It's a Man's World: Advice From Women In the Music Industry for Dealing With Men

We spoke with five game-changing women who broke through the gender barrier.
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It's a Man's World: Advice From Women In the Music Industry for Dealing With Men

L to R: Angela Orr, Lola Plaku, Trakgirl, DJ Jubilee, Ramya Velury

In April 1966, James Brown released “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” The song would spend nine weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 8. Nearly 40 years later, Rolling Stone would place it in the 124th spot on their 500 best songs of all time. They also called it “biblically chauvinistic,” pointing out that Brown miraculously makes his lyrics—which credit men for virtually everything under the sun—sound “humane.”

Somehow, 52 years later, it is still a man’s man’s man’s world, but we’re finally seeing a fraction of hugely successful men be held accountable for the gross abuses of power in the entertainment industry.

While the lack of value placed on women is still very clear in the success of new artists like XXXTentacion or 6ix9ine, or influential industry names like No Jumper’s Adam Grandmaison, who recently inked a partnership with Atlantic Records amid rape allegations from multiple women, what were once whispers (if that) behind closed doors have become a very public ongoing dialogue about equality, inclusivity, accountability, and the repetitious injustices against women.

In an effort to continue the conversation and let women know that there is not only a place for them but that they belong and can do as well or better than any man could, we spoke to a handful women who work and have worked across all different aspects of the music industry about what they wished someone told them coming in and advice they’d offer to young women navigating a male-dominated industry with little structure for conduct.

"If you can't find a role that fits you, create it."

Ramya Velury

What she does: Most days I manage recording artists at EQT Management. Depending on the day, I'd say about 50% of this job is strategy, 40% is cultivating and maintaining relationships, and the other 10% is apologizing for any antics.

How long she’s been doing it and pivotal roles to her success: I’ve been doing it for about five years. My advantage of going to NYU is that it forced me stay downtown; it's where every concert and anything really worth going to thrives. I used to intern at Hot 97 and really understood the anthropology of music—so basically quantifying data through what people fake liked versus what they actually liked. It didn't take me long to realize I wasn't destined for radio.

Shortly after I started working in nightlife, I would always hear [about] how some of the most successful people in music, like Scooter Braun or Diddy, literally started as party promoters. So I started [working] the door for bunch at big clubs and parties in NYC. By 2016, I knew or knew of every fake important person in North America. The "door girl nod" superpower is underestimated.

What she wishes she knew: There are more roles for women in the music industry than publicist or assistant. There's a misconception that because women naturally have the skill sets to kill both professions, and that’s all that's available to us. I didn't know all the roles to be had in the music business. I still don't! So if you can't find a role that fits you, create it. They're always evolving.

What she wants young women to know: Have a firm handshake and come with receipts. There isn't only one way to do something.

"Never compromise your integrity."

TRAKGIRL

What she does: I feel like I have several titles since I'm in different lanes in music. So let's go with music producer, entrepreneur, tech enthusiast, visionary. I create music. I produce and occasionally write when I feel moved. I produce music for other artists. Essentially my job is to inspire people so I do this not only for myself but for others out there who need good vibes.

How long she’s been doing it and pivotal roles to her success: I've been building my music career since college, so roughly seven to eight years. My very first placement was with Omarion my freshman year of college. That was one moment when I was like, "I can do this." Another pivotal moment in my career was when I started traveling to L.A. and met my now mentor, No I.D. That enhanced my perspective of music production. My record with Jhené Aiko, titled "Overstimulated," that released last fall on her Trip album, was another moment. I'm still a student to this "game." I love it.

What she wishes she knew: I've always set the tone in the beginning that respect will always be in play when working with me. I would have told my younger self that not everyone is your friend. That goes with everyday life. The advice I would give women today is to never compromise your integrity. Ever. I'm thankful I've always held my standards high. You have to.

What she wants young women to know: Have faith and continue to be true to yourself. Focus on your craft and let your talent and music speak first.

"Listen more... but don't ever lose your voice."

Angela Orr

What she does: Executive assistant to the CEO and founder of #JUSTAREGULARDAY management company, Neil Dominique. My job description is pretty much being the right hand to Neil, from constantly being in sync with him, to creating and abiding by the structure of the company, to scheduling for Neil and all company clientele (meetings, tours, personal, pretty much everything,) and constantly being the company mother and therapist. Only female in my crew.

How long she’s been doing it and pivotal roles to her success: I have been in the game since I was 19. My first job was my sophomore year in college as an assistant to Neil (off the books [laughs]) as he still worked for RevoltTV and Bad Boy Entertainment. Being behind the scenes, planning and working the first Revolt Music Conference was pivotal to me creating relationships, [and] using people and tools around you when needed and also learning that sometimes you just have to figure shit out. That’s the only answer.

