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The Power of Women in Music Business

To celebrate International Women’s Day, SAE sat down with Deirdre Pascall – one of our expert Music Business Lecturers. We touched on topics such as Deirdre’s past, what International Women’s Day means to her and her best tips on being a woman in the music business industry.

What does IWD mean to you?

For me, IWD invites us to read about or take in an exciting ‘global day-gaze’ into the lives of women who originate from cultures outside of our own. Each are generally making bold and committed differences in their own nuclear and border communities. It is a day to celebrate the great steps women are taking – be it socially, economically, politically or creatively. It inspires growth, dedication and necessary innovation – all of which are important to me.

My first experience of IWD was whilst teaching in a London secondary school with a diverse range of students. Among these were a contingent of students from Romanian heritage who celebrated IWD by introducing to the school a customary tradition of males presenting flowers to all females in their lives as a token of their appreciation for us. It was a new experience to see students and staff alike be approached by well turned-out young men – brimming with confidence – presenting them with flowers. IWD generated a sense of confidence in students that they previously seemed not to have, and reduced classroom disquiet at least for that week. It was a pleasant surprise and a memorable event, because they made it so and it fostered cultural exchange and discussions, not generally made.

So, I can say that IWD has the ability to foster and encourage greater steps towards gender parity which offers wide and varied opportunities to move the pendulum towards being our best selves. This includes advancing potential, celebrating brilliance, creating the best environments to breed dedication, mutual respect and infectious support for each other. As a result, the Music Business scales/see-saw can work at its optimum for the benefit of all people worldwide.

Why did you choose to become a music business lecturer?

I didn’t… It just made sense when the opportunity arose to leverage my creative industries, music knowledge and expertise to further expand my lecturing to HE. I am also genetically wired to be better at being myself and with a family history rooted in 3 generations of teaching and entrepreneurship, and 3 generations of family links to music industry professionals and more recently 2 generations of filmmakers, media/cultural legacy curation and creative partnerships, and lecturing in Music Business and part of the RSA community, it became a natural next step.

I started off honing my skills as a music professional at the Royal College of Music as a Junior Exhibitioner, experiencing the up and downs as a professional Black musician in a less diverse arts world than we currently operate within, I discovered at aged 11 that I was already engaged in the profession I loved – I became absorbed in the ‘Business of music’. I learnt a lot through the work of my parents who are also musicians and became publishers of their own works in a cultural environment that was not in favour of inclusivity. Hence, Good Vibes Records and Music was born and later, BAMAAPC – a seminal cultural media archive collection. As a Howard University student, I was afforded many opportunities that form part of my professional development, including a pilot and packed Entertainment Law elective with Darrell Miller, for which I am forever grateful.

Of course, I appreciate my good fortunes as my journey is cloaked with rare privilege that has shaped my perspectives and impacted my professional experiences across most areas of the creative industries. SAE’s vision is to be a leader in creative industries education, that vision stated inspired my decision.
I had the good fortune to have met and listened to hundreds of primary account interviews that my father, Alex Pascall, conducted over 14 years daily whilst he was a Broadcaster on the BBC show Black Londoners. I am proud to be able to say that my father campaigned for young people to get their start in broadcasting. Each partaker had the opportunity to work alongside him as they grew – prior to this, such access was not deemed viable. By encouraging independence, many have gone on to forge careers within Creative Industries and Promotion. As I’ve observed this as a working method, I have advocated for true to life experiences wherever possible to nurture professional experience and transport theory into practice.

My knowledge base is in part a result of hard graft, dedication and unfettered opportunities to listen to music business insiders describing their life journeys, compromises made, achievements and challenges. Music Business for students at SAE offers wide expertise and there’s much to learn about from human interactions with business of music during periods of conflict and need.

Who is a woman that inspires you from the music business industry and why?

My Mum, Joyce Pascall:-) I’m fortunate to be one of her two children when she had the confidence to successfully migrate from being a trained SRN nurse and watercolour artist, nearing the start of the NHS, to co-founding the Alex Pascall Singers, a multi-cultural 20-piece choir who performed at the Talk Of The Town (Currently Hammersmith Casino in London’s West End). She navigated negative society push back and faced racism without disrupting her goals – who couldn’t be inspired by that!

Like many mothers, she decided to leave the nursing profession to best help raise my little brother and I. Her entrepreneurial works evolved into a promotions company co-founded by my father. She became a booking agent supplying Caribbean and South Pacific island dancers and Caribbean steelbands to some of the best Italian restaurants, West End venues, community events and international bookings. For the 14 years my father was broadcasting his interviews and works, my mother curated them and is an equal shareholder of their co-partnership. My Dad has licensed his works to BBC mainstream media since 1974 and more recently heritage industries.  IP is some of Good Vibes Records and Music primary assets with segments being developed for online and public access. You may possibly appreciate, as a result there’s always much to do:-)

What is the most important advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in music business?

I’d say develop you curiosity for thebusinessof the Creative Industries. Explore ways to incorporate this creatively in your recreational time. If you like travel perhaps, explore one or two venues, research or pay more attention to the acoustic design/architects vision. The insight may become invaluable to you long-term.

One of Alex Pascall’s mottos is to “widen your vision, sharpen your focus”. You never know, as entrepreneurs, you may be your own version of my Mum and Dad with a vision executed to Stage 3 to create a capital project with a grant of 18.7 million pounds.

Music business involves expanding your knowledge through research and networking as best you can to seek out opportunities so you can practice the art of promotion.

I recommend The Brand Symphony – Orchestrate your marketing strategy and scale your service business by Jill Pringle and George Nelson’s The Death of Rhythm and Blues. As well as those, Michael de Koningh & Laurence Cane-Honeysett ‘s Young Gifted and Black – The Story of Trojan Records

In your opinion, how can we more effectively showcase and celebrate the work of women – especially in music business?

