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Women in Music: London In Stereo Editor Jess Partridge Talks Gender Equality in the Industry

10 October 18 interview: Becky Timmins

From establishing her own music magazine to managing an international PRS Foundation initiative, Jess Partridge has forged a successful and multi-faceted career in the music industry, and is a firm believer in going your own way. This evening she will be part of the panel at DHP’s Women in Music event at Rescue Rooms, the second in a series of events in Nottingham aiming to unpick gender imbalance in the music industry...

You first started putting on gigs in Bristol when you were seventeen. When was the idea for establishing London In Stereo magazine first born?
A lot of my friends were writers, and I saw a real opportunity. It made sense to have writers drawing attention to good gigs, and I had friends who were doing similar things in Bristol. I was also missing a lot of gigs in London because it was very difficult to find out exactly what was going on; there was no centralised resource, it was just up to individuals to put listings up. Lots of stuff was missing, and it was frustrating. So I decided to go for it, and spent a long time trying to work out the best way to do it. We had no particular genre in mind, though there were definitely venues which constantly hosted gigs we were really excited about.

You studied Commercial Music at Westminster University. How valuable do you think that was to your future success in the industry?
I think it gave me a really good overview of all the different elements of the music industry. It can be quite hard to work out exactly what roles are available. From the first week of being at university, I was using my day off to intern at different places. Even now I talk to people who have worked in the industry for a very long time, and they still aren’t always aware of what different areas actually do. So giving me the opportunity to explore was probably the biggest thing the course did for me.

How do you perceive the world of music journalism, in terms of its value to listeners and musicians?
There was definitely a time when people didn’t think it was useful at all. But I think it is becoming increasingly useful, as there’s so much music out there, and so much information available. Having platforms that are shouting about different acts is really important. It doesn’t even have to be critically; it can just be “I really like this because of this”, and those gatekeepers are becoming more and more important, because people become fans of them, and get access to a world of music without having to do the work themselves. So I think there is still a huge role to be played as more music pops up, and as more channels of consumption emerge. These gatekeepers don’t always have to be writers either; you can get all kinds of people recommending music.

And what do you think the future of the industry looks like, in the light of the digital revolution?
The music industry has the advantage of being based in something live. The live experience can’t be truly replicated, and so there are always going to be certain elements that won’t be digitalised. I’m sure some people would call me naïve when it comes to VR and things like that, but there’s such a strong argument for both the social and economic benefits of live music.

Katie Muckle, Head of HR at DHP Family, has highlighted that the balance of male and female applications for positions in their venues and on the live side of their business can be as extreme as ten to one. What is your opinion on gender imbalance in the industry?
Alongside London In Stereo, I run a programme called Keychange; a gender equality initiative that encourages festivals to sign up to a pledge for a 50:50 gender balance by the year 2022. So I completely understand what is being said by the HR department at DHP. It is a problem, especially on the live side of things, and I think it is really important that we encourage women to consider a wide variety of roles.

Women are frequently pushed out of certain roles, and so we need to ensure that there is time and space for women to become sound engineers and technicians. I think it is gradually improving, but at the moment there is a huge imbalance.

Women are frequently pushed out of certain roles, and so we need to ensure that there is time and space for women to become sound engineers and technicians. I think it is gradually improving, but at the moment there is a huge imbalance.

There’s a lot of research showing that at a younger age, it’s much more equal, but as children move into adulthood, females drop out of the more technological sectors. It’s about retention. Even on my degree I was one of very few women. We did learn how to produce, and because I was one of the only women, I was asked by one of the female technicians at the university to help her at the weekends on external production work. She wanted to support me in exploring production and engineering. And you know what, I didn’t do it! I did something completely different, and while I’m pleased with what I have done, there’s probably a reason I didn’t end up as an engineer or a producer.

What advice would you give to people looking to forge a career in the music industry? And what do you think has been the key to your success?
I would always say to do your own thing. It’s all good and well to intern at different places, and to work for other people, but I think it is really important to demonstrate your own initiative towards whatever you are trying to break into.

If you are trying to be a writer, have a blog and put your writing up. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t writing for other places, you can just write for yourself and post it online. That shows real initiative. If you want to put on gigs, then just do it. If you want to work for a record label, then show that by releasing some music, or at least showing that you have an understanding of how it works.

Things really changed for me when I started doing my own thing. It’s not for anybody else, and it just means that if you’re applying for a job at a bigger company, you can talk about what you’ve already done. That shows so much more passion and proves that you are doing it for the right reasons, not because you want some kind of rock and roll lifestyle. Doing your own thing also gives you a much better idea of what the industry actually requires of you in order to be a success.

What can people do to stand out in such a competitive landscape?
Be very passionate about what you do. If you are going to events because you’re really excited to do it, and if you’re talking to musicians because you are excited to meet them, it will genuinely come across. The more that you can show how important the music is to you, the better.

What has been the biggest “pinch me” moment of your career to date?
That’s a hard one! There have been some amazing moments. Announcing the Keychange pledge in January and reaching the first 45 festivals to sign up to the 50:50 gender balance by 2022... that was a huge moment.

If you could only listen to one artist or band for the rest of time, who would it be and why?
This is difficult because obviously, there are so many! And it’s hard to say anyone in particular, because it will change depending on my mood. But I have a tattoo on my foot of a lyric by a band called Mates of State, which I got on the top of my foot when I was eighteen. And to go back to your previous question, when I was 25 I actually signed that band to Fierce Panda, the record label I was working with at the time. So that was a pretty big “pinch me” moment.

DHP’s Women in Music discussion panel takes place at Rescue Rooms on Wednesday 10 October at 6pm. Tickets are £3/£5 and all proceeds will be donated to Equation; the Nottinghamshire charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Panel One: Go Your Own Way - Starting a Business features Jess Partridge (London In Stereo), Sarah Cole (SC Productions), Rachel Menzies (Hookline TV), and Sofia Ilyas (Float PR). Chaired by Kate Nicholls (UK Hospitality).

Panel Two: Question! Tell Me What You Think About”... Advice on Working in the Industry features Danielle Sorsby (Venue/Artist Manager and Promoter) and Jackie P (Kemet FM). Chaired by Anwyn Williams (DHP Family).

DHP website
Equation website

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