This Could Go Boom!: an initiative giving a voice to unheard narratives in the music industry
This week, we're back in Washington, D.C. While this blog traditionally focuses on Canadian music stories, this one is way too creative and important not to tell. This Could Go Boom! started as a record label but quickly became so much more than that. Empowering female and non-binary voices in the music industry, This Could Go Boom! is an initiative that has sparked an appetite for equality and yielded measurable, successful results. Read on for the 411 on how this record label made one release and then set their sites on something much bigger than the realm of any traditional label.
In the Beginning
This Could Go Boom! started with a band called The Osyx in Washington, D.C. (check out my interview with them). This band made up of exclusively female musicians came together in the wake of Trump's election and the #meetoo movement to give voice to unheard narratives: primarily women. The Osyx wanted to give life to female and non-binary voices in an industry dominated by and revolving around men. When they saw what an appetite there was for their music, they wanted to make that last and decided that rather than crowd-funding a record so their voice could be heard by more people, they wanted to do something that had more longevity and a lasting impact. They decided that a record label would be one way that they could support not only female musicians but sound engineers and more.
As the process of creating a label grew and they worked on their first release, The Osyx's self-titled album, they realized that they were getting mired in the process of creating and releasing an album. Then when a study out of USC Annenberg was released showing just how insanely low female representation in the music industry was (we're talking only 3% of music engineers and producers), it was time to steer the ship in a slightly different direction.
"We're all kind of restless souls and none of us gather moss easily," says TCGB! board member Ara Casey, "we started saying, 'How can we tackle these problems immediately?'"
"We moved from the mission of starting a record label to a mission that focused on the power of diverse voices that have long been marginalized in the industry as a whole...the record label is just one of the things we can offer that supports that mission..." says Erin Frisby, President of the label. With this in mind, This Could Go Boom! shifted from a record label to an initiative to support and give legs to female and non-binary artists, engineers, writers, photographers and more in the music industry.
What They Do
Today, This Could Go Boom! operates as a non-profit that yes, is still a record label but also hosts workshops, community conversations, concerts, listening parties and so much more to support female and non-binary voices in Washington, D.C. They have hosted community conversations to discuss the barriers for women getting into the engineering and sound recording industry as well as looked at why they dropped out of those professions. They've hosted song-writing and collective sound workshops for all skill levels, taken on the radio waves to promote unheard voices, spoken about building inclusivity in the industry at the DC Music Summit and even given talks at the Kennedy Centre.
The coolest part? They're seeing real-world results. By encouraging businesses and venues to look at who they're staffing and putting on bills, they've helped get women in the door in D.C. While there's still a lot of work to do, Casey notes anecdotal evidence of results they've seen. "As a result of this, we're getting calls from bookers, venues and business owners reaching out and asking for a list of all the female and non-binary engineers we know in the city." She also notes that people are becoming more intentional with those decisions and predicts this is a lasting change.
Side Note: Right now during the COVID outbreak, This Could Go Boom! is hosting a series of online listening parties that you should definitely check out.
What You Can Do
While you may not be reading this from D.C., Erin and Ara assured me there are things you can do to help support women in the music industry. Here are their three tips:
1. Look Beyond the Stage
Don't just look at who is holding the microphone. Look at who is holding an instrument, running sound, recording and engineering albums. Ask yourself who is covering and telling music stories, who is running the labels and more. Seek out female voices.
2. Don't Limit Yourself to the Voices of White CIS Women
Ask yourself what female artists you already support and then go seek out a different voice. Make it your business to support Indigenous women, black-run music labels and more. These things are out there, just look! *This will be a goal for me too so please send any recommendations you have my way!
3. Be Intentional
Tips one and two really just come down to tip three:be intentional with what you listen to. Music listeners have more power than they realize. Talk about your fav female musicians and industry leaders, request them on your local radio stations, post about them on social media and listen to them.
Peace, love & history.