Come On, Vogue: Creative Women* in Music

a feature on Vancouver based music collective, Come On, Vogue

After a speech by Madonna at the Billboard Awards Laura Smith was inspired to create a community of women* (* Inclusive of trans, female identifying, non-binary, 2spirit, and friends) in the music scene. Now they have grown to a group of over 350 artists all in support of a common goal: inspiring and supporting other women in a male dominated field. 

Lindsay (left), Sarah (middle), Laura (right)

I interviewed Laura, Lindsay, and Sarah about how the movement started and their thoughts on the current state of music.

How did you go from being inspired by Madonna’s speech at the Billboard Awards to creating Come on Vogue? 

(For reference you can read the full transcript here: https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/12/10/madonna-sexism-misogyny-women/)

Laura Smith (Rococode) :
-In her speech, Madonna discussed the inequality she has faced during her 35 years in the music industry. The part that really hit me was this: “What I would like to say to all women here today is this: Women have been so oppressed for so long they believe what men have to say about them. They believe they have to back a man to get the job done. And there are some very good men worth backing, but not because they’re men — because they’re worthy. As women, we have to start appreciating our own worth and each other’s worth. Seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to collaborate with, to be inspired by, to support, and enlightened by.” I thought fuck yes. We need this mentality, this is necessary for the future of women in music. Around this time I had noticed more women in my community and otherwise creating positive, supportive encouragement for other women through social media posts, gatherings and the like. It was a growing force that had got under my skin, and the idea hit me to start Come On, Vogue (creative women* in music). I created the Facebook group thinking it would be a good way to connect and support my lady friends in the music community, and also to expand our networks. Shortly after it’s beginning, it was clear Come On, Vogue was something that was filling a major hole in our community, and 9 months later we are 350 members strong! The women in the group inspire me every day, I’m so thankful to everyone that is a part of this community. -Laura Smith (Rococode)
Sarah Jickling:
-I got involved with Come On Vogue because being a musician, especially a female musician, can be lonely and frustrating. I see COV as a support group for artists battling their way through a male-dominated industry. To quote Florence Welch and Lady Gaga’s duet song Hey Girl, “(w)e can make it easy if we lift each other.”
Lindsay Sjoberg:
-I ended up going to one of the first meetups that Laura had planned, despite the fact that I had felt pretty discouraged to go. I had a lot of touring and experience with a band under my belt, but taking a couple year break was enough to make me feel isolated and unworthy within the music industry. I think women have the mentality instilled into our brains growing up, that if we wanted to be a musician, we’d have to work twice as hard as boys because in my case, it wasn’t “normal” for a girl to pick up an acoustic guitar. There wasn’t room for me, as a girl, so If I really wanted to pursue this passion within me, it would take a lot of personal motivation as there is a thick weight I felt to prove that I could do it which can feel isolating. Come On, Vogue has become a visible rock, a giant “fuck yeah you can do this” to (in my case) the girl with the guitar. It is important for us to support each other within the music industry, but especially important for us to provide a safe space for young women to walk into the music industry and feel like they can be seen, known, and supported in a solid environment. We gotta have each other’s backs, and this group is dynamite when it comes to positive support.
You’re based in Vancouver, how is the local music scene in terms of female inclusion, inclusion, community, and representation? 
Laura:
There’s an amazing amount of talented women* in the Vancouver music scene, in all genres, and roles of the music community including the industry and tech sides of things. When I moved to Vancouver 12 years ago it was very male-dominated, but things are slowly shifting to a more balanced place. It’s an exciting time where women* are beginning to feel included and safe to do what they do. There are definitely some situations in the scene that clearly cater more towards men, and that’s a bias that needs to change. These are things we discuss within COV and are, where we can, actively trying to create positive change through awareness and constructive conversations. On the other hand, there are some companies who are conscious of this issue and making positive and inclusive changes to the way they do business. As for community, our community is stronger than ever as we are stronger together. There’s a lot of support between the women* in our community.
Sarah:
I personally feel like an outsider in this music scene, and from what I understand, others feel this way as well. Vancouver is known to be cliquey and the scenes are very insular. I think all of the individual Vancouver music scenes are dominated by what I call “chill dudes.” Their vibe is something to the effect of I’m not even trying and I don’t really care. To be a woman, especially a woman who is passionate about something, is to stick out like a sore thumb. I have tried to book all female bills at local venues and have been met with resistance. Bookers still feel like an all-female line up is alienating and won’t sell tickets, even if I’ve proven them wrong in the past! There isn’t much space for girls who give a damn. At least, not yet.
Lindsay: I think Laura and Sarah both hit the nail on the head. As for representation, this week alone I have been to 5 shows in a row, and they were 75% female based bands. I see a lot more diversity within bands and a lot more women rocking the drums, bass, and shredding the guitars. There is a lot more visible support, so there are a lot more women*  jumping into the scene, and that encourages other women to do the same. It has definitely encouraged me.
 
