There are few initiatives that get enough credit for the work they do in improving their industries. Women In Music is one of them, but this small organization has only increased their reach and assistance in this year of crisis.
They plan to continue their growth through university chapters and other movements towards equality and diversity in music.
Founded in New York in 1985, WIM is a nonprofit organization that focuses on the empowerment of women in the music industry. They are a dynamic combo of record label executives, songwriters, musicians, artist managers, attorneys, agents, publicists, marketers and many other professionals dedicated to helping individuals in all career stages.
The organization includes chapters from across the nations and even around the globe, with groups in India, Canada, Brazil and other countries.
To explore the nonprofit’s commitment to the music industry, I sat down with standing WIM President Nicole Barsalona. Barsalona built her career through management and had started her own firm by the time she became involved with the organization. After joining the Board of Directors in 2012, the organization began to expand outside of New York and quickly spread across the globe, striving to create opportunities for the most underrepresented groups in the music industry.
“Women are traditionally underrepresented in the music industry,” Barsalona said. “We want to make sure women have the tools they need to become artists or executives or whatever they aspire to be.”
Whether new to the industry or veterans, WIM works to help all musicians and businesswomen advance in their careers. Their main mission is to celebrate women and their contribution to the music world and work to create equal opportunities for all musicians.
But this year, WIM has taken big steps to ensure the industry also includes diversity as one of their main characteristics.
“The more diverse and inclusive we can make our workforce in the music industry and our arts community, the better we all are,” Barsalona said.
The nonprofit created a Diversity and Inclusion Council, which schedules consistent annual programming for anti-racist education, racial representation and mental health resources for those affected by the events of 2020.
Barsalona claims they are intentional in including diversity in everything they do, even with actions outside of the organization. WIM is called on to speak at activities and conferences, and there have been moments where they have had to hold the program coordinators accountable and check them for their inclusion.
“We do have to sometimes demand of our partners who are asking us for something to make sure that they are also doing that work and being really intentional to create diverse panels,” Barsalona said.
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Aside from outer activities, WIM hosts an array of events with their resources to help those in the music industry develop their careers and network with other professionals. Events can include panels, seminars, workshops, showcases and award ceremonies, most of which have recently been brought to online mediums. This has been the case with their recent 35th-anniversary celebration.
While they were not able to hold the extravagant galas and dinners of the past, Barsalona and WIM noticed a few perks to the virtual format. This year, members from across the globe could celebrate with those in the U.S., and more could be honored for their contributions to representation.
Barsalona said WIM also worried the pandemic would cause memberships, which are the main source of income for the nonprofit, to dwindle. But their numbers actually increased dramatically, allowing them to put more effort and resources into their one to three virtual weekly events. Panels now feature topics that range from minority inclusion to pride recognition and even disability services in the field.
Aside from the effects of the pandemic, WIM is planning to incorporate a few exciting changes to their organization.
- Mentorship program
The WIM mentorship program is expanding to incorporate an internship track, which they hope will allow women to fill spaces in the music industry for learning on the job. The nonprofit will work with companies like the House of Blues Foundation to source a more diverse group of candidates, ideally younger women, for these spots.
“There’s so much opportunity that we want to make sure we highlight to younger people to get more diverse and inclusive groups into the business,” Barsalona said.
Their first internships will ideally begin next summer, along with their other potential initiatives.
- Partnership with tech platform
WIM will also incorporate a new opportunity for members to log on and connect with others directly. They will be able to search for information by category and find a list of members who mark themselves as experts in the given field. This way, they can ask for advice on whatever they desire with a quicker turnaround time than google group emails, their previous way of communicating. WIM will also create “sub-group” options, which can vary from songwriters to moms, allowing members to truly network together.
- Workplace initiative
The organization is working on a set of standards for what it means to be an inclusive workplace in the music world. They plan to list the best places for women in music to work, celebrating the companies for their contributions and calling others to action. The goal is to raise standards for equity, inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
- College chapters
Finally, WIM is working on a collegiate representative committee system, which would help develop smaller chapters on college campuses across the country. They hope to create opportunities for campus representatives and help with career development while in college. This could also lead to further work with the internship track, but WIM is hoping to initiate the first parts of this goal in the summer of 2021.
WIM is looking to the University of Wisconsin and its aspiring student body to start thinking about a possible chapter in Madison. The city is unusually vibrant in the arts, which makes it an ideal candidate for either an official or campus chapter.
Regardless, Madison deserves an opportunity to expand its reach as an arts city, and with COVID-19 affecting many of its events and activities, WIM offers a helping hand to revive its once bustling scene. And with the gloom and trouble the virus has brought, there’s no better time than now to increase the reach of the arts.
“Not only are the arts expendable in times of crisis but they’re like the glue that holds us together,” Barsalona said. “There’s nothing more powerful than art and music to make people feel any sense of relief during these times.”
To learn more about Women in Music, visit their website or send them an email. The nonprofit is highly interested in getting people involved in various capacities and offers an incredible network of mission-driven and community-supporting individuals from around the globe.
With its consistent workshops, seminars and educational programs, it’s easy to see how committed they are to equal representation in the world of music.