CE’s Top 10 Female Industry Power Players
March is Women’s Rights Month, but is anyone else wondering why we celebrate strong and powerful women for only one month out of the year? Like Black History Month that precedes it every February, how is it that one month of African American pride or female empowerment can somehow outshine centuries of oppression? How do we consistently overlook how men are always celebrated every other month of the year (albeit in largely unspoken ways) while women earn 81 cents to the male dollar?
Because this is how power functions: through silence.
We can see the disparities play out not just in pay grade, but via male dominance in the workplace as well as through everyday gender performance and “boys club” culture. Yet, time and again, we chose to ignore it.
As females in a male-dominated music industry, we go about our creative or technical projects in the hopes that our “work ethic” will speak for itself regardless of our gender. As males in any industry, we go about our daily lives in the hopes that women can someday crack the glass ceiling, but hardly ever actively seek out ways to build workplace infrastructures that promote equality. While we’ve come a long way, these are symptoms of a larger systemic issue that boils down to one simple fact: “we’ve still got miles to go.”
On a larger societal level, we turn the blind eye towards backstage “groupie culture” while members of both sexes contribute to the problem. We either don’t believe women who feel empowered to come forward in the #MeToo movement or write them off entirely. We “cancel” the males in power positions, who’ve themselves been socialized in really damaging ways, often cutting them out instead of offering help. So the cycle(s) of silence and violence continue.
The music industry itself has been long critiqued as a firmly rooted “boys club.” On both the business and creative sides, 68% of women reported that they felt their gender affected their employment in music, according to a Berklee Women in Music study. That same study reported that 84% had been treated differently on the basis of their sex.
According to Forbes,
The gender divide in music still sees men making up to 70% of industry professionals. Women executives get paid 30% less than their male counterparts.
Given how power and silence work like chameleons to constantly disguise themselves in order to uphold the dominant status quo, how can we even begin to locate and expose it? Through discourse, we say.
That’s why the staff at CE believes we can simultaneously celebrate the women who are carving out paths for themselves and other females like them and critique gender inequality in the music industry. In much the same way one would have a hard time talking about the sun without the moon, or the yin without the yang, we cannot talk about the feminine without the masculine.
For Women’s Rights Month 2021, CE presents our top staff picks for Top Commercial DJs, Top Underground DJs, and Top Female Vocalists in EDM next week. This week, CE is proud to present our Top Ten Female Industry Power Players. Without further ado, these are the women changing the game, creating their own spaces, and changing the face of dance music on step at a time.
Table of Contents
Shailee Ben-David is a true “jill of all trades.” Known to close friends and industry folks through her shortened name, Shai, this female industry power player has her hands in many projects at once. Whether it’s running artist relations at Audius, managing her artist Player Dave, or leading the merchandise team for Ivy Lab, it’s a wonder how she musters the time and energy to stack her plate so full. Not to mention, she owns and operates her own clothing brand called Archangel.
Those who work in the music industry know one must be able to wear many hats at once. You must be a self-starter with an entrepreneurial spirit, and when you can’t find your own niche, you carve out your own path. Shai is the living embodiment of all of this. Shai told Electric Hawk in a recent Women’s Month exclusive interview. “The best thing about music is that none of us know what we’re doing! We’re all learning along the way. You have to remind yourself that we’re doing this because we’re so passionate about it, and that is so important.”
She’s also a huge supporter of other females in the industry, just in the way she talks about support and mentorship: “Even if they are working the door at a show or writing for a blog, I want to celebrate that. It was so hard for me to start in music, but I think that now, we’re in a time where it’s different.”
Shai, like many of the females on our Top Ten, wants aspiring females who are looking for an “in” into the industry to know about her own struggles and offer help. She further elaborates on the tough shift from music fan to music professional.
