build a camaraderie of their own.

Secondly the workshops are leading up to an opportunity to record a song. The first workshop is a panel discussion which will be discussing issues such as that has been mentioned above, the second one is focused on songwriting, and the third one is about preparing to record. The idea is to provide a place where we can discuss issues and challenges women face but also provide an opportunity to create and produce something which has a positive focus.

Why would you suggest to people who are interested to come to all three events?

It would be a really great way to meet other musicians, learn some new skills, gain feedback about your creative process and build a network of musicians that can support you the future.

How did you manage to rope in Ladi 6?

She was really interested from the onset, and keen to support the project

What are your long-term plans for Women About Sound, provided you’ve got any?

I am hoping to continue and grow the project, and provide regular meet ups for women musicians. If the project goes well I will look at applying for some more funding to be able to offer recording opportunities again. I also think I will gain some more insights into how we can assist and have a positive effect on creating more visibility and support.

 

The first workshop will take place on 19th March, 3-5pm at the Audio Foundation. The workshop will feature Ladi 6, Caitlin Smith and other female musicians in the music industry discussing challenges faced by female musicians.

Participation in the Women About Sound project is open to all women. Anyone who is interested in participating can find more information here, or contact Jess Haugh at jesshaugh@gmail.com.