Showcasing and celebrating is like applause, there’s few things like it. Award it. Extending kindness is a skill set that assists for professionals to be seen rather than seem invisible. American Greetings Card have made an industry based on consideration and use music and or music celebrity song adaptations to support product sales. International Broadcaster and global busines woman Oprah demonstrated a range a methods within her TV show to explore, inspire and celebrate women without the exclusion of men. You can visit the BFI near Waterloo station for their array of affordable programming of films and £3 student rates available. Students interested in attending African Odysseys film programming at the BFI please drop me a line via email. The next season of films flyers will be available soon.
I’ve only recently become aware of Qiana Coachman-Strickland and Ana DJ Anna Haleta, born in Ukraine who moved to Israel when she was 15 and started her interest in EDM whilst studying art there. Haleta’s experience in a male dominated industry in Israel, prompts reflections upon British artist, Sonique’s journey to recognition and music industry success in the USA. Sonique introduction dancing herself to her DJ set which was unique at the time. Ultimately gained industry recognition with ‘Feels so Good’, away from home after years of perseverance as a singer in the UK.

Awards like Oram Awards offering talented females in music and sound bursaries from the PRS Foundation and forums on music business can assist female creatives immeasurably and in so doing increase their state of wellbeing in some cases too. As far as I’m aware, this resource was not available to Sonique. De-mystifying funding barriers available for Creatives, could also assist them – as many students in higher education are visibly fearful of the idea of applying.

As this year’s IWD theme is #breakthebias – how can we work together to remove bias, stereotypes and discrimination against women in the music business industry?

The serial issues raised within this question have been asked throughout my lifespan of 50 years plus. I have experienced racial discrimination within the industry more than gender related discrimination. So, broadly speaking, I’d recommend forging alliances with national and international industry executives open to facilitating change.

Or support surveys to investigate why the percentage of women and diverse heritage thrive in the business franchise market. Perhaps they have tools in their kit that are transferable within music business? Perhaps we can suggest tackling these issues innovatively in story boards for gaming as a viable tool.

Straight forward law solutions could be promoted in the mainstream  and in consultation with the victims. Opening up the discourse will provide the opportunity for better prescriptions to be adjudicated by diverse heritage groups, a knowledgeable pool of lateral thinking experts and diverse members of society with a united purpose a survey method adopted by RSA.

We are conditioned from birth to work and function in accordance with laws. There’s always a percentage that break the law, hence our need for innovative entertainment and discrimination. Many Black and international people have either died leading this pursuit or had the trajectory of their life negatively maneuvered. I am resolute that I won’t allow anyone or any group to reduce my humanity and purpose. You ask what can we do? When it does occur within the industry, perhaps Marianne Williamson’s perspective can be of use, in her words:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced working in a male dominated environment? How did you overcome them?

Any such challenges generally arise from a lack of specialist industry knowledge. In such instances, be unflappable, don’t lose sight of your expertise and goals. Be strengthened by them. Another approach could be to enhance your unique skill sets and keep in touch with industry perspectives, professionals and changes on the ground to be assured.

How important is it for women to lift each other up in the music business industry and what does that mean for you?

The power of the girlfriend in the industry is a rare artifact to be celebrated where it exists. I find it super refreshing if you stumble across it. There’s a warming dose of co-operation and support from the female contingents within SAE within each department – which I regard as impressive. It allows for more knowledge sharing, compassion, and open-mindedness.

What can be further done to achieve equality within the music business industry?

In my experience, people have a better chance of understanding inequality if they experience it. That can go some distance towards redressing the imbalance.

The artist Prince stated:

I was brought up in a Black and White world. I dig black and white night and day, rich and poor, man and woman. I listen to all kinds of music and I want to be judged on the quality of my work, not on what I say, nor on what people claim I am, nor on the colour of my skin

People discriminate far less, it seems, with international foods in the 21st It would be an achievement to have that level of success with equality across the board.

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about starting their careers in music business?

Deirdre’s top 10 tips:

    1. If you consider yourself shy, seek out and attend in person Business groups for women. They offer lots of insight, training workshops and opportunities to network and inspires confidence building. Embrace your homework/research. It makes everything you face much easier to navigate and it also provides a level of confidence and helps identify what you know you should do next.
    2. Do not dismiss professional opportunities for a paid internship on offer in person.
    3. Make and keep critical connections that lead to business deals and partnerships and that strengthen global and economic empowerment for women of all ages. They can also enhance wellbeing and relationships between genders.
    4. Sharpen your tools and take part in this industry beyond the University bubble. Visit cultural events outside of your own to expand your audience development ideas and views.
    5. Include initiatives within your projects where possible to unite people and ideas to help resolve the challenges of our time. Ukrainian musicians have appealed to Apple Music and Spotify to demonstrate support for their country at a time of crisis.
    6. Business becomes easier if you recognise the range of music business landscapes before you, employ teamwork and communicate clear objectives.
    7. Avoid unethical manoeuvres, especially amongst your peers. There are many evidences of the turmoil this creates in the Cultural Creative Industries. Music Business is no exception.
    8. Keep written agreements for best clarity later down the road.
    9. Peruse entertainment court case documents about artists and Creatives you admire – super insightful, as the opportunity to enter entertainment law was not encouraged whilst I was in school in the 70’s.
    10. Be open to research and actively adapting it to suit your goals. If reading isn’t not your strength, perhaps films/documentaries can assist your casual information intake to gain professional industry insight available to reference, as you explore and hone your own skills. Be brave.
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