IMRO Spotlight – Emily Shaw
Emily Shaw is a promoter and music/licensing consultant based in Dublin. She began her career in festival promotion and marketing, interning and working for companies such as Improvised Music Company, Diatribe Records, youbloom and Mediacon Summit, until she went on to do a Masters in Business and Cultural Event Management in IADT. In 2017, she started an events business called Oíche Events, focussing on the promotion of artists creating Soul, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Reggae, Funk and World Music in Ireland as well as bringing artists from abroad. Overtime, the business expanded to areas such as artist development and management, video production as well as a sister company, The Soul Tree Festival.
In 2020, herself and artist, Zapho (Ele Breslin) launched The X Collective under Oíche Events which they co-run together. It is home to over 70 creatives and counting, covering all disciplines in the arts and music industry. Emily also works in the Irish office of West One Music Group, a global production company that works with content producers (advertising, television, film, radio, gaming, animation, podcasts etc.) to source music for their productions.
How would you describe what Oíche Events (OE) and The X Collective (TXC) represent and what are your objectives?
The X Collective is a community of creatives including artists, singers, rappers, songwriters, producers, photographers, videographers, directors, and event coordinators. It is a platform for the production and promotion of artistic expression, with music at its core and collaboration at its forefront. Our community revolves around people and is driven by an effort that is always combined, always shared. Our team of artists and industry professionals are scattered throughout Dublin, Cork, Belfast, London, Paris, Germany, New York & Vancouver. Collaboration between members of The X Collective community can cross musical styles and art forms, as well as international borders.
Oíche Events and TXC represent a new wave of collaborating Soul, R&B, Hip-Hop and Jazz artists in Ireland. Our objective for the business grows year-to-year. When launching solely as Oíche back in 2017, the aim was to grow the types of genres on the live Irish music scene. Pop, rock, folk and singer-songwriter music dominated live music venues and Irish radio at the time, and my dream was to be able to curate and attend events that promoted those more niche genres. A goal would be for these genres to thrive here in the same way they do in other cities like London, Berlin, New York and other parts of the US, etc.
How did you come about founding Oíche Events and starting-up The X Collective?
Prior to Oíche, I had experience in event and festival promotion as well as music marketing. Oíche was actually a prototype gig in the Bello Bar for another company I was working with at the time, and was meant to be a one-night-only event. I alone had one week to come up with the name, design the brand, book the artists and sell the tickets. The line-up included Chris Kabs & JyellowL, Dreaming of Jupiter, Mutant Vinyl (TXC) and Emma Lou & The Agenda. The event was so much fun and the feedback was exhilarating, that it made me realise it was what I wanted to do!
Two years later, on one of my event line-ups, I met Ele Breslin aka Zapho. We hit it off and as we got to know each other, discovered a very similar love in all things the music industry. Over the next year we pooled our resources, contacts and knowledge together to create a dream team, for what is now called The X Collective with over 70 members.
Fun fact: The ‘X’ in TXC was a placeholder letter until we came up with the right name. We were so used to calling it The X Collective that we just went with that name in the end.
Why do you think organisations like these are so important?
Organisations like our collective are so important in today’s industry for the following reasons:
- The music industry can be quite a daunting place when starting out and if you’re building yourself from the ground-up, having resources, contacts and friends in the industry can make you feel like you have a community. It’s somewhere to go for support from people who understand your journey.
- The music industry is also notoriously competitive. By creating a mass collaborative network, we want to promote an atmosphere where we champion one another’s work and help promote each other to showcase combined success rather than individualistic thinking, while in turn benefitting artist’s own careers.
- Human connection through music and art is at the core of the collective’s values. We have built cross-border alliances through virtual collaboration. In a time of lost connection, our artists have continued to connect, create, and collaborate. It is also a safe place where artists, most of whom have been negatively impacted by the crisis through loss of paid work, can reconnect and therefore find comfort despite the pandemics aftershocks.
What’s been the reaction to your work so far?
The reaction to the events and launch of the collective has felt really rewarding. There’s honestly no better feeling in my mind than after an event when people are beaming and in awe of the curation of talent, while being introduced to new artists they may never have heard of before. Having people travel from LA and different parts of Europe to attend shows has been up there in special moments for me. As for the collective, we are still in early days and though some of our output has been halted due to lockdown, we’ve found ways to create, perform and release music despite the challenges faced. The response to our showcase was heart-warming when we had over 6k people tune in to the livestream, as well as other projects like releases have gained growing momentum and overall press. In the next two months we will be expanding the roster of artists by double and over the next year we are set to release 14 tracks off our upcoming album. Receiving the FMC songwriting grant afforded us the opportunity to be able to create a body of work over 18 Irish artists and 50+ collaborators for which we are so grateful.
Oíche Events provides services in music promotion and artist development. What do you think is the most pressing issue women and gender minorities face in this side of the industry?
A big issue facing women and gender minorities is not being seen for the work you do. Women have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts, sometimes for doing the same job. This is not to take away from the work men do, but it’s the way the system works. The initial response to the Gender Disparity Report in 2020 was that ‘there simply aren’t as many women creating chart-worthy tracks, or that women aren’t as talented – so why put them on the radio just to fill a quota’. The fact is that people are unconsciously (and consciously) biased toward women. To be honest, when curating my own events, they organically always end up being mostly female heavy. This is not intentional but it proves that there is a wide pool of talented women out there and it won’t take you long to find them if you just take the time to look. The same applies to the live music sector and male dominated festival line-ups (visit @bookmorewomen). Talented women are out there, they exist, and if it’s said that they are working twice as hard then why are they still not seen?
