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Historically, the music industry has been very male dominated. Sydney-based composer and musician Julie Kerr sees no reason why that should be the case, given the vast amount of female talent in Australia, so she has formed Music Love, an online platform designed to showcase that talent to new audiences. The site features music, curated playlists, editorial and podcasts by female artists and musicians working across musical genres: classical, opera, electronic, jazz, folk, musical theatre and indie pop. It also tells the stories of dynamic female producers, engineers, managers, label heads, coaches and publicists.
Julie Kerr. Photo by Alex Carlyle Photography
So far, articles include a long, lively interview with opera mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Dark, a feature about Siobhan McGinnity, who founded Musicians 4 Hearing and is helping children with hearing loss in Cambodia, and an interview with Australian engineer Catherine Marks conducted by UK singer/songwriter Laura Marling, among others.
Music Love follows the formation of Women in Theatre & Screen (WITS), established to raise awareness of gender disparity in the Australian entertainment industry and the comparatively few opportunities for female directors, playwrights and actors. At the end of October, WITS held a weekend festival called Festival Fatale at Sydney’s Eternity Playhouse to showcase female voices in the theatre. Kerr is excited by the growing awareness of the need for gender parity in arts, and welcomes the work of outfits like WITS as “wonderful”.
Kerr has been composing, recording and performing music since 2002. Her first EP, Ocean, was recorded in 2003. In 2006, she performed at fundraisers for international charity Opportunity International Australia, and was so inspired she became am ambassador for the organisation. She went on to study Political Science and Journalism at university in 2006. Her second EP Voiceless, along with a music video for her single Papergirl, was released on International Women’s day in 2011.
She has written for Mia Freedman’s website Mamamia, The Daily Life, The Canberra Times and Marie Claire Australia. In 2012, she was contacted by Jermaine Jackson (of the Jackson Five) who had found her song Papergirl on her website. He became a mentor, inspiring her to write songs again, resulting in the 2016 album Carry On.
Jacqueline Dark is one of the female musical artists featured on Music Love
Speaking to Limelight about her decision to found Music Love, she says: “I wanted to put names in lights, so to speak. I wanted a space where people who work really hard at their craft, in whatever musical capacity, could be recognised. I wanted to create a community (overused word, yes, but also fitting) where people could be inspired by the diversity of genres, people and jobs in the music industry. I wanted to create opportunities for artists to be heard directly. And I wanted to facilitate an environment that fosters creativity through inspiring stories.”
“I have met and worked with so many musical artists and people working behind the scenes in the music industry, and I am endlessly inspired,” says Kerr. “The work that goes into producing music in whatever form is extremely labour intensive, disciplined and detailed. As an artist myself, it is infectious to hear about someone’s process and experience, as well as hear and see their final product, be it an album or music video, stage show or other performance – whatever.”
Kerr says she has been “overwhelmed by the tremendously positive response by our featured artists and readers. It is very exciting that there are so many more women to featured artists and readers. It is very exciting that there are so many more women to feature. We have not even scratched the surface.”
Although there haven’t been a great many stories about classical musicians as yet, there are more to come. “The piece on Jacqui Dark is one of my favourite features on the site. Her enthusiastic interview brought opera to life for our readers (and for me!),” says Kerr. “We have upcoming features on more classical musicians, the next one being a spotlight on some musicians in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. But yes, there will definitely be a huge focus on classical music.”
Kerr believes that things are slowly changing for women in the Australian music industry, albeit slowly. “Festivals are taking notice of their lack of female artists in their bills. APRA are looking into gender disparity in songwriters. This week Melbourne Music Week is kicking off with an all-female concert on Friday night and a week-long photographic exhibition honouring over 40 Australian women in music called Her Sound, Her Story. Jacqui Louez Schrool founded Women in Music to mobilise women from all areas of the industry. Katie Noonan is the Artistic Director of Queensland Music Festival. I shouldn't start listing things because I am bound to leave something out,” she says.
“I really think this new era of independent music presents a very exciting time to be a woman in music. As artists and women working in music, we are better together and should celebrate each other.”