Why I’m Sick Of Hearing Complaints About Sexism In The Music Industry

I’ve written a guest blog for Female Arts Magazine! You can read it on their site¬†or for your convenience, I am posting it here as well ūüôā

LeeSun, still from Mother Dear music video
Do you think that by and large, in today’s modern enlightened society, we have got sexism pretty much in hand? Are you tired of hearing people complaining about inequality? I’m tired of all the complaining too. I really wish there was no need for it.

I’m not here to convince anyone that sexism is still woven through the fabric of our culture, and apparent in all industries, including the music industry of which I am a part. Because that is not up for argument. It is too blindingly obvious and if you are in denial of it, that is your issue, not mine.

The question is not whether sexism and inequality exist, but rather what is the best response?

Well, that’s really up to each individual to decide for themselves. But believe me, if you do not make a conscious effort to be aware of the situation, and make a conscious decision on how you will respond, you will have it decided for you, by the media, by people with an agenda, by organisations and corporations who will feed you ideas and assumptions based on what is most profitable for them, and not what is best for you.

So what is the situation in the music industry? What are the signs that all is not okay?

Why does Annie Mac, talented electronic dance music DJ and TV presenter, feel the need to say, “Stop Asking Me Questions About Being A Woman“?

And why does Clara 3000, another talented DJ, have to say, “I’m not a girl DJ, I’m a DJ“?

Why does Charlotte Church, whose beautiful singing came to worldwide attention with her debut album as an 11 year old, tell us in her BBC John Peel lecture that as a 19 and 20 year old, she came increasingly under pressure, usually by middle aged men, to wear outfits that were more revealing than she would like?

Josh at Crack In The Road (music blog) posted an image earlier this year of what the Leeds Reading Festival line up would look like if only bands with at least one female member were playing. There were only 9 acts on the entire poster. The image went viral. There was no message with the image, just the facts of what it was. People were shocked, angry, and very very defensive.

Josh followed up eloquently in a blog called “Where Are All The Women“. I would highly recommend reading this article.

At the end of the day, like Annie Mac, Clara 3000, and Charlotte Church, I just want to get on with the business of creating great music without being judged for being a woman, or treated like a novelty due to my gender, or pressured into marketing myself as a sexual object.¬†And like Taylor Swift, I don’t want to be frequently treated as though the most important thing about me is the man I am dating. Like Adele, I do not want my weight to be a topic of public interest. Like, seriously? How many world class male musicians have to put up with this sort of nonsense?

I want to play at festivals where women are represented equally amongst the participants. I want to go to a music panel event, and find as many women on the panel as men. A world where an all female music industry panel is not a freak occurrence that only happens at the BBC 1Xtra Women In Music event. (Yes, I did attend that event this year, and yes, it’s the only music industry event I’ve ever attended with an all female panel.)

And this is bigger than the work I want to do, bigger than my musical projects. This is about longing to live in a world where there is no need for the Everyday Sexism Project. The sort of world where on a first date, an educated young man doesn’t think it is perfectly acceptable to try to compliment me by telling me that I am exactly what he needs at that moment, and that he bets I would give a really great blow job. Ew. A world where a woman’s main value is not linked to how well she serves the needs of men.

That’s the world I want to live in. And every song I write is a step into that world.

You can hear my upcoming single by clicking here.

It was featured on BBC Introducing Mixtape last weekend.  The show can be downloaded for free until 22nd December.

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How To Be A Better Parent

So I have a brand new vlog! My first vlog ever. It is called LeeSun, Truth Teller.

I began last Thursday, and so far have posted

1 How To Tell If Art Is Good
2 The Truth About Being Good Looking
3 How To Be A Better Parent

This vlogging business is a steep learning curve. At first I was horrified to see myself on video. But here I am, 3 days in, and I am actually starting to get used to it! Anyway, here is my post from today. And here is to exploring truth in this lovely way, and seeing what there is to discover!

How To Succeed As An Artist

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I’ve felt like an outsider all my life¬†since I first began interacting socially with people outside of my family. My earliest memory of a social interaction is from when I was 4. My sister and brother and I were playing on the sidewalk with two sisters who lived down the street. The elder sister and my sister were dominating the convo which consisted mainly of the other girl (who was about 7, like my sister) sneering at various things about me and my brother (kids can be so mean sometimes), and my sister hotly countering the jibes with pithy comebacks such as, “So…?!!!” and “No he/she’s not!” During that conversation, I suddenly became aware of the fact that I was freakishly small for my age, and that I looked much younger than I was (which is insulting when you’re 4).

