Written by: Sam Postlethwaite, Alex Brian, Ross Mondon and Camilla Whitfield
Featured Image: R.A.E by Ollie Adegboye
Due to the popularity of our last article on Women Who Run the Music World, we decided that it was only right to make it into a series. This week, we have a new range of women intent on making a difference in the industry- from the limitless Venezuelan artist and record producer, Arca, to the New-York based founder of Keychange, Vanessa Reed. They may work in a different area of both the world and music industry, however, they are leading the way for the future of music. We’re sure you’ll find them as inspiring as us.
By Sam Postlethwaite
When it comes to experimentalism, it seems as though no one is as limitless as Arca. The Venezuelan artist and record producer has four studio albums under her belt, with her most recent being ‘KiCk i’. It was released earlier this year and marked the first of a four-part series. One of Arca’s earliest achievements in her career was producing, programming and writing 5 songs on Kanye West’s album, Yeezus (2013).
Arca has since gone on to contribute and collaborate with other exploratory artists, such as FKA Twigs, Björk and Kelela. Arca’s content is always unique and innovative. She released a 62-minute single in February of this year, titled ‘@@@@@’. Furthermore, ‘KiCk i’ was released after Arca came out as a transgender woman, with her latest music videos from the album particularly exploring one’s relationship with gender and society.
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WondaGurl (Ebony Oshunrinde)
By Alex Brian
It seems impossible that Canadian producer, WondaGurl could have been creating beats for Jay Z at the age of 16. However, her musical journey actually begun a lot earlier. Ever since her grandmother gifted her a Casio keyboard on her 9th birthday, she has been experimenting with different sounds and ideas. She chose to hone her craft through YouTube tutorials rather than formal training – a decision that has not hindered her in any way. Instead, it has allowed her to develop her all-encompassing style, ranging from slow and psychedelic to harsh and industrial. WondaGurl, or rather Ebony Oshunrinde, did not let an age limit stop her from entering Toronto’s Battle of the Beatmakers. In fact, she successfully persuaded the manager to change the rules and won on her second attempt.
Since then, she has produced for Rhianna, Travis Scott, Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert, to name a few. She’s even created her own record label. As a result of her hard work, she has become one of the youngest black women to add production to a platinum hip-hop record, for which, she has been chosen for the Forbes 30 under 30, music category. She is the prime example of how perseverance can get you anywhere and one of the very few role-models for aspiring female producers.
Find all the songs she has produced here.
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By Ross Mondon
British singer, rapper and songwriter R.A.E, burst onto the music scene with her unique blend of Hip-Hop with R&B and sound of 90s nostalgia. The South-East Londoner came out on top of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition, beating thousands of other entries to the crown. The 25-year-old artist will be rewarded with a set at next year’s festival, plus a £5,000 PRS talent development prize.
Whilst growing up, her influences were the likes of Mc Lyte and TLC. These quickly became apparent within her music, leading her to write her first rap song at the age of 10. However, she only decided to pursue a serious music career last year. In the space of a year, she has released a range of singles and an EP; with her latest single, ‘Pretty Bop’ jam-packed with attitude and flavour. Despite only having one EP and a few singles out, R.A.E excellently uses her music to illustrate personal experiences, teach young people and share her talent. As the pandemic carries on, this artist hasn’t stopped her grind, continuing to produce and write new music. Also, she has become an advocate speaker for the Black Lives Matter Movement, commenting in an interview: “The only way it can get better is by putting people in the room. Put them in the spaces where they can give opportunities to people of colour.”
Although R.A.E has only just broken into the music industry, her spin on 90s hip-hop with her vibrant tunes are breaking down the scene. Glastonbury may be a year or so from now, and the uncertainty is still looming over us, however, R.A.E is already planning gigs and hitting the road to Barcelona’s ‘Say it Loud’ Festival.
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By Camilla Whitfield
Vanessa Reed is a trailblazer for the creative industries, repeatedly taking everything in her stride on both a national and international level. She began her career in the 1990s, working for the British Music Information Centre. Since then, she has spent a decade working for the PRS Foundation, where she has contributed to the Momentum Music Fund, Women Make Music, Musicians in Residence China and the New Music Biennial. Each aims to encourage music creators to discover their potential, no matter their background. Currently based in New York, she is the President and CEO of New Music USA, founder and Honorary Chair of Keychange, and the Chair of Sound UK Arts.
Keychange was founded by Reed, alongside its European and Canadian partners. It is led by the PRS Foundation and the Creative Europe program of the European Union. It has since blossomed into an award-winning global movement, focusing on promoting female talent and ending the gender gap in the industry. Its creation was prompted by Reed, after discovering that only 20% or less of registered composers and songwriters within the participating countries’ collecting societies, were women. Furthermore, they saw the stark inequality present in leadership roles, festival line ups and wages.
Currently, the ‘Keychange 50/50’ festival pledge initiative aims to work towards a gender balance in the industry by 2022. The current pledge count for festivals is 300, and it is only increasing. Also, their current roster features 132 artists and professionals from 12 countries. Furthermore, Keychange’s social media is definitely worth following, especially for their ‘Tuesday Tips’, where they share important advice for others in the industry.
Reed has rightfully gained an accolade of awards for her efforts. From being awarded Music Week’s Outstanding Contribution to Charity Award on behalf of PRS Foundation in 2018, to being named as BBC Woman’s Hour ‘s third most powerful woman in music- just behind Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. Ultimately, Vanessa Reed loves art, as well as connecting people and ideas. Her focus on promoting diverse artists and organisations, particularly in regards to women, has been invaluable for sparking change in the music industry. Long may it continue.
Make sure to follow and support Keychange’s invaluable work here.
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