A discussion was introduced at this past winter’s Association of Electronic Music conference of combining the men’s and women’s categories for the International Dance Music Awards (IDMA). The argument was that since you cannot tell the gender of the producer by listening to their music, you shouldn’t have separate awards. But, by combining the categories, and just by sheer percentages alone, the men would receive the majority of the awards. By keeping them separate, women would in fact be getting exposure that they wouldn’t otherwise get.
To fuel their argument of keeping the categories separate, they looked at the DJ Mag Top 100, which is a combined list. The problem is that you would have to look far down on the list to find your favorite female artist, if at all, due to the overwhelming male dominance in the industry.
Artist and radio producer, Suzanne Chesterton was one of but a few females at the event and had this to say, “I think it’s the public’s perception that the guys do all the producing and the women aren’t involved as much for some reason. But, there are some incredibly talented women out there that don’t get the recognition they deserve.”
Suzanne’s friend, Trance vocalist and producer, Sue McLaren agreed and also added, “It’s a very daunting prospect as a young female coming into the industry. If you look around, there are hardly any women DJ’s or producers appearing on the big Trance line-ups, and it can be overwhelming.”
Sue’s not wrong, and she’s not the first female artist to say it. Many male producers have been hesitant when accepting advice from a female vocalist who they’re collaborating with for a song. And, quite frankly, there’s still the unwarranted stereotype that female producers are not as talented as their male counterparts.
In an effort to squash these preconceived notions, and with over 30 years of music experience between them, Suzanne and Sue have launched SISKIN, a brand that not only aims to release music, but one that will concentrate on the development of young female artists and help their introduction into the Trance music scene. “With all our knowledge, contacts and combined industry experience, we really want to help new talent break into the scene,” said a passionate Sue.
“If you look at other genres of electronic music, there’s a real surge of women coming through at the top, but in Trance it’s not really happened yet. There are so few visible role models for young women aspiring to become Trance producers or DJ’s and we want to change that.”Sue McLaren
SISKIN has created an artist development plan that is unique to the industry by working with local schools either in person or online to offer a co-op of sorts, to local female students who are interested in music production. “I was a music lecturer for five years at the University of Huddersfield, so my background is actually in education,” Suzanne revealed. “I also developed an apprentice scheme (co-op) where students would work part-time then come into school and get a qualification.”
Suzanne and Sue are closely involved with their own children’s musical journey and uses their school’s resources to offer DJ lessons, music production classes, and digital workstation tips with software programs like Ableton to its students. “Some of these children may struggle academically,” admitted Suzanne. “But, when you introduce music, you see their faces light up with enthusiasm and inspiration. It’s wonderful to see, so we wanted to bring this aspect into the SISKIN project.”
Another aspect of the SISKIN brand is the launch of a recording label that will cater to up-and-coming female producers. Although still very much in the planning stages, and not wanting to emulate Rich Solarstone’s Pure Trance label, the ladies are indeed taking a page from it. “When you look at Rich’s label, he puts so much work into it and really helps artists by coming back to them straight away with tips and advice,” said Suzanne. “Often times, the bigger the label, the less you get,” proclaimed Sue. “We aim to keep things transparent and fair. In the end, we want to treat people how we would want to be treated.” Note: Sometimes, it can take months for a label to respond to an artist’s demo submission, if at all.
In addition, the ladies are eager to showcase their talents in a live format by touring. Sue headlined The Goodgreef Classical event in back in April with the likes of Giuseppe Ottaviani and fellow vocalist, Audrey Gallagher, where she sang in front of a 30-piece live orchestra at Middlesbrough Town Hall in England. It’s unique events like these that have afforded Sue’s ability to garner performances by working with promoters and management companies who have known her throughout the years. With her contacts, along with the many Suzanne has with her work in radio, SISKIN hopes to present a more intimate setting in the venues that will have them.
“We want to do more than just go up there and press play,” Suzanne adamantly said. “We want to take our years of collective experiences and put together a really good show with elements of Sue singing and me playing the piano. It’s going to be more of a live show – something unique, and perhaps still with an electronic music element, but something that’s a little bit out there. We want to try new things.”
In the meantime, the June 21, 2019, VANDIT Next Generation release of SISKIN’s first single, “Real Love” has already been supported by Sean Tyas, and what are sure to be many more high-profile artists in the coming days. With three additional completed tracks on the way, SISKIN is also scheduled to perform at County Durham’s Muma Moonshine Festival in August as a way to explore other festivals for ideas, and immerse themselves in a non-electronic, family friendly event.
“We just love what we do,” exclaimed Sue. “We just love the music”
Oh, about the IDMA categories being combined into one? Well, that’s still up for discussion. What do you think?
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