And then my years at school began. It was the late 1970s, Canada. My grasp of English was limited. To be fair, that was true of the other 4 year olds too, though they were native English speakers. So I quickly caught up. But not before I started realising that everything about my experience (my culture, my family) was different from the common experience of my peers. My family was different. My parents were different. All the class activities which took for granted Canadian culture, tradition, and customs were foreign to me.

And then the moving began. My parents moved frequently, at least once a year, sometimes more. It was terrifying, but I soon got used to it: being the newest kid in the class, having no friends, feeling unsafe.

Things changed rather dramatically when I got to University as a 17 year old. I was a math student. We were ALL outsiders. It was like discovering my home planet. The only problem was that I didn’t particularly want to be a mathematician. ¬†So after a couple of years of desperately trying to make myself be like everyone else, I gave up and changed paths to classical piano. Classical music students were just as geeky as math students, but again, I was a square peg trying to fit myself into a round hole. I was an appallingly bad classical piano student.

In fact, I was a terrible student, full stop. Academia did not suit me at all. I didn’t like doing my own work (though I was happy to help others with theirs). I didn’t like sitting in lectures. I was disorganised. My life was chaotic. But I had a glorious time doing whatever I wanted while always feeling like I was avoiding what I should be doing. And it was while I was procrastinating that I starting song writing. That was a long time ago. Autumn 1995. Nearly 20 years on, and I’ve realised what Jessica Hische has put so neatly:¬†“The work¬†you do while you procrastinate¬†is probably the work¬†you¬†should be doing for the rest of your life.”

When I was procrastinating I helped others, encouraged others (especially those who were disheartened). I wrote songs. I sang them. I shared them with anyone who would listen. And this has been the work I’ve been passionate about (and longing to do professionally) ever since I started doing it in my “spare time” as a student.

As an artist, a question that I get asked time and again is, “What makes you different? What’s different about what you do?” And this is an important question.

It’s hardly surprising that I find it so satisfying to perform my music and be an artist, since it’s a field where being different is not only allowed, but celebrated. We are all unique, we¬†each have a unique set of experiences, unique DNA, evident in the uniqueness of our fingerprints. So at the heart of the question about what it is that makes my music different, is the question, what makes ME different? WHO AM I?

That’s a good question.

And a fucking impossible question.

Who am I? I’m discovering who I am all the time, with every passing moment, with every new bit of life experience. I express that in my music. I long to have more time and resources for it. But I celebrate the time and resources I DO have for it now. And in the midst of all this discovering, I encounter rejection again and again and again.

In April, I applied for Samsung’s “Launching People” competition, hoping to be chosen from hundreds of artists, to be mentored by Paloma Faith. I didn’t win the competition. At the end of April, I applied for a PRS For Music Foundation recording grant to record my second album (which is written and ready to go!!) and I didn’t make it to round 2 of the application process. Every time I attempt a “jump” for my music and I fall, after the initial disappointment, I celebrate. Because this is my story.

I am GLAD that my story isn’t:¬†

So I just wrote these songs and they were so awesome and someone in a position of great influence and power heard my songs and was like, “You are so awesome, let’s put you on a shortcut to stardom and everything you ever wanted.” ¬†And then I became super successful! I’m so lucky! This never happens to anyone … just me!

I’m glad that’s not my story because that story SUCKS. That story is NOT REAL.¬†That story is NOT THE WAY IT HAPPENS, despite the weird fantasy-illusion-belief that most people seem to have about the music industry, or any creative industry. This idea that you have to be lucky to make it, otherwise your career as an artist is pretty much doomed from the outset is a huge load of BS. This story is entirely disempowering to artists, placing the power of making their career possible in the hands of a small group of wealthy people and corporations. This is the fiction that is endorsed by those in power and then bought and propagated by those who are afraid of the work they’d have to do if they took responsibility for their own success. So it’s easy to see why so many artists buy into this fiction … because most artists would prefer not to do any work aside from their own creative work.

It’s tempting to want someone to step in and make things happen, especially when it feels like my own efforts have been ineffective for a long time. But giving in to that temptation, adopting that position means to give up all my power. And I am not willing to do that. I am not willing to place the power of making things happen in my life and career¬†in the hands of others. Even if I were to get a recording grant, that wouldn’t be the funders making my record happen. It would be ME doing what I do, being who I am, inspiring funders to want to be a part of what I do. ¬†Let’s set the record straight. Let’s get the REAL picture of who’s got the power here.

