Maria Torres: Women and Non-Binary Folk in Live Music
Updated: Feb 28, 2021
This series is an extension from our Instagram, with full Q&A's instead of the shorter Instagram bios. Here you can read the full in-depth interview with independent Artist Manager, Maria Torres & go direct to their provided donation link to show your support:
I’m Maria Torres. I’m an artist manager, I manage 3 artists, and have been doing management on and off for the last 4 years. I started managing a band when I was at uni in my kind-of indie rock phase. I moved to London for a management assistant job, which really involved me in the London music scene. After that I decide to manage my own artists.
Since I was young I played music, I was brought up on the classical side. At school I had the more academic subjects being thrown at me, like ‘oh you should do medicine at uni!’. I ended up studying Business in London. I was so bored, I really didn’t like it, so I dropped out after a term. I was going to gigs instead! Was funny really. I needed to go to uni to do something, so I found some music industry management courses at multiple unis, and I was like, oh! This sounds good. I did 3 years at BIMM in Bristol, with internships in London throughout to get an insight into different areas to see what I enjoy.
I really love the artist development side of the industry. I think it’s amazing that you can be a part of that story, part of a creative process and planning with end results. I find it really rewarding. For me, if I manage someone, first and foremost they just have to be super unique. It’s gotta be something different that’s gonna make its mark on the industry.
I do find being a young woman difficult. When I was in London, if I said ‘I’m a manager’ they wouldn’t take me as seriously as a senior male counterpart. They’re always like ‘oh you’re so early on in your career’ or ‘there’s so much development to go’. It’s almost like they can’t see you in those senior positions until you’ve really proved yourself. There’s young guys doing it, why not women? I think, in the music industry, women are often assistants. It’s cos they’re hard working and do a good job, but how do they achieve that step of becoming that next level of manager? For me, I was quite fortunate to be able to start managing by myself, I had a lot of support around me and I was grateful that I was seen as a young woman as a manager, and to reach that point quite early on. I was worried that wouldn’t happen.
Unfortunately, I lost a position with a management company due to COVID in July. I was there for 7 months and It had been great because I could work with my own artists and was recognised. That did spur me on to be like, I can do this myself, and so far so good. I think there’s still a way to go, young women still feel they need to be granted that right to make the next steps due to the structure of the industry. It’s a bit backwards still.
COVID caused me to move out of London and relocate back to my family home because I had no stable income. It’s nice, chilled. I had to get another day-job to keep me going financially. There’s no live shows, so your income has been slashed in all forms. Thinking about it now, the people that I know that lost their jobs are primarily women, but maybe that’s just because I have a good support network of women in music around me. It’s funny though, a lot of us did lose our jobs and are now going independent or setting up companies which is really exciting. Quite positive really, it’s cool seeing your friends doing it on their own. We’ve all set up our own little networks. It’s allowed a lot of development. I’m proving myself right now. I’m honing in on my skills and networking.
In the more alternative independent scene, I think it’s more common to see younger women smashing it, and men celebrating that as well. Unfortunately, I think there’s major companies that won’t break that stigma for a while. There’s a structure that needs to be more diverse and inclusive, I don’t know how, I wish I did know. We just gotta keep pushing I guess. It’s important to have that equal level. I don’t want women to control everything but we need acceptance and equality that we still don’t have. It’s annoying. I hope we get there.
I’m really fortunate that my artists are easy to communicate with. Their values are very similar to me. I don’t think I’d manage an artist with completely different values, that’s very important. It’s about having that balance and understanding about what’s going on, we need to be transparent. That’s how I work, we need to be connected. I love representing diverse artists who deserve a real platform, there’s so many male musicians at the moment, so I want to push that change from the ground up.
At the beginning, I didn’t think it would be possible to do this on my own. I’m so glad I did. I don’t have to go through anyone for approval, I can just make decisions myself. It’s much more streamlined. I enjoy doing it on my own, and I can build my network with other independent managers which is great. It can be hard for women in this role. I’ve heard other stories like if a woman arrives with the band to a venue it’s like, “oh are you the girlfriend?” I just think, oh my god you can’t make those assumptions. Most people in venues are men, it’s very male dominated, there’s still a way to go. It’s judgemental and derogatory, we need to be taken seriously. I feel for the younger ones trying to make their way. There's always questions with the artist side of things, it’s always that we do this just to be ‘close to the artist’, I don't like that at all. They treat you as a fangirl, but they don’t say fanboy do they? I pride myself on being a fangirl but why is there no term for guys? It’s judgemental for that side of things. When I was 17/18, I was very much in that indie ‘hay-day’ which was extremely male dominated. You’d be in a crowd and it would just be guys everywhere. I’ve heard all the stories about women in crowds, it’s disgusting. I think I had this mindset that if a guy doesn’t understand where a woman is coming from it’s awful, there’s no empathy, they view women as beneath them. This happens a lot in music, it's horrendous. As a female manager myself, I want women to feel like they can get to a position where they’re in a safe space, but at the same time, we still need to be careful.
There are men that understand the female perspective within the music industry. I think that education is the best way forward. We’re getting to a better place I think. My main message would be, if you’re a young woman or non-binary person wanting to get into the industry, you can develop your own career how you wish, read books, the resources are out there. The internet is so great. If you really wanna start, don’t be scared to start making a change from the ground up. Us women and non-binary folk need to stick together and encourage each other’s development. If you want to, just do it.
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Interview conducted by Bea Bennister