Industry leaders talk workplace sexism, discrimination at prairie music summit

Very Prairie Music Summit held in Regina Dec. 9,10,11. Aishwarya Dudha

​Music industry leaders from across Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba gathered in Regina this weekend for the Very Prairie 2022 Music Summit.

Focused on building careers, businesses and the local industry at large, the fifth edition of the conference had stakeholders and artists sharing expertise and taking questions on topics like distribution, money management, team-building and creating a more inclusive industry environment.

It was held at the University of Regina — College Avenue Campus. Panels focused on women in music, the future of music and protective spaces in music ended the summit on Sunday. The Saskatchewan Music Awards followed at Darke Hall.

The awards featured performances by artists including Ariel, Etienne Fletcher, Dump Babes, Jesse Brown, People of the Sun and more.

Katie Sahlu, is an independent music consultant who gives people in the music industry guidance about how to get get started with their careers or sustain them.

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She said, “There’s actually a lot of opportunity for funding in the province that sometimes gets underutilized. There are various programs throughout Saskatchewan that will help artists and allow artists in different genres access funding. They can take the support the province has given them to further their careers.”

katie Sahlu is an indipendent music consultant based in Regina. She was attending the Very Prairie Music Summit as a panelist. Aishwarya Dudha

Sahlu said the advice she gives musicians and artists is to have confidence to walk into spaces like they belong there, knowing they are talented and that is the reason that they are in that room.

“Not being afraid to tell people, ‘hey, this is me and this is what I do,'” she said. “Getting overlooked in a room full of men where somebody walks in and greets everyone, then skips over you and continues to greet the other men in the room, and how to navigate those waters and assert yourself.”

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Rhonda Head, a recording artist attending the event. She moved from Manitoba to Toronto when she was in Grade 12 and started studying classical music. Being an Indigenous woman in that genre is not the norm according to her.

“My challenge was being Indigenous in that genre — go to choir or rehearsals and looked at like ‘what are you doing here?’ And so from that, I learned to create a bubble and create my own space. And I thought, you know what? I’m here. I’m here for the same reason you are, that’s music, my love for the music kept me going back, even though I was looked at differently.”

Rhonda Head an artist attending Very Prairie Music Summit in Regina on Dec 11 talks about the challenges she faced on her journey as an artist. Aishwarya Dudha

She said she had to go through many voice teachers because she said they would judge her on her accent and automatically think that she couldn’t sing.

“I would just continue to move on till I found a teacher who didn’t care about my accent or my skin colour.”

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Head feels things have not changed much in the industry. She is currently 55 years old and has been involved since she was a teenager.

“We need the men to come and protect us. We need warriors out there to step up and keep us safe. That’s my experience anyways,” she said.

Singer, songwriter, videographer and photographer, Andrea An, got involved in music from an early age. In her twenties she started working with other music producers in Saskatchewan and took her music to the next level.

An became a part of SaskMusic and was asked to be part of the board.

“As a racialized person, there’s just not a lot of voices that can speak out for other Asians or racialized people, because on the board, there’s a good amount of white people. There’s also indigenous people, but I’m literally the only Asian one on the board.”

Andrea An a singer, songwriter, photographer and videographer took a moment to answer a question about how she feels about being nominated for the Best Saskatchewan Album Award of the Year. Aishwarya Dudha

Her latest full-length record was nominated for the 2022 Best Saskatchewan Album of the Year and placed at number seven.

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She talked about how she establishes boundaries.

“Getting messages from certain people after a certain time. I have cut-off times when I work. And I don’t appreciate getting a message at 2 in the morning. If it’s something business oriented, they can just message me the next day.”

She said people can be very clear with their intentions, “like, my work hours are from this time to this time, I will respond to your message after. For example Sundays are my family days. So oftentimes I won’t even reply and if someone is really adamant about getting me to answer their message on a Sunday, I’ll just say, ‘Hey, I’m spending time with my family today. Can I message you tomorrow?”

“If you feel uncomfortable and you feel like a line has been crossed, then chances are it has. It’s up to you to assert yourself and draw the boundaries, to let people know how you will and won’t be communicated with,” Sahlu said.

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