It’s the funders, the distributors, the labels, the publishers that need US the creatives, not the other way around. WE ARE THE REASON why¬†they do the things they do. But THEY are are NOT the reason why WE CREATE.

So every time I feel knocked back, every time I put in a load of work, take a risk, and find that the result/response is not the outcome/boost I’d hoped for but simply the news that I’ve got to work harder, work longer, I CELEBRATE. My story is REAL. ¬†And I want to share my story and for people to be inspired, encouraged, heartened, to know that the effort, the disappointments, all the passion and heart that they invest freely and generously into their art and work without any guarantee of being paid or being heard, this is all part of the journey.

YES, I want my music to be heard by as many people as possible. I want to have great impact. I want my songs to be so touching, so resonant, so relevant, so insightful, that one day, everywhere I go, I’ll hear other people singing my songs (and hopefully not because I’ve gone crazy). And I will explore every opportunity that comes my way that might help make that happen. But I am not looking for “luck” to get me where I want to go. That’s not to say that luck won’t happen. I’m saying that I’m not depending on luck.

I am going where I want to go, right now, every day. I’m going to keep writing my songs in as awesome and true a way as possible, and step by step, I will get to where I want to go. I feel confident of this.

So when I am rejected by Samsung or Paloma Faith, or the PRS for Music Foundation, I celebrate my journey and my story. I laugh thinking about how one day, when my songs are being sung by different people, and they’re a¬†ubiquitous part of the music landscape, I’ll be able to say, “When I was looking to record this album in the way that¬†I envisioned, and I looked for partners in that, I was turned down again and again. But I kept going and I found a way to do what I want to do.”

Now THAT is a story worth celebrating. One that will give people hope, and also be an accurate portrayal of reality, instead of the fantasies/lies that are perpetuated about creative professions and about success in general!

Rant over.

So you want to know how to succeed as an artist? Take heart. Your dreams are¬†your destiny, if you just continue taking the steps each day towards them. One step at a time. There is a shortcut to success. ¬†And it’s what my little boy might call a “longcut”.¬†That shortcut is simply going where you want to go, step by step, like the proverbial tortoise. Begin by dreaming.

If you want to help make my second album happen, I’m raising the funds to record it right now. So if you want to help, you can do so at:

http://LeeSunMusic.com

via the “Buy Now” buttons …… and you’ll receive my album (either as a digital download or a CD depending on which you select) as well as my deepest gratitude ūüôā

Or you can buy something from my eBay shop at:

http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Little-Music-Tree

If you do, please drop me a line at LEESUN [at] LEESUNMUSIC [dot] COM and I’ll send you an exclusive preview of my newest song, “Know, No Matter What (We All Matter)”!

 

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Facebook Pages

2014-04-20 LeeSun Music Facebook Page

Over the past 2 years (ish) I’ve seen engagement on my Facebook go¬†down, down, down¬†(as Candace of Phineas & Ferb fame might say). For quite awhile now, my Facebook page has been fairly useless as a means of communicating to the people who have joined it.

The Grim Statistics

See the handy screenshot of my FB page on the right (taken a minute ago)? ¬†I currently have almost 8000 likes. Which would be great news if it weren’t for that fact that hardly any of those people ever see anything I post. Why? Because Facebook rarely shows my posts to people. You can see how many people saw my last 6 posts by the ‘Total Reach’ numbers circled on the right.

Looking at my most recent 6 posts on my page, Facebook has shown my post to 30-150 people signed up to my page. That’s 0.35 – 1.9%** of people signed up. So it kind of makes sense now that only ‘8 people are talking about this’. That represents 5-26% of people who saw my posts (because most of the 30 people who saw my 6th-most recent post also saw all of the others).

Looking at it that way, I’m actually doing AWESOME. 5-26% engagement is STELLAR. That’s GREAT engagement from people who saw my posts. If only it were more than 30-150 people out of 8000 seeing my posts.

Perhaps you’ve spent time and effort building your business’s Facebook page, only to find that nobody is seeing your posts either. What’s the answer? Give up?

Well, I like to think that no matter WHAT is going on, the answer is not to sit and gripe about it, but rather to DO something about it. The question I ask myself is, “What can I do with what I’ve got? My FB page behaviour has changed. How can I make use of that? How can I work with that?”

