Sally Bryant: Women & Non-Binary Folk in Live Music
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 Record Label & Artist Manager, Sally Bryant, and go direct to their provided donation link to show your support:
I’m Sally Bryant, artist manager and A&R of Future Sound Group. I’ve been here for five years but started in the live side for two years and I’ve been doing the label stuff for three years now. Before that I went to the University of Leeds and was working working at a venue called Nation of Shopkeepers just on the bar and when I was there I started helping with gigs, doing the door and booking support and stuff like that. As the guy that booked it worked in Sheffield he couldn’t keep coming over to Leeds so I offered to do that and pretended I knew how to run gigs! So, I started with DJing actually and someone cancelled so I offered, when he asked if I had done it before I said no but how hard can it be! Then once I started repping gigs and stuff I got picked up by Future Sound and started repping for them. I actually went for a job there, but I didn’t get it but then they offered me freelance work and took me on again. In music I think it’s useful to do lots of things on the side like working on the door etc and let things build from there.
I did music at uni and I did this project in a Music Psychology course and there was this interesting module about early development in music and kids who don’t have musical parents turn out to be musical because their parents aren’t which I remember so well. My parents aren’t musical, but they love it and I remember them being so impressed by it haha, every time anyone came over, I played. They always encouraged us to do what we actually wanted to do, and I decided I wanted to work in music when I realised you could which was when I was like 15/16 because I played instruments but there was a lot at school who were really gifted and I just wasn’t like that. I could play but I wasn’t brilliant and when I realised there was this whole industry behind the scenes I thought it sounded cool. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in it because there’s so many jobs within music, even now I’m finding more things I’m interested in.
My course was Popular & World Music and you could either do modules in performing or composing .so I did composition and there were a lot of modules on context so I wrote lots of essays on Patti Smith mainly ha. I’ve got a great collection of books about her now! So yeah there was a lot on music in context and in society which was really interesting but there wasn’t much on the music industry itself. So, you definitely don’t need a degree to get a job in music I don’t think! But then again, I wouldn’t have got involved with the Leeds music scene if I hadn’t got into uni here though. Getting involved with your local scene is often the best way to get started in the music industry.
It’s been weird in the last year because obviously everything has been online, where I’d normally turn to experiencing an artist’s live show as a key factor in working with them or not, over the past year I’ve really had to delve into different areas. When you can’t just check out a new artist at their show, but instead just go by your gut feeling when listening to rough demos, things have been a bit flipped on their head really. What would normally happen is I’d find them online and then go meet them in person and connect with them like that but this year there are two new artists I want to sign but everything’s been on Zoom. They both seem great but normally by now I’d have seen them at least a couple of times and got to know them, but on Zoom it’s just a bit strange and it’s not the same. So, A&R this year has been a whole new experience and been really internet-heavy.
Made it different for sure, in terms of artists we were already working on with the label it’s actually been pretty productive because they were all writing and in studios, so a lot have come away with finished debut albums which has been really good. We’ve concentrated on that for the year and releasing their music which was recorded last Summer so, in terms of releases it’s been fine but finding new artists has been really different. Normally you’d build a live audience and put out your record with that audience waiting for it and you’d have this amazing album tour but now it’s the other way around and bands are recording albums earlier than they would have been. Pretty exciting really!
It’s hard knowing how my gender has impacted how people have treated me really because I’m often unsure as to whether I experience certain things in a work setting because of my personality or my gender. I think certain aspects are more to do with my personality as generally I’m pretty easy going and am happy to just crack on, I don’t think that has anything to do with my gender because the people I’ve been working with have been supportive and wanting to raise the profile of women. So, I think I’ve had it quite good in that respect but there have been instances where other artists I thought I wanted to work with have been inappropriate but it was dealt with well when it happened. It knocked me down and I woke up the next day and felt a completely deflating feeling like no other, but the situation was addressed immediately and professionally, exactly how it always should be. I feel like there’s loads of positive women in music campaigns and organisations as well at the moment like She Said So and Rebalance. I’m really aware of women in music being brought to the forefront and it’s dead encouraging. I’ve found that live bookers are often criticised for not having women at the top of the bill but often the issue is at more of a grass roots level. People in my position can ensure they are representing a balanced roster of artists, and that’s always at the forefront of my mind. I want to support young women from very early points in their career to a point where they feel confident enough to build a band behind them, tell them what to play and own the room. Addressing gender imbalance from a grass roots level needs to be prioritised.
In terms of live yes but in terms of the industry and the records side I don’t and I’m not sure I can answer that properly. From what I can see there is a lot of women at the top in the recording side which is awesome, but in the live side it still often feels dominated by men but there are a lot of positive and encouraging incentives such as grants and courses etc I think that is really important because when I was repping I only saw a handful of female engineers etc but when they came through they were awesome it’s just knowing that it isn’t a boys club. I think it all comes back to education. It would be great to see more women behind sound desks and stuff because it’s such a position of power!
I think it depends where you play which is funny. I sometimes feel like when I was in bars and in a more accessible position for people to say things then you’d get comments. Always VERY USEFUL comments from men too. Ergh. I’m part of this collective called We Are Fierce which is a DJ agency based in Leeds and it’s a small group of female DJs and my friends Hannah and Steph run it all and they books us for different events, parties and venues. Its going to be great! Unfortunately it all launched towards the end of 2019 just before Covid stuck and then live stuff stopped.
Can’t wait to see some of the new artists play to a room of people. I feel like they’ve had such a difficult year and under pressure to be creative during a really uninspiring period of time so they haven’t had any high moments to validate them. So I can’t wait for them to experience that and hear some of these songs which I’ve heard so many times sung back to them and realise that it is worth it.
You can support Sally directly by checking out https://www.dancetotheradio.com
Interview conducted by Anna Cowan