@jesshopp Having people insinuate that I was sleeping with someone in order to get an internship at a record label (I wasn't).
— Jocelyn Brown (@clericalerror) August 24, 2015
@jesshopp when I was the only one on stage but someone complimented the sound guy on my beats after the show
— Natasha Kmeto (@natashakmeto) August 26, 2015
@jesshopp when people backstage ask any male friend with me if he is laurel halo
— LAUREL HALO (@LaurelHalo) August 26, 2015
Those were just three of the answers Jessica Hopper, senior editor at Pitchfork and author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic received when asking on Twitter: „Gals and other marginalized folks: What was your first brush (in music industry, journalism, scene) with the idea that you didn’t ‚count’?“ Kat Young, Technical Account Manager at Soundcloud, refers to this incident when explaining why she felt the need to bring to life her idea of a networking event especially aimed at women in the music industry. „For many women they are faced with everything from not being taken as seriously as their male counterparts to being accused of being groupies to sexual harassment and rape“, she says. „These are specific to the experience of being a woman in the industry and I read these stories thinking that if these are the experiences of women who ‘made it’ and continued working in music, how many women are put off and never go to clubs, never mind actually pursuing a career in it?“
Salt + Sass – a made up alliteration taken from a statement by The Black Madonna about dance music needing „salt“ in its wounds and the 90s riot grrrl zine Sassy – was born. Salt + Sass is a networking event run quarterly at the Soundcloud office which in Youngs own words aims „to connect, celebrate and bring visibility to women working in the music industry in Berlin.“ The idea was sparked when Young, who moved from Glasgow to start working in Berlin in 2012, realized the absence of such networking events for women in the industry while pursuing her own career and connecting with likeminded women. Knowing from personal experience how important a strong network is she decided not to wait for somebody to take the lead but rather become active herself.
„A female DJ has to look perfect and be as good as the best dude in the room!“ – Susan Langan
„One of the biggest points that has been raised around women working in the music industry is that there is a lack of access to role models and mentors. I certainly felt like this starting out in my own career 8 years ago, and while I feel like things have got better with social media breaking down some barriers, I wanted to create a space where women at all stages of their careers could come together and meet each other outside of e-mail and clubs, and have the opportunity to listen to some inspiring women talk about their careers.“
In terms of inspiring women the second edition of „Salt + Sass“ definitely succeeded. As a co-operation with Resident Advisor Exchange Christine Kakaire who besides being a journalist writing for Red Bull Music Academy and Resident Advisor has also worked at Beatport and Juno was invited to interview DJ, music lover and producer Susan Langan who currently works in artist relations at Native Instruments. Kakaire managed to sensitively conduct an almost two hour discussion on subtle yet undoubtedly present misogynist mechanisms which still seem to vastly influence women’s work in the music industry, the importance of role-models and accessibility of mentors without ever generalizing, victimizing or stereotyping, as it often happens with delicate topics like this. Langan on her behalf talked openly about self-doubt, the challenges of being a female producer and DJ in the male dominated Jungle and Drum’n Bass Scene, the difficulties of retaining her creative energy once she moved from San Francisco to Berlin and about getting lost in Berlin nightlife. Besides talking about gender-related issues it was very refreshing that one could clearly feel that the love for their work and the music seemed to even out all the obstacles they had to come across on their way up to where they are now.
Following the talk the space was given for further discussion of personal and professional issues with Karkaire and Langan and to finally get in touch over a glass of wine with the rest of the very colourful crowd which truly seemed to consist of women from every area of the music industry at every stage of their career. It seems like “Salt + Sass” is just the kind of gathering young women pursuing their careers in the music industry were looking for, maybe without even realizing they actually were looking for it. Permeable networks, accessible mentors and inspiring role-models are the pillars to empowering young professionals and giving aspiring women the confidence to continue with the valuable work they are doing. As Susan Langan aptly concluded: „No woman is an island“ – and events like Salt + Sass are a necessary and meaningful measure against false discouragement and doubt.
The next edition of “Salt + Sass” takes place on Dec 8th, 2015.