Over the past 8 months you might have noticed I’ve posted a lot on my insta about a campaign I have been involved with ‘Smirnoff’s Equalising Music’. If you didn’t notice then where have you been?
Let me explain….
In 2017 Smirnoff launched a 3 year campaign – Smirnoff Equalising Music. This is a global initiative to double female and female-identifying headliners and inspire the next generation of DJs. Back in 2016 only 17% of headliners at international music festivals were women and only 5% of recognised producers were women. Smirnoff wants to bring these issues to the forefront, discuss and help change.
They collaborated with 5 current, high-profile and influential DJ figures; The Black Madonna, Nastia, Peggy Gou, Honey Dijon and Artwork to support the campaign and together handpicked 10 undiscovered UK female DJs to mentor throughout the year.
In April 2018 I was asked to be the voice and presenter of the mini documentary for the campaign. As someone who has worked in the Radio and Music industry for the past 10 years I understand how difficult it is to break into the industry and then when you’re in it, to succeed. I know that both industries are male dominated so by giving these mentees the opportunity to get guidance and advice from these high-profile DJs is priceless.
For the first part of the documentary I travelled to Austria to Snowbombing festival to interview Peggy Gou, Artwork and some of the mentees taking part in the campaign. Chatting with Peggy Gou, she wanted to stress that we shouldn’t be focusing on the term ‘female’ but to consider all DJs as artists, which I couldn’t agree with more! To get a wider perspective I also spoke to Craig David and Rudimental among others about equality in the industry and how/if they think it is changing. They agreed it was improving and Piers from Rudimental said ‘we should look at all artists as artists and gender should not matter’. On top of all of this one of my personal highlights of the trip was getting the chance to DJ at the top of the mountains in the snow. The view was insane and even though it looked freezing it was actually 24 degrees! Check out my Snowbombing blog HERE .
Back in the UK I took part in a workshop with The Black Madonna and two amazing mentees who were part of the campaign, DJ’s Jaguar and Kiia. We spent the day in London Sound Academy Studios filming both girls DJing and discussing the industry. It was lovely to sit and chat with like-minded people about the music we love. The Black Madonna told us that she didn’t focus solely on a music career until her 30s, which was inspiring as it made me realise you can pursue what you love at any age.
I then spent the day with singer/songwriter Carla Monroe. You might not know her name but you do know her voice as she wrote and sang on MK’s massive hit ‘17’. We had an in-depth chat about the writing process for ’17’ and how she has seen a change in the industry for the better recently as she has been working with a lot more female producers.
In August Smirnoff followed me for 12 hours to film ’12 hours with Sarah Story’, a short form piece that followed my usual Friday routine before heading to the studio to host the Capital Weekender and then on to a DJ gig. This was something of a first for me, as I’d never had a film crew follow me or film in my own house!
Check out ’12 hours with Sarah Story’ HERE
For the final part of the documentary I went to the showcase night for the campaign where all the key players involved came together to put on a powerful music line-up. Printworks was PACKED, the vibe was INCREDIBLE and the crowd was a real mixture of EVERYONE, this showed that there is a thirst for more equal line-ups. Seeing the mentees with such confidence, doing what they love with their amazing skillsets was really the icing on the cake from the campaign. You can see how the relationships have formed between everyone – which illustrates just how much passion the teams have for music and the industry itself. Backstage I caught up with Katie Enevolden from Broadwick Live, she said ‘change needs to start at the top with the bookers’ (rather than at grassroots level). Broadwick Live have partnered with Smirnoff to give the mentees the opportunity to play at many of their festivals throughout the year such as Snowbombing and Lost Village. Some may argue that there are very few female DJs to choose from so this campaign is expanding the talent pool, the DJ’s are there, they just need to get noticed!!!
You can watch the full documentary HERE
So what are my thoughts on the industry?
One thing that can stop women from working in the music industry is confidence and self-belief. This is something that I have struggled with, can you believe?! As women we tend to doubt ourselves, ‘am I good enough to do this?’, ‘Can I do this?’, I’ve overcome my fear of DJing, but still doubt myself in other areas of my work. On a shoot I said to the photographer, ‘I can’t believe I’m on this job, I don’t feel qualified enough’, she said to me, ‘Sarah do you think if you were a guy you would question this?’ I realised then that actually I probably wouldn’t, so why was I doing it?’. It really struck a chord with me and from that day I tried to stop doubting my ability. The one thing we need to do not only in music, but also in life generally, is support each other. People love to pit women against each other! We all experience it…it happened to me only 2 weeks ago at work. I think if we support each other rather than compete we are a really strong force to be reckoned with.
Bitching and pitting against each other isn’t going to help us move forward, only back.
I don’t believe that we can blame men for the lack of women in the music industry. When you’re younger you look up to certain people, pop stars, athletes or DJs for example. Growing up there wasn’t many female DJs around and so going into the music industry didn’t seem as accessible. Now we have many key artists across all genres like Peggy Gou, The Black Madonna, Honey Dijon and Nina Kraviz (to name a few.) We have increasingly more women on the radio like Annie Mac, Alice Levine, Sara Cox and B Traits, these ladies are making a huge impact and paving the way for more women to get involved.
Even though I’ve said it about fifteen times in this blog so far, I don’t like to use the term “female” DJ. All DJ’s male or female should be seen as artists and gender should not matter. If you’re talented enough, you will be booked.
We still have a long way to go in the fight for equality in the music industry but we have made considerable progress. Being a part of this campaign has been amazing and I’m excited to see the impact it will have over the next 2 years.