we.challenge — A Music Industry Roundtable with shesaid.so and YouTube Music
Write-up by Samira Anant
In the month of Women’s History Month, shesaid.so partnered with YouTube Music to host: we.challenge — a Music Industry Roundtable.
Andreea Magdalina, Founder of shesaid.so, and Nur Ozdamar (Lead, Artist & Label Development EMEA YouTube) hosted the conversation with Tems (Artist/Producer), Oksi Odedina (General Manager, 5k Records), Jacqueline Eyewe (Marketing Director, Def Jam), and Ali Raymond (Artist Manager to Arlo Parks) to discuss the ways in which we are and should continue to challenge ourselves as women and allies in the music industry.
One challenge shared across the panel was how to stay optimistic. Given our global situation, things are constantly changing, and what echoed through the speakers was the idea of not being too hard on yourself, taking things day-by-day, and challenging yourself to be flexible, fluid, and adaptable.
As women and allies in the music industry, it is important to challenge ourselves and to challenge others — through perspective, attitudes and behavior. It was reflected that as women, due to existing bias, we often face problems of overreaching, as if trying to overcompensate and prove our worth. Andreea quoted Bjork who said that a woman must work 10x harder to receive the same amount of respect as their male counterpart. Whether we realize it or not, many women understand this sentiment that can be better explained with imposter syndrome.
Challenging the imposter syndrome
What is imposter syndrome and why does it happen? As Nur explains, it is the idea of feeling undeserving or as if you are a fraud in the position you are in. She points out that she hears these feelings of having imposter syndrome mostly from women. Jacqueline also weighed in, pointing out that we must have all experienced imposter syndrome at some point, or even currently. Nur brings up an HBR article that introduces a different perspective. Rather than the issue stemming from your insecurities, it’s really about the system or workplace that made the individual feel that way. Across the board, not just in the music industry, systems have been created that accommodate a more masculine and Eurocentric workplace.
The way to challenge imposter syndrome relies on fixing the “bias part” of the issue and not necessarily the “people part”. To change our environments and communities’ perspective on imposter syndrome, we need to take a new approach — removing the blame from the individual and putting the responsibility on the larger context that we all work in. It is also important to remember that nobody knows everything. But, like Jacqueline says, everyone has the resources to figure out the answers. Through connecting with people, developing a support system, and being comfortable with not knowing everything, the community can, together, approach imposter syndrome with a new perspective.
Challenging the question “How does it feel to be a woman in music?”
Getting asked this question — while appreciated — can sometimes be exhausting, and even counterproductive to the conversation. The goal of being a woman in the music industry is to not be defined by our gender, but to reach proportionate representation. Jacqueline, Marketing Director at 0207 Def Jam in London, spoke about how the label was essentially born out of lockdown. Being a team with all women must be an extremely gratifying experience but it was never the goal. 0207 Def Jam Co-Founders Alec and Alex just so happened to end up with a team of women after picking candidates who were best for the job. Jacqueline explained that she always felt that she has to work her absolute hardest, going the extra mile to prove she is worthy. It is important, moving forward in conversation and attitude, for society and the industry to support women to feel worthy of their positions.
Challenging the norm
Although challenging the norm is a big ask, is a necessary one. A shift in perspective must happen not only considering the pandemic, but also with respect to long-term attitudes. Oksi Odedina, General Manager of newly-formed label 5k Records, shares her experience. She desired to challenge what she had seen in the corporate side of the music industry and to deconstruct the difficulties within a corporate structure. She now strives to make an open and safe space for artists, as well as a judgement-free space for colleagues. A lot of this change comes through people’s attitudes and styles of management. When Oksi and her team have daily meetings, they try to get to know each other and not just talk about work. This is something especially important when connection is limited to the virtual space. Making their environment a safe space where ideas are encouraged and not shot down, sets the stage for Oksi and her team to look forward to global change.
Ali brings the Artist Manager’s perspective about the industry-wide feeling of having to wear a mask. He remarks that he felt like he had to create smoke and mirrors about himself. But he realized that, again, it’s okay to not know everything. He aims to put himself in an environment open to new perspectives and asking questions — the goal being a collective mentality of openness.
Andreea gives two pieces of advice. The first being a note addressing imposter syndrome: “It’s not you it’s them”. In the beginning of any career, you might be used to being ignored or getting a lot of No’s. But typically it’s because of something going on with the other person. It’s important to not take things personally. The second piece of advice is applicable for career as well as life: “Be nice to everyone”. You never know when today’s intern is going to be VP of a company, for example. It is good practice overall. When competition and tension is high, being nice can save a lot of headaches and unnecessary drama.
Of course, a key priority for shesaid.so is intersectionality and having conversations about diversity and inclusion. We are all unique human beings. It’s easy to label all women as having the same experience. Ultimately, it’s about who we are individually and our unique experiences.
Tems closes the panel with a poignant message: Live in the moment. Start seeing things from a wider perspective. When artists rely on outside opinion rather than their own, they start losing their honesty. Living in the moment and relying on the inside, allows you to not be afraid to be who you are, and to be able to make mistakes in order to grow. There is no such thing as a collective “human opinion”. Resting your sense of purpose on the approval of society can lead to stunted progress and growth because you are living for an illusionary future. Don’t be a servant, be an artist. Be yourself.