WMC 2015: Chicks With Decks

Women are so emotional.

DJ Kat, blogger Kiera Miller, music industry executive Stacey Taylor, DJ Tracy Young, recording artist Jei, DJ Miss Nine, and producer Tiffany Miranda got a little misty when DJ Val stepped up to the mic and said with tears in her eyes, “I’m so proud of you.” The seven panelists for “Chicks WIth Decks: Women in the Music Industry” got emotional when they felt the bond they share as women in a tough, male-dominated industry. And that bond generates power.

Photos: Eric Milbourne

Moderator Tracy Young

All of them dealt with roadblocks that men do not face. When panel moderator Tracy Young first applied for a job in radio, she was told, “Oh, women don’t do that.” Perhaps they thought she could fetch coffee.

Kiera Miller

One theme ran throughout Chicks With Decks was the extra effort it takes for women to attain success in the male-dominated EDM world, which in turn makes a panel specifically for women’s issues necessary. “I don’t want to separate [women] into a separate category,” said panelist Kiera Miller of Your EDM, “but we have to.” Miller recognized the power imbalance between women and men and the importance of giving women a voice. “If there were an all-men panel, they would not have found it necessary to discuss women in the industry. I think we need to talk about men in a panel about women. I just wish it didn’t have to come to that.”

Miss Nine

The panel opened with a discussion about the role of sexiness in women’s success. “It’s not about sexy,” declared Miss Nine. “It’s about the music,” implying that the purpose of women is not simply as toys for men. Other panelists fired back, saying there was nothing wrong with sexy. This is one dilemma women face on the road to success: so many of them made it because their names were attached to famous men, and men tend to give special preference to pretty women.

Sexy catches people’s attention, as does talent. But there are plenty of sexy, talented women, and lots of sharks in the business ready to take advantage of anyone they consider weak, so it is important that women demand respect. As Jei stated, “Be difficult.”

Stacey Taylor

All seven panelists were on the same page when it came to getting paid a decent wage. Stacey Taylor provided valuable tips for newbie artists in EDM that would apply to anyone trying to make it in the scene. “It’s all a negotiation,” she said, repeating it as if it were a mantra. Breaking down what it means to negotiate, the panel went over several key issues:

1. Make sure everything is upfront. If it is work for hire, such as a singer who is given a song or a portion of a song and paid once for the service, negotiations should reflect the value of the voice in question.

2. The preferable route is to write up a contract spelling out exactly what is expected from both sides, and what kind of reimbursement, whether the artist gets 20% or 50% of the royalties. This depends upon many factors, such as who provides the recording studio, who does the production, who writes the song, etc.

3. Insist in the contract that the singer’s name be listed by the title (“ featuring _____”). Horror stories abound about how many singers are featured in a hit song, only to remain anonymous because nobody bothered to say upfront who sung the hook.

4. When considering a fair percentage, writers should insist upon receiving their share, and when possible, maintain control of the master copy. That guarantees that the artist will have a voice in what is created.

5. Hire a professional. This is true for DJs, producers, and vocal artists. For example, performers should not have to argue with club personnel about getting paid after a gig. Having someone else negotiate helps maintain a friendly relationship with venues and other sources of income. Let a third person fight those battles.

Business savvy is hugely important, but so is the support of other women. That is what made DJ Val from Chicago so emotional when she told the panel, “I’m so proud of you.” She had made a name for herself when women were discouraged from doing pretty much anything but sing and look pretty. “Without her there would be no us,” Stacey Taylor said.

In a session the next day, EDM star Nicky Romero responded to a person from the audience who said she was a producer by saying, “I’m happy that there are some female producers out there.” Romero’s comment is a great first step, and it shows that men are paying attention.

Tiffany Miranda

But there is much more yet to be done, and women are not waiting on men to grant them equality. Panelist Tiffany Miranda, for example, has an organization, Girls Makes Beats, whose mission is to help girls learn about the music industry.

Back row: Kiera Miller, Stacey Taylor, Miss Nine. Front: Kat, Tracy Young, Jei

Women are so emotional, and solidarity generated by emotion makes them strong. Real men know that the lack of emotion is a sign of weakness.

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