Also, creating and debuting [Bryson Tiller's] Trapsoul. This was the first album that I was truly hands-on with having to learn the business side of creating an album. And finally, working on the True to Self Tour. It taught me how to problem-solve as this was Bryson's largest headlining tour thus far, ending the tour with a sold-out 16k seater arena in his hometown.

What she wishes she knew: As a young woman, I wish someone told me to listen more. Not in a disrespectful way, but I have learned through listening and watching what goes on around you, you learn much more.

What she wants young women to know: Being in an industry with little structure for conduct, I would give young women the advice to listen and be observant, but don’t ever lose your voice. Also to never let someone get you out of your character. Once they do, you have lost.

"Take yourself seriously... Demand your worth."

Lola Plaku

What she does: I do brand marketing and development and artist management. Basically, I help musicians and their brands in their development and marketing. I work with their management and PR teams to create campaigns—both traditional and non-traditional—relating to their music and project releases. I also work with brands in curating events and rollouts for their products online and/or in the market. My company also provides artist management services for artists who need it.

How long she’s been doing it and pivotal roles to her success: I have been in the game for over 10 years. I started off as a writer and did everything from event promoter, concert promoter, publicist, booking agent, and artist management.

When I began writing directly for HipHopCanada, it really created a lane for me that wasn’t there for many women in hip-hop. It gave me the opportunity to be the one in charge, to give others opportunities, to discover new talent and put them on. I think that was the beginning of who I was meant to become. My concert series was the second step in giving those opportunities a chance to live in the real world. Being able to break artists in a market like Big Sean, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Fredo Santana, DeJ Loaf, and many others really put the spotlight on me. That first show in Toronto with French Montana allowed me to work with him long-term and brought me here. Everything I have done has been pivotal for me. Every opportunity, every success, every failure. I am grateful for it all.

What she wishes she knew: Take yourself seriously. I wish that someone had told me to handle myself with a little more care. To understand my value a little deeper and to demand of others the same level of integrity I demanded of myself. I did things because I felt they mattered because what I was doing was creating a building a cultural change. I didn’t brag or talk about myself because I wanted my work to speak for itself and at times when approached with opportunities I didn’t seize them the way a man with a strong confidence and big ego would. So, I wish I had taken myself a little more seriously.

What she wants young women to know: Handle your business like a boss. I find that women are often taken advantage of because we are natural nurturers. We want to help others succeed and we prioritize others' goals and nurture their ambitions even if it costs us ours. The best advice I could give you is that; to handle your business. To take yourself seriously. To demand your worth. Don’t be cocky or condescending or think you’re better than anyone or too good to do anything ... but know yourself. Check yourself and let yourself know, you’re the shit. You got this, and handle your business first to make sure you’re good. Because if you’re not good, you can’t be of help to anyone.

"Ask for help. Ask for advice."

DJ Jubilee

What she does: I am an electronic music producer, touring DJ and radio host.

How long she’s been doing it and pivotal roles to her success: I’ve been in the game since MySpace, I guess. I like how that's considered an era! But I can safely say that I have been doing this full-time for about six years. I did my first out-of-town DJ gig in 2008, I released my first record in 2009, and started an independent record label the year before that. I have done it all. I have written for music blogs, thrown parties, hosted radio shows, interned for labels, started labels, ended labels, taught DJing, gone to school for production and pretty much anything you can possibly do in this industry. As of now, I have released three EPs, some remixes, a full-length album, three compilations—a fourth is coming soon—and have my own radio residency on BBC Radio 1. I've toured all over the world and have my own night in New York right now called Magic City. I also don't have a manager and JUST signed to a proper booking agency. So I have done a lot and I don't plan on stopping any time soon.

What she wishes she knew: Ask for help. Ask for advice. There are people worth reaching out to and willing to help. It's not a weakness. People can show you and tell you things that can change your entire workflow and/or outlook on things.

What she wants young women to know: Men are gonna men. It's ALWAYS going to happen. But keep in mind they are going to do that in every single industry and on the street and in the grocery store and on an airplane and in an Uber and literally everywhere you look and breathe. Don't associate it with your career choice. There are good ones out there and you will find them, they will help you exceed and also learn from you as well. I don't love the whole "Oh, fuck men we don't need them" attitude because the men in my work life have been BEYOND amazing. It just takes a while to find a good one, like a relationship. You know?

Unfortunately, in nightclub life, you are going to have to drink less than a man and be more cautious and aware while out at night working or networking. It shouldn't have to be that way, but it is. The lines are blurry with nightlife because there is a lot of drinking and drugs in the club world. Fortunately, in 2018, it is recognized that total fuckshit happens, and it’s okay to call it out, which is new. And I am happy about that newness. Don't feel like you have to let certain shit slide. Realistically, you might have to be a little bit creative when it comes to dealing with it and confronting it but DO it.

Also, stay away from people who just constantly industry gossip. It's toxic and completely counterproductive and really easy to get sucked into. If you put the work in you will get there. It took me extra time because I wanted to do things my way. But things are popping right now because I put in some serious work!

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