How to break into the music industry

We spoke to Holly Whitaker, Maddy O’Keefe and Raissa Pardini about breaking into the music industry.

A couple of weeks ago, iconic venue The Windmill announced a new initiative aiming to provide female, trans and non-binary artists with creative support to start a career in music following the COVID-19 pandemic. Supported by Dr. Martens, the two week programme offers unsigned, non-male creatives the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from Goat Girl, Raissa Pardini, Holly Whitaker and Slow Dance Records. The event is designed to provide advice to young creatives and present new opportunities – including the chance to support Goat Girl on 30th June. Tickets for this show are on sale now.

The two week programme was developed in response to male-heavy line ups, intended to provide networking, mentorship and collaborative opportunities. The Windmill and Dr. Martens collaboration continues the brand’s commitment to improving access to creative opportunities for everyone. Dr. Martens Presents the Come Back Better initiative in response to the impact the pandemic has had on the music industry, and demonstrates the brand’s commitment to making the industry a fairer and more equal place.

To give you a taste of what to expect from the event, we asked celebrated graphic artist Raissa Padini, scene photographer Holly Whitaker and Slow Dance Records’ Maddy O’Keefe to provide a few tips on breaking into the music industry.

Holly Whitaker

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I’m still constantly learning. Trial and error is so important, never be embarrassed because you don’t know something, just keep going – it’ll help you develop your own style too. 

2. Picking your moments is incredibly important. You don’t want to be taking photos of people when they don’t want it. Patience is key, and you’ll get the best out of your subject when you’re both comfortable with and understanding of each other.

3. Borrow equipment! Swap with friends!  It’s really fun and you get to try out loads of different things on a budget – it still helps me when I’m broke and when I was starting out.

Maddy O’Keefe (Slow Dance Records):

1. Go to as many live shows as possible, meet new people who are into the same things you are and speak to artists you admire. Connecting with people online and being proactive on social media is also valuable. Building relationships and a network of interesting, motivated, creative people is the best way to start your career and gain confidence in what you do.

2. Listen to feedback and constructive criticism, but don’t let it demoralise you and don’t get imposter syndrome! Make sure that you’re also supportive and helpful to those around you.

3. Don’t think there are rules for anything or that you need to do things a certain way because someone tells you it’s ‘how it is’. There are so many things in the industry that are outdated or just shockingly flawed, and having more female, trans and non-binary people making and working in music is only going to help everything move forward.

Raissa Pardini:

The music industry gave me trust when I needed work and a lot of different bands gave me work at the very beginning, so I’m really grateful for this industry. Although it can be very challenging to become an artist who works directly with the industry. There is a lot of competition, budgets are sized down each year, commercial work and music seems to be a safe option for many labels and sometimes all these factors can bring you down because you are left with no work and no contacts. 

My advice for you all is to be present, attend gigs, message bands directly on their social media pages, offer to work with them, collaborate with them, be loud about your work and try to find your piece of luck in there!

Be active in the music scene, remember your passion towards music and let that guide you!

Email labels, emails people who work in labels, email promoters, try talk to them in person, show you’re keen to spread your music and your art every where. If you feel uncomfortable regarding something, open a conversation and make sure you raise you concerns. This is very important in order to create safe space around us.

Sustain yourself with everything you could at first. We were doing everything ourselves at the beginning, in my old band. From merch to booking gigs to contacting labels and even when we eventually found a label that was keen to invest in ourselves, I’ve always been interested to help with anything I could.

Be excited and share your passion with others, I wish you all you dreamt of and good luck spreading the word with your art. Feel free to be in touch at any point if you need! Lots of love.

Tickets for Goat Girl’s performance at The Windmill on June 30th are on sale now. Apply to support them and find further information on the event here.

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