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Facebook Pages

I’ve noticed that even in the current harsh climate in Facebook-Page-Land, there are pages that are flourishing in terms of engagement. What do they have in common? And looking at what they have in common, what are my 7 top tips for making your Facebook Page useful for you?

1) REGULARLY post updates. The thriving Facebook Pages all post SUPER REGULARLY (often multiple times per day).  Post an update on your page EVERY DAY, a MINIMUM of once a day, but aim for 2-3 posts on most days.

2) Always post a photo. ALWAYS. They always post a photo NO MATTER WHAT the update is. So suppose I wanted to post on my page, “Hey everyone, I’m playing a gig tomorrow at O2 Arena in Leeds … looking forward to seeing you there … get your tickets!!!!” … If I want to emulate a page with more engagement, I would need to post a photo with that update. What should the photo be of? Now THAT’S a good question.

There are more content tips below, but let’s look at this example. I could post a photo of a handwritten note instead of typing the message. Or I could do one of those super cheesy ‘text on top of a photo’ thingies in Photoshop … like a photo of an inspiring place of outstanding natural beauty with something written over it like, “It’s amazing, I’m playing at the O2 Arena tomorrow!! Come see me! Tickets from: …” Or I could combine that with an offer like, “First 5 people to book tickets through the link below get VIP backstage passes!”

There is no limit to how imaginative you can be with what you write, and what photo you post.¬†For example, your photo could be part of a series that you’re posting. You could decide to take a photo each day of a grumpy person. Or a doorway. Or something messy. Or people working at your company. Let your imagine go! It will bring you back ideas. Imagination is a muscle and it gets stronger as you exercise it.

3) Be funny, inspiring, or informative.¬†Unless you are a superstar with FB fans who are infatuated with you, it’s probably not going to cut it to just post normal stuff about you or your business. Hey, it TAKES TIME for people to engage with your posts. And they’re only going to engage if they CARE enough. If (like in my case) many of your fans are total strangers who heard a 30 second snippet of your music and thought, “hey that’s pretty nice, I like that”, or worse, if they’re not even real individuals, THEY DON’T CARE if you had pizza for lunch, or if you’ve got new stuff arriving in your shop, or WHATEVER.

Like I said, this doesn’t apply to you if you’ve achieved superstar status and have stalkers regardless of what you do. If that’s the case, more power to you. But if, like me, you are NOT a celebrity (yet), then you’ve got to add value to your posts. Ask yourself, “How can I contribute to people’s lives with this post? How can I make this super funny, or entertaining, or inspiring, or incredibly useful?” If you can get one (or more) of those elements into your PHOTO (see point #2) then you’re onto a winner.

4) Recycle! This is a basic strategy of anyone who is seeking more engagement on t’internet, and Facebook pages are no exception. If you see something going viral, or something that you think OUGHT to go viral (because it fits the criteria in #3 above), share it on your page with a little comment (preferably a funny, inspiring or informative comment). You don’t have to generate all your content yourself. Phew.

5) Never, EVER pay FB for ANY of its services. Some people have experienced an actual DECLINE in their FB engagement since paying for promoted posts etc. I’m too lazy to look up references now. But you can look them up yourself, or take my word for it. To pay Facebook in order to get them to show your posts to people, when really you built your page in good faith thinking that people who ‘liked’ your page would receive updates (at least SOME of the time) seems wrong to me. Like rewarding naughty behaviour with sweets and treats. Just say ‘no’.

6) Be innovative. Believe in yourself and what you’re promoting on your page. And enthusiastically share it whenever you can. This point is about more than just increasing engagement on your page for the sake of increased engagement. ¬†This is about creatively communicating who you are and what you offer in a way that is enjoyable to people. This is about having fun. This is about refining what your business is about and letting others knows. I’m not going to get specific here. Just ask yourself, “What am I passionate about, or what CAN I be passionate about, in my business?” and go from there … not to more answers … but hopefully that will lead to more questions. The more questions you can uncover, the more exciting this journey will be.