The gender imbalance in management and promotion reflects a wider issue that runs across the whole music industry. How do you hope things change for the better?
In order for there to be change at ground level, representation in higher decision-making positions need to take place. There needs to be more women and gender minorities in higher-level positions and I would also love to see more up and coming industry creatives being mentored by women AND men.
What advice would you give women and gender minorities who want to start out in your side of the music industry?
- Do your research. Consume everything there is to know about the sector you want to get into and immerse yourself in it.
- Do work that fulfils you and makes you feel valued.
- Network. Reach out and talk to as many new people as you possibly can. Everyone you meet has something of value to offer.
Which organisations and supports do you lean on for advice and inspiration?
- The X Collective and our wonderful team are high on our support list.
- West One Music Group – As for company culture, WOMG offers an incredibly supportive team and are by far in my experience so far, one of the best music companies out there to work for.
- School of Music Business – An amazing resource for anyone looking to upskill or get into/learn about music business.
- Output Belfast Conference and Festival – Another great resource for industry professionals and musicians – discussing all areas of the industry.
- Somewhere Soul – An online blog and Instagram page with useful hacks and infographics to help musicians navigate anything from releasing music, performance to social media.
- Help Musicians are also a helpful support for musicians out there.
- Improvised Music Company – who put on insightful talks (virtually during the pandemic) for those in the music industry looking to upskill.
Explain a little bit about what West One Music Group does, your role as a Music Consultant and what day-to-day jobs you might have?
Aside from events and the collective, I work for West One Music Group which is a full service music agency that provides music for media i.e. television, advertising, film, etc. We help clients to find the right tracks for their productions via our online catalogue of thousands of pieces, creating commissioned works and scores, and clearing commercial tracks.
Our day-to-day tasks include getting music briefs from clients and sending back tailored playlists, building relationships via daily phone calls and meeting with new and existing clients. In regular times we frequently get to attend industry events which are mostly online for now and also love getting to discuss library/production music at talks and on panels at events.
Aside from the social side of the job, there is a good bit of research required, followed by proactively selecting music to suit the projects we’re pitching to. Staying on top of what productions are being made in Ireland across the media sectors is an important part of our job.
As music consultants representing the WOMG catalogue, we are dedicated to the talent on our roster, and as the Irish team we love seeing local talent come on board. The WOMG Ireland team feels it’s important to add to the thriving music scene on the ground here, and create opportunities for Irish composers and artists who want to work with us and get their music placed in visual media.
Who inspires you, and why?
I’m honestly inspired by so many people in my life. Everything I know today is an accumulation of knowledge from all the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. The foundations of all of this for me, is with thanks to Kenneth Killeen from Improvised Music Company who taught me work ethic and organisation in events (arguably the most important skill in the sector). I aspire to be able to manage people in the same kind, straight-up and respectful way he managed me – whether you have a lifetime in the industry or a fresh-out-of-college intern (like me at the time), I always felt he made the same time for everyone he worked with which I admire so much.
I am also greatly inspired by Sally O’Connor at West One Music Group who is another dream to work with and be managed by. She has passed on so much of her experience in the world of sync and production music which has been invaluable to my career. Sally is articulate, patient, meticulous and hardworking, all inspiring traits that have taught me a lot by watching the way she works with colleagues and clients.
What do you look forward to accomplishing this year?
The X Collective are currently in the midst of writing and recording a 14-track album with 18 local artists and over 50 creatives/collaborators in total. In my biased opinion – every track is a hit in it’s own right and I can’t wait until we put out into the world!
I’m also in the middle of partnering on a soul festival in Dublin next year, working with a lot of international artists and a handful of local venues, so I’ll be looking forward to it coming to fruition.
If you could give one message to the industry on how to better support gender balance, what would it be?
It would be: don’t be blind to gender imbalance. Read the Gender Disparity Reports for 2020 and 2021 and if you think that gender imbalance doesn’t exist simply visit @bookmorewomen who are putting imbalance in the festival sector into perspective, by showing us what line-ups look like without men on them. For example in pre-COVID times (2017), only 26% of acts on average playing music festivals featured at least 1 woman or non-binary musician. The figures are similar for online festivals in 2021, head over to their page to check out more.
How to support: Include more women and gender minorities in programming positions so that there is equal representation in decision making processes.
Strive for on average 50% gender parity on line-ups. When the world population is roughly 50/50 men and women, wouldn’t it only make sense to represent your audience on stage in a similar way unless specifically curated otherwise? It is up to those curating and programming these events to have the awareness of this issue’s importance and work to combat this evidently wider issue.
Where can people find out more about how to follow what you’re doing and get involved?
The best place to find out more about us is to follow our Instagram at @oicheevents, we’re also on Twitter and Facebook under the same handle! New music, along with our album will be available on our Spotify, just search The X Collective.
If you’re an industry creative looking to get involved or a musician releasing under soul, jazz, hip-hop, reggae, rap or any of the neighbouring genres we would love to hear from you! Our email is: firstname.lastname@example.org – drop us a line any time.
For anything West One Music Group related, contact me at: email@example.com
This series features interviews with people working across different genres and sectors of the industry to assess how they feel about gender diversity and balance in music.