Five Key Takeaways from Oakland's Women in Music Festival

Tiffany Gouche headlined the Women in Music concert on Apr. 7 at Starline Social Club. (Eda Yu)

This year, the entertainment world came under fire for its rampant sexism, and the music industry is no exception. As women called out perpetrators of sexual violence amid the ongoing #MeToo movement, the 2018 Grammy's – with its noticeable lack of female winners – was another global moment that illustrated that the industry has a long way to go before it can be considered truly equitable.

Oakland's second-annual Women in Music Festival, taking place Apr. 6-8, was a weekend of events, by women for women, that countered exactly that kind of discrimination. Founders Evangeline Elder and Carmena Woodward introduced Women In Music in 2017 in response to the male-dominated Bay Area music scene.

Since, the festival has continued gaining momentum, bringing in attendees from all over the West Coast to practice DJing, hear from accomplished speakers from different realms of the industry, and let loose at live shows that center female artists. Here are five key takeaways from the weekend's events.

Tiffany Gouche headlined the Women in Music party on Apr. 7, 2018 at Starline Social Club.
Tiffany Gouche headlined the Women in Music party on Apr. 7, 2018 at Starline Social Club. (Eda Yu)

Tiffany Gouché’s Voice Was Out of This World

At the Women in Music concert on Apr. 7 at Starline Social Club, Inglewood-born singer and songwriter Tiffany Gouché opened her set with “Last Breath,” a track off her Pillow Talk EP from 2015. From the moment she took the stage, Gouché’s voice cut through the space — clear, rich, and unexpectedly full in the noisy room. Although the venue isn’t necessarily ideal for live music — the tinny acoustic quality of the venue lends itself better to DJ sets than live singers — Gouché enraptured the audience with her phenomenal performance.

Sep Mashiahof of SBSM Reminded Women to Be Themselves – Unapologetically

During the Women in Music Panel Day at the New Parkway Theater on Apr. 7, women from all facets of the industry gathered to impart their words of wisdom and build connections with women in the audience. Sep Mashiahof, co-founder of Scream Queens Radio and member of queer industrial punk trio SBSM, shared an interesting story about her work as a Development Coordinator for the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp. When she coaches girls to play live music, she said, her students often apologize when they mess up during practice. In response, Mashiahof and her teammates yell back, “You rock!” to get girls to start thinking at an early age about what exactly they’re apologizing for. “Is it our existence?” she questioned at the panel on Saturday.

Rayana Jay (left) and Women in Music co-founder Carmena Woodward.
Rayana Jay (left) and Women in Music co-founder Carmena Woodward. (Eda Yu)

Rayana Jay Opened Up About Being Vulnerable in Her Music

In a live interview on Saturday, rising R&B singer Rayana Jay expressed that honesty is one of the most immutable qualities she hopes to infuse into her songs. At the artist talk, Jay cited Amy Winehouse as one of her greatest inspirations because of the raw, uninhibited honesty in Winehouse's music — despite the adversity that Winehouse faced in sharing her stories. Jay said she felt moved by how Winehouse wrote about intimate topics like depression or cheating. “It may seem small, but, as women, we don’t really write songs about that,” she commented. “I wrote a lot of songs that I needed to hear when I was going through what I was going through. Honesty. It’s a real thing.”

Sophie Ash (second from right) reminded attendees about the importance of delivering results – even if it takes going to great lengths – at the 'Women in Artist Marketing' panel.
Sophie Ash (second from right) reminded attendees about the importance of delivering results – even if it takes going to great lengths – at the 'Women in Artist Marketing' panel. (Eda Yu)

How to Command a Room, According to Beyoncé's Former Project Manager

Sophie Ash, who works in artist services at United Masters and was previously the project manager at Beyonce’s Parkwood Entertainment, shared many words of advice during Saturday's panel day. But the bottom line always came down to one fact: When you deliver results, it doesn’t matter who you are. People are going to learn to respect you. While putting together her artists’ various projects, whether it’s the “Formation” roll-out or an impromptu J-Lo meet-and-greet, she’ll do what it takes — sometimes, she recounted, even pulling up to people’s houses — to make it happen. “I see a lot of mediocre people all the time in the music industry,” she shared Saturday. “When you deliver results, it doesn’t matter.”

Sisterhood is Power

After seeing women artists working alongside one another at Sunday’s “Eat Shop Talk” at Warehouse 416 or speaking together at the large, impactful panels at the New Parkway or Oakland Museum of California, Women In Music demonstrated how fruitful it can be to collaborate with women in one's creative community — and how that can lead to real change. Nobody can do it alone. And, after such a fun, inspiring weekend, I don’t see why anyone would want to.

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