With Audius, Ben-David runs artist relations, artist onboarding, creative strategy for anything artist-related on the platform, and also helps run the platform’s social media. Her career at the new streaming platform began when the pandemic shut down the live music industry. Along with so many other industry professionals like her, Ben-David was laid off from her job at Insomniac/Bassrush Records. Audius began as a contractual gig that she gained through an industry friend and former colleague at OWSLA, who now serves as Head of Partnerships at Audius. She ended up being so passionate about the company’s mission that it turned into full-time work.
The pandemic also saw Shai’s clothing company, which she began in 2019, soar to new heights. She named the company after her favorite Burial song, “Archangel,” which she got tattooed on her body as an ode to her best friend, who passed away in a car accident, from hometown of Miami. So the meaning behind Shai’s Archangel brand is multi-layered. “It all ties into this weird meaning of me coping with death through clothes,” she continued to Electric Hawk. “I want all of my friends to look good and feel comfortable.”
Using her experience and merchandising connections gained through running Ivy Lab’s official merch line, Shai plans to continue growing Archangel as a sustainable brand with a portion of sales going to 1% For the Planet.
When she’s not busy with all this, she manages Player Dave, who she met through Charles around a year and a half ago. A few months ago, when he was looking for new management, Shai says it all came together organically: “I was like, ‘I’ll help you, I don’t really do management stuff, but I love your project,’ and it ended up naturally flowing into us really working well together. His new album coming out is the first project we’ve done together!”
Still, Shai operates in her professional career knowing full well that the industry “boys club” still persists. “I think that the girls in my generation who have been working in music have experienced [how hard is to make the leap] so we are going to do everything we can to make sure that that doesn’t happen to the girls starting out in the industry.”
Source: Electric Hawk.
Freelance Event Photographer
Has worked with: MIZE, Dorfex Bos, Festival Squad
In an industry saturated with men both behind-the-scenes and behind-the-booth, Ginger Wesson shines in a league of her own. This multi-talented queen uses her expert eye behind-the-lens and technical expertise in the editing room to capture shots and memories that most would only dream of catching.
With an impressive amount of high-powered events and festivals under her belt, Ginger Wesson has solidified herself as a photography mainstay in the live music industry. She has shot for some of electronic music’s most beloved names, from Mize to Mersiv and Charlesthefirst, INZO, and Dorfex Bos. Her masterful, vibrant body of work speaks for itself and has landed her multiple opportunities working at some of today’s most popular festivals. One of her favorite festivals to shoot is Suwannee Hulaween, in which Wesson created a beautiful recap video from her 2018 experience. The Mississippi native describes Okeechobee as her “home” and one that is entranced by the magic of Electric Forest.
Not one to be boxed in, Ginger’s creativity spills out into endless forms from painting to immaculately set photoshoots and short films. Taking fluid art and turning it into fine art, she creates one-of-a-kind masterpieces filled with emotion. Deep and vibrant colors engulf the canvas in other-worldly patterns that mimic the deepest oceans and the furthest expanses of space.
Ginger’s genuine and honest approach to everything she does has created a space for women in this industry to be unapologetically themselves. From painting and modeling to capturing and translating the emotions of a single moment onto film, she has carved herself a permanent spot both in the larger electronic festival landscape and into each of our hearts. A true creative force-to-be-reckoned, the entire CE staff would like to thank you, Ginger, for sharing your vision of the world, in the world, and with the world!
Marketing Manager & Asst. Label Manager
Wakaan, SSKWAN, Wakaan Fest
Sometimes, being able to express a passion comes in the form of sacrifice for that passion. Such is the case for OKC-based female player Chloe Suit, who serves as the Director of Marketing and Assistant Label Manager for Liquid Stranger‘s triple-threat business: An esteemed left-field imprint WAKAAN, a downtempo label offshoot SSKWAN, and his coveted WAKAAN Music Festival.
Before helping to create this new wave movement in bass, Chloe gained experience through a promotional company on the East Coast in a multiple market area where the festival experience was a focus. Two-and-a-half-years-ago, she began looking for new ways to expand her experiences in the music industry and found a label home with the WAKAAN family where she handles all things marketing and music.
