Tegan and Sara issue a call to action for women in Canadian music

After writing an open letter about the music industry's lack of representation, they've now created concrete measures to fix it

WOMEN IN MUSIC CANADA CONFERENCE AND MUSIC FESTIVAL with MAYLEE TODD, WITCH PROPHET, LITTLE COYOTE, BEYRIES and others at the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen West), Wednesday (October 11) to Friday (October 13). Conference is free, music festival $8 to $12 per show. eventbrite.com.

In an open letter earlier this year, Tegan and Sara called out the JUNOs for the under-representation of women in the award nominations. They noted how no women were recognized in eight categories (including technical areas like production and engineering), and in 12 categories, only one in five nominees was a woman. 

Now the sisters have teamed up with the non-profit Women in Music Canada to create a series of initiatives that directly support women musicians and professionals across the country. 

In a joint letter to WIM-C members, the Toronto Women in Music Facebook group and industry gatekeepers, Tegan and Sara outlined their robust plan with WIM-C – a “call to action” that includes building a database of self-identified women, transgender and non-binary individuals active in the Canadian music industry. Read it in full below:

Tegan and Sara Call To Action - Women In Music Canada

Tegan and Sara came up with the idea while struggling to find female producers to work with on their latest record, Love You To Death. Other initiatives include working with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS, the voting body for the JUNO awards) to help diversify its membership, partnering with Across the Board, a newly announced organization that advocates for better representation on Canadian music boards, and encouraging more women to enter technical fields like production and engineering. 

The letter coincides with this week’s Women in Music Canada Conference and Music Festival, which features free seminars and panels, along with performances by PONY, Little Coyote, Beyries, Witch Prophet, Bambii, Nino Brown and others. WIM-C founder Samantha Slattery says the conference is partially a response to several male-dominated panels at this year’s CMW, including one called What Women Want, about women’s radio-listening habits and featuring only male speakers. 

The WIM-C conference panels include How To Start A Record Label, by Indica Records a session co-presented by Ryerson University that teaches participants the ins and out of running a board of directors and an Ableton workshop hosted by musician Maylee Todd. 

“Even in terms of optics, when [a young woman] sees a whole panel of female producers and engineers, they become aware that they can actually do this as a career,” says Slattery. 

Tegan and Sara understand the importance of representation. On Love You To Death’s tour cycle, they consciously hired women to fill as many roles as possible, including tour manager, production manager and lighting director. 

“Hopefully young girls at the concerts around the world saw some of our staff working behind the scenes and were inspired to see that it’s a route they could take, too,” said Tegan and Sara’s manager, Piers Henwood, in an email.

In the letter, Tegan and Sara ask that supporters allow them to include their name in letters to CARAS and SOCAN advocating for more gender representation, sharing ideas on how to increase enrollment in technical music schools and becoming a CARAs Academy Delegate. 

They write, “We hope that a national coalition of self-identified women, non-binary and ally musicians, artists, technicians, managers, agents and executives who make up this amazing and diverse music community in Canada can make an impact.” 

samanthae@nowtoronto.com | @SamEdwardsTO

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