7) The final goal: Build your business. Add value to your business.¬†And this is where it’s truly at. Whether you are an artist, a painter, a writer, a shop owner, a baker, a plumber, or WHATEVER, it’s about adding value to your business. What do you have to offer? How can you offer MORE? How can you add value to what you’re offering?¬†Once you’ve got loads of people engaging with your page, it needs to go beyond them clicking ‘like’ and commenting on loads of posts about kittens and babies or chuckling at your wit and charm. You want more engagement NOT FOR ENGAGEMENT’S SAKE, but as a part of building your business. This may sound selfish to you if you interpret it the wrong way. I’m not talking about persuading people to buy your products. I’m talking about OFFERING VALUE to the people who engage with your page. What special bonuses or deals can you offer to your customers that will make them glad that they’ve engaged with your business? How can you REALLY serve your customers, going above and beyond anything they expect?¬†These questions will serve you if you ask them REGULARLY. Don’t look for an answer or a few answers, then take that as a cue to grow complacent. Answers are NOT the answer. Whatever answers you come up with now, KEEP ASKING YOURSELF THE QUESTIONS. Keep innovating. Keep creating. Keep growing. Keep building.

 

Challenge: The 30 Day Experiment

So here’s a challenge that I’m going to try myself. Now that I’ve had a look at my Facebook Page and realised that it’s currently USELESS, and now that I’ve put my finger on what would make it a USEFUL Facebook Page, I’m going to commit to the 30 Day Experiment: applying the above 7 principles for 30 days to see what effect it has on my page. So starting today, I’m going to aim to post 2-3 times per day, with a photo EVERY TIME, and I’m going to keep asking myself the following questions:

What funny thing can I share today?
What inspiring thing can I share today?
What incredibly useful information can I share today?
What can I do DIFFERENTLY?
How can I be creative with photos and images that I post?
How can I serve my ‘fans’?
What MORE can I offer my ‘fans’?
How can I add value to my business?

I’m going to write those questions down on a slip of paper and read them just before bed and after I wake up each day. For 30 days.

I can handle Facebook bullying, sabotage, extortion. They cannot control me or sabotage my business. My business is bigger than that. *I* am bigger than that!

BRING. IT. ON.

And if you have a floundering Facebook Page, then I challenge you to also try the 30 Day Experiment. Track your ‘Talking About This’ and ‘Total Reach’ numbers daily. And let me know how it goes! ūüôā

By the way, to post comments, you need to register on this site. It only takes a few seconds. Just click on the ‘Keep In Touch’ tab at the top left of the page, enter your email address and create a password. You’ll receive a confirmation email (which may go to your Spam/Junk folder). Click in the email to confirm, and presto! You’re all set! IF YOU LIKE THIS POST please do keep in touch! You can enter your email (bottom right ‘Follow’ tab) to receive any future posts by email) or register to pick and choose which ‘Hot Topics’ you’d like to receive updates for. Generally, I post about once a week ūüôā

Best of luck to you! I will post an update in the comments section of this post in 30 days!! Ooh, how exciting!

UPDATE:  

It seems that even with a photo, Facebook will not show your post to people if you have certain external links in it. For example, they’ve given 26 impressions of this post so far.¬†And posts that have been placed via Twitter are even worse. ¬†This post has been given a grand total of 10 impressions. I clearly need to be more creative. Tomorrow, I’ll try again.

Acts of Kindness, Launching People, Paloma Faith, and Living Large


So … a couple of weeks ago, I found out about a competition being run by Samsung called “Launching People”. I thought, “Do I want to be launched?” My answer was a resounding, “YES!” The only catch was, the deadline was a day away. So I cleared my day’s schedule, and buckled down to the serious business of putting together a video all about me, in the hopes that Paloma Faith would choose me (to mentor and LAUNCH) out of the hundreds of entries.

I didn’t think twice. I just knew I had to do this. I skipped group therapy (which I’ve been going to for nearly 2 years, and which is a big deal for me!) and I also skipped my weekly counselling post-grad lecture and skills session at Leeds Met (also a big deal for me!). I spent my precious time mainly finding video editing software and figuring out how to use it via Youtube tutorials. Then I cut up bits of a video that my amazing, beautiful, talented friends Aurora and Lucy did for me awhile ago, and cut up bits of my songs from my album Prime, recorded a voiceover and voila! The above 2 minute video was born.

It was one of those moments / events / days that felt so strongly guided by the hand of destiny, I felt so certain that OF COURSE I’d be chosen for this, it really was a shock when I wasn’t contacted the following week to be invited to participate in the Launching People mentorship thingy. “How strange,” I thought. “So what was that all about?!” I have no idea. But now I’ve got this video which gives a pretty clear statement about my creative ethos and what I’m about.

I’m still scratching my head (not literally). Well, as my little boy might say, at least I made a Youtube video! ūüôā

Conclusion: Kindness and self-belief. You need both. Or perhaps another way to look at it is, love others and love yourself, and everything else shall follow …

I hope you enjoy it!