When reached out to for comment on being a top industry power player, Chloe told CE how honored she was, and how important this year had been, despite the circumstances: “With events coming to a halt, artists started producing more and more music, which led me to step into a bigger role at the labels and assisting with Label Management along with being the Marketing Director!”
Suit also pointed out how being underrepresented in the industry can amount to being under appreciated, but how that, in turn, can lead to working harder to assert oneself positively, finding both role and voice. “When I first started, I was young and green. I wasn’t taken seriously and people would ignore my ideas and go to my boss for the final ‘approval,'” Chloe tells CE. “It was incredibly frustrating and discouraging, but the harder I worked, so did my confidence.”
“I started becoming more active in my role and speaking up, fighting for my ideas and that ‘extra' from my work ethic changed everything.”
To fight this ongoing social disparity is to remember that it is an issue that exists in many industries far beyond music. “Unfortunately, I think it is the world we live in,” believes Chloe.
She says her childhood dream was becoming an elementary school teacher. So Suit feels that educating young females to pursue music careers early on in life, along with empowering when it’s time to “make the leap,” may just be the most vital step established professionals can take: “I’m excited to see more women taking an active role in all musical careers and using their voices!
“I think we should start educating and empowering women at an earlier age. I have seen a considerable amount of change in the past two years, but I hope it will continue for the next generation. I’m excited to see more women taking an active role in all musical careers and using their voices!”
Chloe Suit encourages other females like her to break the norms, ignore the trends, and take on new roles in management across the industry. In other words, carve out your own space! For Chloe, this means branching out, learning new things, and taking on new challenges in order to grow. Thank you for your dedication to the nurturing of left-field bass music culture, Chloe! The post-COVID EDM world cannot wait to see what amazing things you pull out your hat over at Wakaan.
Credit: Haley Busch Photo.
Colorful, vivid, and emotional.
These are three descriptors that perfectly capture the essence of photographer-extraordinaire Jess Bernstein, who is living the dream of traveling the world to shoot some of the biggest artists and festivals on the map.
With a passion for landscape and portrait photography instilled in her at the age of five, Bernstein has secured arguably one of the most coveted professions in the music industry. She credits this lifelong career passion to her mother, who pursued photography as a hobby. Bernstein says she traded barbie dolls for cameras and was encouraged to use as much film as she wanted. Thinking back to the pre-digital era, she reminisced to CE: “I vividly remember the excitement I felt picking up the photos when they were developed and reviewing them with my mom.”
Equipped with an undeniable eye for photography and a knack for capturing beautiful moments, Bernstein’s talent has gained considerable notoriety in the electronic music scene and festival circuit. By leveraging her distinctive style and tapping into her creative and visionary nature, Bernstein continues to impress with her stunning shots and ability to encapsulate a feeling in her art.
So much so that she was recently able to trade-in her corporate 9-to-5 for making her “own schedule” and making money doing what truly makes her happy. “From [shooting] festivals to going on tour with artists, to shooting major productions, I can finally see all my hard work paying off,” she elaborates.
CE reached out to Bernstein for comment on her inclusion in our Top Industry Power Players list, to which she responded with gratitude and intelligence: “It is an absolute honor to be recognized for doing something that I love. I’m a firm believer that it isn’t just what you do, it’s how you do it. So, my mindset from the beginning has always been to be as inclusive, helpful, contributive, and motivating to those alongside me as possible.”
Still, she recognizes the gender gap that exists in the music industry and actually uses it to her advantage. “I lean into my differences amongst the male shooters,” Bernstein told us. “I identify my strengths and show how my creative eye sets me apart from everyone else. Because there are fewer of us badass ladies in the mix compared to the men, it’s been incredibly motivating to showcase my work, and set the standards for what we can accomplish.”
Among many other reasons, Bernstein feels that being a female working in the music industry has actually given her the advantage. “It’s all about how you choose to see things… Being intentional with your actions and words, though, can be a catalyst for positive change.”