In the late 90s the Lilith Fair was an all-female music festival designed to give women a larger stage and national tour placement. What do you think changed in the mainstream music industry where we aren’t seeing many women collaborating together as in the past? 
Laura:
Actually, from my point of view, more women are collaborating now than ever before. It might not always be on as large a scale as Lilith Fair,  but on the ground level I see engineers, producers, songwriters, sound techs, film makers, photographers, journalists, promoters, managers, etc. all collaborating on multitudes of project and it is SO inspiring. I see mentorship and a lot of sharing of knowledge, skills, and people who are no longer afraid to ask one another for help. Also on the larger world stage there are more and more successful women dominating the music industry. It’s an exciting time, and it’s only going to get better.
Sarah:
If an all female festival was to run today, they would have to go up against Coachella, etc . Labels and promoters aren’t willing to take risks anymore, especially with independent acts. They want money, and their advertisers don’t want to turn off their male demographics. Women will listen to male and female artists, where as many men won’t listen to female musicians.  I can’t imagine an all female festival at this time, because they are more corporate and always thinking about the bottom line. The female collaborations happening at this time are generally female acts open for female acts. Carly Rae is opening for Katy Perry, Alessia Cara opened for Lorde… I think this is where we are going to keep seeing women supporting women.
Who are some of your all time favorite female musicians?
Laura:
Growing up I was a huge Tegan & Sara fan. I was listening to alternative rock radio a lot when their first single “Monday, Monday, Monday” came out and it was so exciting and inspiring to hear women singing on a radio format that was completely dominated by men. They have inspired me in a business sense too, I know a lot of their team and they do not take any shit from anybody, they are strong in their vision and they demand respect at all levels. I admire that they are highly creative, and have gone from a indie duo to very successful pop stars, and have created a career for themselves with longevity. Other female musicians who are inspiring on several levels are; Yukimi Nagano (of Little Dragon), St. Vincent, Grimes, Emily Haines, MIA.
Sarah :
Beyonce, Lorde, Sia, Hannah Georgas, Taylor Swift. I love pop music and I will never apologize for it!
Lindsay:
I am SO inspired by a lot of local bands and uprising pop-rock female -lead bands. I just saw the band Winter, with three girls shredding guitars all standing in a row, which is a look that is becoming a lot more popular and I’m so into it. The all-girl band L.A. Witch just came through Vancouver as well and it was a rock grunge fest on stage, they killed it. The all-girl band Frankie, and my love, St. Vincent, Feist, Lights, Sales, Crumb, Big Thief, Alvvays, Peach Pyramid… I could go on…I’m tellin ya…  girls shred.
What are your future goals and projects that you have in mind for Come On Vogue? 
Laura:
We have a great team of volunteers working on all things COV right now, and we have a lot of ideas for the future. For the immediate future we will continue to host monthly meetups to connect people in the community. We also have a workshop series in planning, we just held our first workshop on grant writing in August. We’re collaborating with #womencrush out of Portland to do a bi-monthly artist showcase, our first was in August and it was a great success. We just built a COV website and are creating a database of the artists within the COV community so touring bands, promoters, music supervisors and other industry so they can find the COV members and hook them up with gigs, etc. Our Instagram feed (comeon_vogue) is an ongoing mouthpiece for what our members are up to, and we’re starting an event calendar to shout out to all the COV events on our website. There’s a mental health meet up coming up soon, as mental health is a big issue within the music industry. And of course we have our COV Spotify playlist so you can tune in and hear what we have going on. All these are works in progress, and we do not have a full representative of all the COV artists up on the site or the playlist at this time, but we will keep building, growing and creating a sustainable support network. I should also mention a Vancouver to Nashville transplant Jodi Marinilli just started a second COV community based in Nashville which is very exciting too. I’d love to see COV Facebook groups spread regionally so they can host their own locally based events!
Sarah: 

I would love to have more songwriting circles and Laura suggested hosting a songwriting camp, which would be a dream come true for me.

 Lindsay:
Honestly, the support that came from Come On Vogue was such a huge push for me to get back into music and it has made me so happy this year. My hope is that the community continues to grow, and that women* from all over would feel the inclusive and non-judgemental wall of support, and that it would encourage them to look at themselves and say “Hellll ya, I can do this and I’m gonna fucking rock it”
private FACEBOOk page – readers who are involved in music in any way can request to become a member

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