Photo Credit: Gustavo Calvo Almost one year ago, progressive stalwart Nick Warren had to leave…
The Portimão beaches have been ripe with musical activity lately. After housing BPM in September, the Portuguese coastline greeted the MEETSSS conference, a multifaceted weekend honoring women in music. MEETSSS marked the 5th anniversary of Shesaid.so waking and shaking the industry through mentorship programs, events, talks and content focusing on female perspectives and inviting all genders to the table or dance-floor.
Present across four continents, from Amsterdam to South Africa, LA to Mumbai, Shesaid.so’s network of mentors and mentees has embraced over 100 women. These ladies have gradually positioned themselves as an essential and relevant voice in the scene, developing a well-rounded programming in collaboration with groups like Pioneer DJ, RA, Village Underground Lisboa, Kickstarter, Youtube Music and more. They have marked their support for gender equality, underrepresented talent, togetherness, professional empowerment, and of course, the making, promoting and distributing of good music.
5 Years of Shesaid.so
Attendees flowed from showcases in the harbor to morning yoga overlooking the shimmering Atlantic Ocean, from a stacked conference program to tea ceremonies, wine tasting and more shows – all profiting from an abundance of good conversation. Open-minded exchanges discussed mental health, sustainability, music promotion, wage gaps, the exploration of gender identities, and digital marketing strategies among others.
Whether they were dedicated musicians, event producers, entrepreneurs, distributors or media, the delegates shared an immense appreciation for Shesaid.so’s project of giving women in music a platform to connect, in an event where speakers and programming reflected female viewpoints. The energy was positive, enthusiastic and genuine.
MEETSSS in Music
The music programming was vibrant and diverse, interweaving electronic sounds, hiphop, acoustic sessions, afrobeat… Highlights included a pulsing poolside live set by Calling Marian following the groovy Mica Coca, Delhia de France’s experimental electronica sprinkled with sultry vocals – which you might have heard on ‘Tachykardia’, Adriatique’s Afterlife release – sharp and sweet sass from Da Chick, and a harder acid-techno finish by local scenesters Roundhouse Kick. At no point was our location ignored; the curation included locals at every step, and the opening night’s panel shed some light on the richness and trajectory of the Portuguese music scene.
In terms of talk, we loved Ben Turner (International Music Summit)’s frankness about the state of electronic music, surveying the changes to come for healthier equality. He spoke of dance music as an ideal space for gender inclusion due to its progressive roots, community identity and values embracing change. He examined out loud the challenges ahead and his own role to play in overcoming them: making space for the next generation, diversity in bookings, and co-managing female artists like Sama, Anna and Nastia. The next IMS’s curation will be developed through a 50/50 collaboration with Shesaid.so
Conversations about gender wage gaps praised the value that female executive presence brought to companies, notably through emotional intelligence, tempered decision making, lateral thinking and pragmatism. Nordic models were brought up as an example, as companies with gender-balanced boards of directors consistently report higher profits than those with non-balanced boards.
Global music promotion talks addressed the need for human connection with local audiences before drafting any marketing strategies, marking down authenticity in communications as the most valuable way to connect. Chisarem Nkemere (Concord Records) reiterated the importance of timing in goal-setting, while all the panelists highlighted proper integration of data into strategies.
Chidera Eggerue, aka The Slumflower, was an eloquent and clear-cut speaker who shared her wisdom regarding identity in the digital age. She urged attendees to “operate from a place of abundance” and not desperation in their communications, to be conscious about the extent of the information they were willing to share, and to understand that as public figures, followers will generally project their own standards and values onto them, expecting these to be upheld.
Words of Urgency
Sustainability and mental health shared the podium in terms of relevance. Each topic had its own panel and were frequently brought up by both attendees and speakers in question periods and casual conversations.
Live Nation hosted the useful session “The Urgent Need for a Sustainable Industry”. Cross-collaboration and resource-sharing have never been as pressing for the industry as it is today. They spark necessary immediate actions that stakeholders from all over the world must take to align their operations with climate-conscious behaviors. The panelists provided a useful spread of tips and tools to champion change, notably for event producers, such as the ‘A Greener Festival’ guide and Festival Vision 2025. Camille Guiteau, business developer for Blond:ish’s Bye Bye Plastic initiative, familiarized the audience with their eco-rider for touring artists and reasserted Bye Bye Plastic’s position in guiding festivals through transitioning out of single-use plastics.
We were able to hear personal perspectives on panelists’ experiences with varying levels of mental health issues, from stress to meltdowns, anxiety to bipolar disorders. This was a refreshing exchange where stigma was challenged through honest conversation, breaking down barriers and normalizing peoples’ experiences. Panelist Claire Scivier (Your Green Room)’s fierce honesty, intelligent aura, and decades of experience, fashioned a level-headed and captivating energy in the room. Speakers mentioned the pressures of a fast-paced industry, the alienation of constant social media presence, and the creeping addiction to validation. To counter these, they advised staying on course with one’s goals and values; engaging with employers who are flexible with the schedule of people working in nightlife – exemplified by Amy Van Baaren’s experience at Resident Advisor -; and respecting one’s own practices of mindfulness.
From All Perspectives Welcome to All Perspectives Present
Chisarem Nkemere’s statement that “music is not only global in front of the camera but also behind it” was an important call to awareness and reminder to include diverse and multicultural identities not just in the art we consume, but in the planning and organizing process. To be aware of diversity levels around us and whose perspectives are shaping decisions and content. To be aware of biases we operate with, and hold each other accountable without needing to shame. Both audience members and organizers acknowledged the goal for next MEETSSS to include more persons of color in the panelists, discussed in a constructive manner and adding to the anticipation for next year.
For a first event, MEETSSS exceeded expectations. We already look forward to our next reunion powered by women, for all.