"This can be done very simply, by acting as a mentor for a female wanting to get their feet wet in the EDM world, or by hiring a fellow female into a role they are filling."
Bernstein’s professional journey began when she graduated college and rewarded herself with her first DSLR camera. “I took it with me to Lightning in a Bottle as an attendee,” she says, “just to take pictures of my friends.” She enjoyed capturing those blissful moments so much that she decided to try her hand at it at Envision Festival. “Those two festivals that I captured for the sake of shooting, showed me that maybe this was something more than a hobby.”
That journey has brought Jess Bernstein to globally renowned festivals and venues including Burning Man, Bonnaroo, Bass Canyon, Lost Lands, Lightning in a Bottle, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and more. From artists performing on stage to wandering buskers, raging rail-riders to tranquil yoga classes, her affinity for capturing the essence of the festival in all of its forms is unparalleled.
As the media manager for Desert Hearts Festival in California and lead photographer for Envision Costa Rica, Berstein says her goal each year is to have 50 percent of the photo team be female. “Those are the types of strides I KNOW this industry desperately needs,” she elaborates, “and will benefit from greatly.”
This is how Berstein’s preferred method of practicing female empowerment— through action— rather than falling too deep into the gender politics of it all and talking in circles.
"Politics can be a very dark and draining portal, and speaking up against gender politics can certainly be time consuming."
Bernstein continues to make strides and lead in an industry that traditionally lacks female representation.
“I want the world to see more women in the pit, interacting with the crowds, up on stage shooting the headliners, and to show that we will no longer let this be a boys club.”
Citing festival culture as her “happy place,” her mother as influence, and her love of music as inspiration, Bernstein “took the leap” from photography as a hobby to her full-time career and hasn’t looked back since and wants everyone who may be second guessing themselves that they can too! Her advice to aspiring photographers, or anyone looking to dive into the business side of music?
“Take chances. Be vulnerable. Make people remember your name, by being authentically yourself, and a positive person to work with.”
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Owner, Biz3 Publicity; OWSLA co-owner
There are few scenarios where individuals will subject themselves to working in tight and cramped confines of closet-sized offices. But if a dream is strong enough, then anything will do to reach the end goal.
This mentality is something one might consider someone like Kathryn Frazier possessed. As someone who is regarded by many to be an “industry titan” in the world of public relations and artist management, Frazier founded one of the most-successful PR firms in the music industry, Biz3 Publicity. She also co-owns the globally popular music label, OWSLA, with world-renowned DJ and producer Skrillex. Frazier’s is a journey that all started in a small closet-sized office in Chicago, Illinois.
Although fans may not directly see or hear Frazier in the many mediums they consume electronic music on—whether it’s by listening to it, reading about it, or watching it being performed—she is responsible for making sure the frequencies get delivered and the music gets heard through her many roles. But the legacy she built for herself, and the countless successful careers she created for many artists, was no easy task. She spoke with Fast Company about her early years and what some of the growing pains were that came with creating a public relations and management empire.
Despite having to sustain the turbulence of a teetering music industry, Frazier proved that she and her team could weather the storm and bring her ship (full of all-star names like The Weeknd and Run the Jewels) to the safe shores of music prosperity. Now boasting a wealthy roster of artists across several genres and providing full-service offerings, Biz3 Publicity is just the cherry on top of Kathryn Frazier’s entertainment industry dominance.
When one thinks of powerful women in the music industry, Mary Agan is easily one of the first to come to mind. This female “jack of all trades” dominates every project she touches and has us wondering, what can’t this EDM game-changer do?
A true champion of the underground, Mary has spent her last few years putting artists first and creating one of a kind experience for listeners across the country. Serving as Electric Hawk‘s Director of Operations for over a year, she is one of the powerful brains that gave audiences and artists alike hope throughout the pandemic via beloved streams and an unforgettable social media presence. Lending her expert ear to the team at UKF, she cranks out beautifully written articles and insightful interviews for one of the bass scene’s biggest power players. As if all of that wasn’t enough, Mary is also part of a dynamic marketing team in one of the industries most promising up-and-coming labels, Thrive Records.
