*Guest blog by Montse Carty – Music District Artist-in-Residence May 2018*
I had the privilege of staying at The Music District (MD) as an artist-in-residence in Fort Collins, CO last month. There I met with many fantastic artists and staff. One of the things I was struck by is the MD’s commitment to empowering women in music through their WomxnUP program lead by the Programs Manager Julie Sutter. I got to meet with a handful of wonderful women including the MD’s Community Manager, Erin Roberts. We talked about our shared challenges and joys of working in this industry as women.
The wonderful people at the MD asked me if I’d write a blog post covering “the good, the bad and the ugly” of being a woman in the music industry, and I am honored to do so! Many men in this industry have had a profoundly positive impact in my own career thus far – and of course, on the industry as a whole. In fact, many of my dearest friends, mentors, cherished co-workers in this industry are men. But right now, I would like to shine a light on the women in music. Although there are certainly fewer of us in this industry, I know we share so many of the same roadblocks. I’ll give voice to some of the ones I’ve encountered along the way, along with a love letter to some of the women in music who continue to be a bright light in my life.
Let’s start with “the bad” and “the ugly.”
Some of these experiences are my own, some I have witnessed, and some are stories other women shared with me.
- At one music company I worked for, I was leading a meeting with a very well-known male musician and co-workers (all men). When I began to introduce my role at the company and what I did, he (the musician) sweetly smiled and said: “Oh, I thought you were just a pretty face!” My own smile came not at that compliment, but at the one that followed, from my co-worker who jumped in – “Montse is so much more than a pretty face.” While the artist’s comment was well-meaning and harmless, I appreciated my colleague putting an exclamation point on the value I brought to the company that had everything to do with who I am on the inside. It’s a struggle that I think we women face on the regular in this field – to be truly seen – for who we are, not what we look like.
- Being paid significantly less than male-counterparts and given less responsibility, despite having more experience and education. I have seen this happen to countless women I’ve worked alongside and on occasion have been a victim of it myself.
- In addition to the sexual harassment that has now been unearthed through the #metoo movement, there is the bullying. I remember a sweet and incredibly hard-working, intelligent co-worker of mine, many years ago, being constantly yelled at and made to feel so small, by her intimidating male boss. I felt so much empathy for her but didn’t ever think I would let someone talk to me that way – until I had my own bully of a boss. He overlooked the talent and abilities of the women on his team while using intimidation as a scare tactic.
Now let’s talk about all “the good!”
When I think about my last ten years, the empowering and beautiful experiences of being a woman in the music industry is what dominates my heart and mind.
When I pause and reflect on the incredible women in this industry who have been mentors, former supervisors, and dear friends to me, I pinch myself. These women are all shining examples of being successful, warm, intelligent, powerful and all of them lead with their heart. Here are just a few of so many powerful music women in my own life. I love them even more than tacos, and that’s saying a lot!
Catherine Russell. My voice teacher at Berklee College of Music many years ago – she would stay late to work with me on my favorite Joni Mitchell songs, would be there for me when my heart was breaking, and continues to advise me over the years in all areas of life beyond music – empowering me to not ever settle, in life or in love. With an incredible resume to boot (she was David Bowie’s long-time backup singer and continues to sing with Steely Dan, and her father was Louis Armstrong’s musical director, whaaaat??), it’s always a dream to hear her life stories and lessons learned along the way.
Karen Lieberman. She hired me for a summer internship at Sony Music Global, fresh off the heels of grad school. Despite being a VP at the company and working late nights, she made it a point to carve out time to teach me a “lesson of the day” – a new tool, program, or “lesson” about the music industry. When my internship was over – she wrote a letter to HR that made me cry (in the good way!) and hired me on to the team full-time. Having someone I deeply admire and respect believe in me as much as she has, means everything to me. Now a VP at Disney Music Group, she continues to mentor, empower and encourage me.
Caron Veazey. She was my other amazing boss at Sony Music! During our weekly meetings, Caron would blast music in her office and then we’d talk all about it. She’d have me bring her questions every week about the industry, working in music, etc. Caron was such a teacher to me, in addition to being my manager. She also showed me by example and mentorship that it was possible to be both kind and assertive. That yes, you can be “nice” in this industry and still be successful and respected. I’ll also never forget when I had a serious medical issue how she sat next to me all day and night at the hospital despite the work that was calling her. While she is still one of the busiest people I know – being manager to Pharrell Williams (and Co-Founding Partner of I am OTHER), she always makes time for a call or lunch with me to chat work and life – and I am so thankful to her for that.
I would not have gotten to where I am without those three. I will never stop being thankful for them and feel so, so lucky to have them in my corner.
Then there is my mentor Veronica at Pandora, former-manager at Pandora Vix Sevilla, and all the other badass managers, colleagues, artists, and friends I have had the utmost privilege of collaborating with and learning from. When I really pause to think about all of these women (like I’m doing right now), I am just flooded with gratitude. So much so, that in the very near future I plan to start a small business with two other women in music who I admire and adore. It’s been a dream-in-the making for years, to create a women-lead company that will help give back to the artist community in a variety of ways. More on this soon… :). I couldn’t be more excited to begin working on this, alongside two other music-related projects I have brewing with other incredibly thoughtful, talented friends.
As I reflect back on my time at the MD, it was a special week that really symbolized all the great women in music and what they do for each other. Alia Goldfarb gave me voice lessons while I was in town and took time out of her personal schedule to record and send me all the vocal exercises we worked on, so I could keep at it. I got to speak with Julie and Erin at the MD about the incredible “WomxnUP” program they have… and getting to speak with other like-minded women over the week about their own creative projects. Sharing laughs, stories, knowing smiles and “Oh, I knows” and “Me too’s.” Women inspiring, lifting-up, and empowering other women. Right now, nothing feels better than that.
Montse has worked in various areas of the music industry: artist relations, programming, and global marketing for music companies including Sony Music Entertainment, Pandora Media, and various non-profits (such as the San Francisco Symphony and Take Note Colorado). She has also worked in artist management – both as an independent manager and as a Day-to-Day for a management company. She received her B.M. from Berklee College of Music and M.S. from Boston University.
Montse is currently working on a variety of music-related projects she is excited about: as an Artist/Music Photographer Manager, co-managing the concert series “Strings & Wood,” and as the Creative Director/Co-Producer of a new music series recorded at 25th Street Studio in Oakland, CA.
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