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.
(For reference you can read the full transcript here: https://www.digitalmusic
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I would love to have more songwriting circles and Laura suggested hosting a songwriting camp, which would be a dream come true for me.