Putting a spotlight on her personal talent for performance is her techno alias, Hollow Moon. She has been featured on multiple in person and stream lineups, hypnotizing audiences with her expert track selection and butter smooth transitions.
Mary and her business partner Nor McCormack recently embarked upon their own joint venture, Arcana Management. Gaining its namesake from the Renaissance era term meaning “secret” or “mystery,” this high-powered female duo seeks to bring music management “out of the dark ages” and into a new era of light. With a stacked roster consisting of Brunchbeatz, Acrillics, and Slang Dogs, there is no question that Agan and McCormack’s newly-launched, woman-powered agency is destined for greatness.
Mary is a bright and beautiful source of inspiration for all women, music industry or not. Her hard work and natural passion for what she does shines in all that she does, and we are confident that the future only holds the very best for her. Thank you for your passion and hard-work and for inspiring countless women to follow in your footsteps.
Owner, Sub.mission & The Black Box
For those living and working in the Denver metro area, Nicole Cacciavillano is a name that gets tossed around quite often in the local scene. Originally a teacher, she’s now the force behind her independent label and booking agency, Sub.mission, which fuels her underground venue, The Black Box. From Ultra to the UK, Cacciavillano is renowned across the global dance music industry for giving the dubstep genre its cultural push into the forefront of US electronic music.
When Sub.mission was founded, dubstep was a tiny blip on the ever-expansive EDM map. Keep in mind, this was pre-2012 before the cultural/economic explosion of “EDM” across the globe. Locally, the roots of the burgeoning dubstep phenomenon in Denver can even be traced back to Sub.mission’s very first show back in 2007… and the rest, as they say, is history.
“When we were getting started,” Cacciavillano told Westword back in 2012, “there were only four of us around the country throwing these kinds of shows. There was DubWar in New York, SMOG in Los Angeles, Gritsy down in Houston, and us.”
“People say America ruined dubstep,” she said with a hint of disdain, but Nicole was one of four small promoters who were bringing acts to the States before anyone even knew what “dubstep” was.
Sub.mission quickly became the authority on dubstep and forced Cacciavillano drop her teaching gig to pursue music promotion as a career. Sub.mission truly ascribed to the values of sound system culture, and its lived everyday, especially in its company mission: “moving people through sound, not hype.”
Fast forward to November 2016 when she opened the doors at her very own independently-run live venue space, The Black Box, which Cacciavillano described to 303 Magazine as “really just a place for like-minded people.” She continues, “We’re very friendly and very open, there’s no judgment here. We’re open to all sorts of people. It’s a community vibe.”
Cacciavillano had already claimed weekly club nights at Denver’s top music venues for years— from Cervantes to the once-infamous Beta Nightclub. So opening her own space was the natural next step. Boasting the best sound system in the state with FunktionOnes, Nicole describes the music one hears at Black Box as the music that’ll be “playing at Red Rocks in however many years. We’re ahead of the game.”
“The biggest piece of advice I could give them [women] is to establish their fucking boundaries, and to make sure that they are very clear with that and let people know you’re not here to take their shit, You’re here to do a job. As long as that’s the focus, then I hope that men, or whoever, women, other people in the industry, will respect that and see them for their hustle, not whatever their sex is.”
“I don’t think it’s any secret that electronic music is a male-dominated genre, and I do think over the years that’s kind of changing. Now as an agent, I am working with more female promoters and producers and that’s been really cool to see. There are more females that I don’t think are intimidated anymore to get behind the deck and try to learn how to DJ, which is always great and there are even some females that are killing it with production. I’m not going to lie and say that I think that the amount of females is astounding, because it’s not. I do think that there’s so much more room for females to grow in this industry.”
Now known as the longest running dubstep company in the United States, Sub.mission has recently expanded to Europe, both in shows and artist representation.
