ALL GIRL ELECTRONIC – THE PLOT
All Girl Electronic is a program run by Information Cultural Exchange (ICE) in Parramatta, launched in 2016 to combat the lack of women in electronic music. The program has quickly ballooned from eight participants on their pilot program last year to twenty-eight girls who are benefitting from being mentored by an all-female team in an environment that is not only improving their skills but allowing self-esteem and confidence to soar. We chatted with program manager Julia and a couple of the participants Alex and Sara to find out why this program is so important and the opportunities it has opened up.
The Westies: What is ICE?
Julia: ICE: Information and Cultural Exchange is a community arts organisation based in Parramatta, we work within Western Sydney which is a pretty large area. The aim of ICE is to connect the community with creativity, we work a lot of digital technology so doing electronic music really fits into that.
The Westies: How did AGE come about?
Julia: ICE has always done music projects, we have the recording studio here and other facilities. Some producers had noticed that the projects were very male-dominated and quite hip-hop focused so we were looking at a way to get more women involved. We worked with Music NSW – who were already running a Women in Electronic Music initiative on devising a workshop program teaching Ableton and having a whole crew of female facilitators and mentors coming through. We ran the pilot last year with a really small group of participants and from that success, we have expanded – this year we are running two workshops a week and we have a whole bunch of activities lined up for this year and next.
It’s pretty widely acknowledged that women are underrepresented in the music industry in general and definitely in electronic music, especially production roles, so having a program that is aimed at women is really important.
The Westies: How many girls are on the program?
Julia: There are 14 girls in each workshop which is really the maximum that could fit. We tried to accept as many girls as possible, there were only eight altogether last year – that was the first time we did it so it was a real tester as we didn’t know if it would work or if girls would even want to do it – but clearly, they do.
The Westies: Why is it so important to have a program that is for girls only?
Julia: It’s pretty widely acknowledged that women are underrepresented in the music industry in general and definitely in electronic music, especially production roles, so having a program that is aimed at women is really important. It’s free and it’s run by women means that it’s completely accessible. It’s also about building confidence as well as skills. Low confidence is something that has been identified as a barrier for women pursuing a career in music because they just aren’t given the encouragement because it is so male-dominated.
The music industry, especially in electronic music, is not focused girls. There is no space where girls can make music and not be told “you’re just a singer” or your tracks are ghost produced
The Westies: What do you think has been the best thing that you’ve learnt from the program so far?
Alex: The mentors and facilitators, because they have been in the music industry for so long. it’s really nice to hear their experiences and what they have to say because the scene I am in is very insular, it’s a group of people who only listen to certain music and are part of a certain scene, so coming here has opened my eyes to a whole new world of music.
The Westies: How difficult is it to make your own electronic music?
Alex: I find making my own personal music, not in a group just for me, is really hard for me to accept that I am good enough and that I can do it. Being in a group releases the pressure off everything just being me. Here, I am on my own and it’s all my music, so it’s quite stressful at times.
Being in a space which is safe and really supportive has really helped.
The Westies: Has this program helped make it easier for you?
Alex: Yes 100%. When I am here getting support and showing people what I’ve made, the being able to get feedback and not have to worry so much. Being in a space which is safe and really supportive has really helped.
The music industry, especially in electronic music, is not focused girls. There is no space where girls can make music and not be told “you’re just a singer” or your tracks are ghost produced. I’ve been asked so many times “oh are you a singer?” and I don’t sing. It’s really good to have a space where it’s other girls and they know what it’s like being one in the music industry.
The Westies: What opportunities have you gained since being part of the program.
Alex: I got to play at Parramatta Lanes, which was really fun and I am playing at The Plot in a couple of weeks. I wouldn’t have been anywhere near to playing live or DJing if it wasn’t for All Girl Electronic.
The Westies: When did you first get into electronic music?
Sara: Well since I was a kid, I used to love playing guitar, I used to play the ukulele and the guitar and the banjo which is completely different. When I finished high school, I went to uni and I saw that lots of people making this electronic music. I was going out to clubs and saw a lot of people playing live, electronically. And I thought “oh my god what’s that? What’s the computer for that? What are those pads that they’re clicking that are colourful?” and I just thought it was so cool.
I always loved playing the guitar but I wanted to do something that was going to be more technical for my mind to get around. Because for me, guitar was second nature for me to play.
With electronic, you can make the whole song by yourself. You don’t need a producer to think of sounds, you don’t need other instrumentalists, you can do the whole thing. And I am such a perfectionist, so if I can get my hands on the whole song that suits me.
I can go home and feel happy about myself rather, than feeling like I’m not good enough.
The Westies: The program is called All Girl Electronic, why do you think it’s important to have a program that’s just for girls?
Sara: I am so passionate about this. I study music at university. In all my classes there’s heaps of boys, I’m doing a digital music course at the same time [as All Girl Electronic]. There’s only two girls in my whole class and the class is 40 people and you feel really intimidated. Our teacher barely helps us girls, my friend Emma and I. He connects more with the guys and they don’t like to make the kind of music that we like to make. I in particular make super melancholy, bittersweet music that’s not always the stereotypical kind of electronic music that people make. I felt like I didn’t fit in and it made me not like electronic music.
But then every Saturday I come here and it is always so lovely. Julia always helps us out, she wants to get us gigs and she really encourages us. All the mentors that come in are so talented and they come in every single week and help us one-on-one with stuff. I found that so helpful because in a big class, you just get lost.
Here you really feel like you’re part of a community. It sounds so cliche, but it is. I’ve made friends with all the girls here, we talk outside of here, we all give each other advice. When I played my gigs, Julia came and she was super proud of me. It makes you feel like you’re part of something that’s super special. It’s so nice to have a place where you can come in and just ask questions and not feel nervous or shy or like people are going to judge you about your music.
Interview: Katrina James
Photos: Katrina James
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