In an article in this week’s Music Week, George Ergatoudis, Head of Music at BBC Radio 1 & 1xtra made a point of championing the importance of diversity in their playlist decision making process: ‘It’s important the playlist meetings are half men and half women’. Some might say this kind of no-shit-sherlock statement should be a given, but the reality remains that in boardrooms across the commercial music industry; the gatekeepers continue to be largely of the male persuasion.
The 2013 Creative & Cultural Skills report recorded the gender divide across all music industry related jobs as 68% male to 32% female. PRS for Music reported that their membership of over 95,000 songwriters and composers is only 13 per cent female. AIM’s 2012 membership survey revealed that only 15% of label members are majority-owned by women. Dire stats support a conversation that has been widely observed and reflected on by female industry ‘pioneers’ such like this guardian 2013 article. And while these conversations are thought-provoking and necessary, isn’t it time to push the boundaries and convert all the chat into action?
As feminist icon Maya Angelou wisely commented “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”That’s exactly what Hannah Judson and Zeb Achonu are doing with MUSEfest.
MUSEfest is an international showcase of women in and around music who have contributed dynamically, changed the dialogue, set the tone and inspired others. Ahead of the very first festival edition at London’s Hackney Attic 29th Nov 2014, CAC caught up with co-founder Hannah Judson to get the lowdown on what the event is all about.
Tell us about the launch of MUSEfest…
I am Co-Founder of MUSEfest along with Zeb Achonu. We felt strongly that yes, the world needs another music festival. We showcase women who are creating music, work in music, music videos, or film, and whose message, ideas, or career arc have inspired others to move forward with their vision. It is shocking and still true in the 21st century that women are underrepresented in the music industry, and are still often viewed as a novelty act in a lineup. Rather than just wringing our hands, we want to actively support songwriters, composers, singers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, creative entrepreneurs, who are women, and who do great things.
As solitary as the creative process can be at times, just as in science, we are all building upon the work of others. We want to acknowledge that fact and say thanks to some of those who have inspired us to continue with our creative work.We are working along with a team of three on every aspect of the festival: curatorial, logistics, promotion, press to make this a very special event.
What are your aims for the future?
We plan to build on the footprint of this festival. The next festival will be in Paris in the spring. We also have an eye on Berlin, New York and San Sebastian, Spain.
Who inspires you?
I love this question. I am inspired by people who say things I wish I could. I am in awe right this moment with a political force in the U.S. Elizabeth Warren. She is smart and ethical and vocal. She floors me. I am inspired by people who write gorgeous songs I can always return to like Leonard Cohen, Liz Phair, and Cat Power. I am inspired by creative people who build interesting lives and bring meaning to their work, like Annie Lennox.
I am inspired by people who get big things done with the resources they have. A great example of this are the women and men who are the engine of The White Ribbon Alliance. They are an amazing organization with the goal of healthy birth for women globally. The message of their work is pretty fundamental. Birth is at the start of each and every life, and it can take some pretty unfortunate and preventable turns due to lack of appropriate care and more. MUSEfest is donating a portion of proceeds to the White Ribbon Alliance.
What does a typical day in the life of Hannah Judson look like?
Ha. “Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Found my way downstairs and had a cup…” I am lucky to work from home. I love to travel, but I hate commuting, and I have finagled ways to keep my work centered around my house for many years. I work too many hours at my desk. I take a break midmorning rain or shine to go for a run. I chop firewood, work on new songs, experiment with equipment, take care of my family, and cats.
What excites you about your work?
I am creative, entrepreneurial and relatively organized and goal oriented by nature. I am happiest when I have multiple irons in the fire, and I certainly have that in spades. MUSEfest is exciting because we are building something we believe in, and we are having incredible conversations with different people, giving us the opportunity to learn so much.
What challenges have you faced in developing MUSEfest?
Initially it was hard to build the lineup. No one wanted to be the first to say yes. So, I said, well, I will perform. And then the lineup built out from there. And now we have an amazing lineup! Miss Baby Sol, Ösp Eldjárn, Jess King, and I are performing. We have some gorgeous short films to screen, there will be music videos, an award ceremony (surprise!) and DJ. And more!
We urge you to attend an unmissable night of art and entertainment at Muse fest, November 29, 2014 at The Hackney Attic. 7:30pm.