Works with: Liquid Stranger, REZZ, Zeds Dead
Tessa Paisan is an incredibly talented freelance photographer whose work has been featured on DJ Mag and countless other EDM blogs. Graduating with a Bachelor of Art in 2018, Paisan combined her love for photography and music, and, upon seeing the intersect for herself, turning it into a full-time career. When first starting, Paisan probably never could’ve imagined that she would be working with artists like Zeds Dead, Blunts & Blondes, Sullivan King, Peekaboo, and countless others.
Paisan was selected for the Lost Lands Media team and has had the opportunity of touring with multiple of her favorite artists, including Liquid Stranger and REZZ. As REZZ’s official photographer, she has actually become the best of friends with the midtempo maven after following Rezazadeh around on tour with her Nikon D850.
The Naples, Florida native has gained quite a lot of attention over the last few years between her photography skills and spunky personality. Her main goal was to have people look at her work and easily identify it. Despite live events being on the tail-end of their hiatus, it seems that Paisan’s goal has been paying off. When looking at any of her photos, Paisan’s signature shot sequences and distinct color schemes make it quite obvious who’s lense the viewer is looking through.
There are many ways to support Paisan. Give her a quick follow on social media. Check out some of the prints of her photographs as well as presets for other aspiring photographers, both of which are for sale.
Mary Lou Allen
CloZee's Booking Manager; Agent at Mint Talent
Formerly: Agent, Madison House
Often, a career path is a trail of discovery where the traveler learns to nurture the mistakes they’ve made. Talent agent Mary Allen, who cites her client’s Sahara Stage performance at Coachella as the highlight of her career, has reflected similar ideas:
Mary Lou Allen
Allen is part of a new vision in the representation of musicians that focuses both on being artist-centric and advocating for career longevity at the company Mint Talent Group. The venture is a joint one and follows Allen’s long stint at a major East Coast agency. When asked about advice she’s received for how to approach one of the more vital parts of her job, especially as a female, she cites assertiveness as being key: “When going into a challenging meeting or phone call: state your intention early, be direct and clear, explain why, and don’t deviate from your goal.”
Much can be done across the industry to shape a more gender-equal environment, including examining hiring pools and fostering encouragement in following dreams in a career in the business side of music, writes Mary Allen. “What does your hiring pool look like? Are you interviewing more men than women? If so, fix it!”
Management for G JONES, EPROM, CharlestheFirst
There are thousands of ways to describe what an artist “manager” does on a day-to-day basis. They’ll tackle day-to-day tasks like artist bookings, plan music release schedules and coordinate press, organize merchandise, give industry advice, and act as liaison-in-chief. However, the role of artist management often goes way beyond these base-level provisions.
In more cases than not, a manager is obliged to take on the deeper responsibilities like being a life coach, becoming a close friend and confidant, or even acting as a therapist for the sake of their artists’ mental health and stability. It is a daunting position that requires one to wear many hats—sometimes all at once, too—and it’s a vital role that fans often overlook.
Behind every talented artist is a great manager. They give themselves so freely over to their artists to allow for them to do what they do best: create. While artist managers have been predominantly occupied by men, more and more women are rising into these roles than ever before. These females are not just taking their artists straight to the top, but they are becoming industry power players themselves.
Originally from Colorado, Gaines came up through a vibrant music scene in both Denver and Los Angeles, getting her start through interning at notable clubs like the late Beta Nightclub in Denver and Q Nightclub in Seattle. Though her work revolves around handling marketing and artist relations for venues, Jade developed a skill set that is highly sought-after in a manager. As she grew her network and artist base, Jade eventually took her industry skills and experiences over to one of the most noteworthy management firms in the world, C3 Management.
As the person responsible for making things go right, and being the “fall girl” when they don’t, we cannot even imagine how Gaines manages to juggle it all for so many amazing bass artists. That’s why the Conscious Electronic staff voted her unanimously to the top of the list for female industry professionals in dance music. Jade is one female power player that should be on everyone’s radar because without her skill, savvy, and selflessness, the show simply would not go on.
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