Here’s why the Independent Label Market’s all-female Soho takeover is so vital

We spoke to organisers and label bosses from the event to find out more

Vinyl-lovers institution the Independent Label Market is set to curate an all-female line-up tomorrow on London’s Berwick Street, as part of Soho Music Month.

The first ever edition of the event will see female founders of independent record labels taking over the market from 11am to 6pm on Saturday, June 16. The market will be based on a strip of London that’s steeped in musical history; Berwick Street was once known as The Golden Mile of Vinyl in the 80s, and the area is still home to loads of great record shops today.

With DJ sets from three female DJs: Xanthe Fuller, Sophie Callis and Cherrie Flava (the former Soul Jazz Records A&R Nicole McKenzie) the day will be held partly to celebrate physical music, with all kinds of limited edition records up for grabs.

“Vinyl in particular is very important to me and will never lose love from music fans,” explains label director Sarah Bolshi, who is a partner at Sunday Best Recordings/Publishing with Bestival’s Rob Da Bank. “Being able to scrutinise the contributors on a record, admire the artwork with proper visual perspective (as opposed to tiny image on a computer/phone) and hold the actual product – be it vinyl or CD –  is a very tactile experience and gives the music real creative vision.  A record release is music, art and design, it embodies how an artist sees their vision across many art-forms.”

“Streaming services are ​a ​fantastic way to discover music, but I think fans still love to own their favourite albums on vinyl (I know I do!),” says Independent Label Market co-founder Katie Riding. “It was interesting to see the Official Charts ‘​Top 20 vinyl albums sold in the UK in 2017​’ figures – most of the albums on the list were classics from David Bowie, Radiohead, Pink Floyd etc.  I think Oasis​’ ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory’ was in at number 9!​”

This special takeover from the Independent Label Market also serves another important purpose. “Women are completely underrepresented in the industry,” Katie highlights. “Women in Music list some interesting statistics. They report that just 15% of U.S labels are majority owned-by women – I’m sure that figure won’t be any higher in the UK.  And on the artist side it is just as bad, if not worse – just 16% of PRS members are women, and only 6% of producers in the U.S and Canada are women. We have lots of incredibly talented women working so hard in our industry, and I think events like this are important – not only to highlight their collective success, but also to spotlight more female role models for the next generation.”

When I started out in 1990 there were very few women in the A&R, or the production side of the music industry,” says Sarah. “Events like this present the women to the public who are behind the scenes putting a release together. It is incredibly important to demonstrate this is a female industry too!

“It’s so important to shine a spotlight on female talent in an industry where diversity is still extremely unbalanced,” explains musician Little Boots, who is also the co-founder of On Repeat Records. “Especially in areas such as record label founders and executives,” she continues. ‘Setting examples and drawing attention to the great work being done by women in this field will path the way for a more balanced future generation of the music industry.”

Organisers and labels involved in the all-female Independent Label Market takeover hope that, by showcasing talented women across all areas of the music industry, they will encourage other young women to follow suite.

“I think that mentoring is very important,” points out Katie. “In Science and Medicine, for example, good mentoring is an essential part of professional development which will continue until the mentee is very senior.  Unfortunately the music industry seems to do less of this than other industries,” she says. “ launched a great mentoring project last year called she.grows, so I’m excited to see how that progresses.  As for anyone thinking of a career in the music industry who is in Soho this Saturday – please come down and speak to any of the female label owners and managers that will be at our Berwick Street event – they are an inspiring, welcoming group of women!

“I hope that over time events like this just normalise women in imbalanced industries, and over time reset ideas about diversity. Young people approaching the music industry or any other with similar problems will not even consider their gender to be an issue or any kind of barrier, and I think slowly we are getting there,” Little Boots concludes.

“I hope that it shows that the record industry is open to everyone,” adds Sarah, “as long as you have the love and enthusiasm to undertake the work that goes into it.”