Sojourner McKenzie discusses gender inequality and sustainable artist development in music with Kimberley Dickson, founder of Hypertribe
In 2019, music consultant Vick Bain published their research on women in the UK music industry. The aim was to count the amount of working women musicians in the industry and how they are supported. In the study, Counting the Music Industry, Bain found that while almost half of the music undergraduates were women, only 20% of them were signed to record labels. Their study lists several reasons why this could be the case: the harassment, the unsociable hours, the gender pay gap. These factors all contribute to a lack of women musicians working and thriving in the UK industry.
The report was an eye-opener for Kimmy Dickson, having interviewed Bain on her podcast. Talking to Dickson over Zoom, it is clear that she is passionate about gender inequality in the industry. She founded Hypertribe as a response to the lack of sustainable opportunities for artists and the Pioneer Mentoring program in response to tackling gender inequality, “There are not enough pro-women [programmes] out there”. Dickson came from a matriarchal family and an all-girls school, “we were told that we could do anything we set our minds to” and started her career in the industry volunteering for Simon Cowell answering his fan mail. “It was only once I started working in the industry [after University] that I hit the glass ceiling… I was one of the few women who owned my studio”. Dickson stresses that “every woman I have spoken to in the industry has felt [the glass ceiling and discouragement].”
Hypertribe aims to support women musicians in all areas of the industry and “getting artists to a sustainable place”. To redress the balance and democratise the music industry for women, Dickson set up the Hypertribe’s flagship mentorship scheme, The Pioneer Program. The free programme pairs upcoming musicians with a mentor in a later stage in their career. Dickson says that the selection process is based on “wants and needs, in terms of what the artist needs [at this stage in their career]”, tailoring the mentor to the mentee.
According to the participants, the mentorship program is achieving its goal of building a community of women artists. Musician Jenomé joined the programme because she “needed help finding the best ways to bring my artistry to life and learn more about the industry I’m getting into”. The program has helped her to find her feet as an artist and has forced her to think outside of the box, including collaborating with producers and engaging with fans on social media. Through the program, she has gained a mentor who she thoroughly respects, even inviting her mentor to industry sessions, “I trust her judgement a lot.”
Equally, pop artist Chloe Diana is a mentor who wholeheartedly recommends the program as well. She describes that she “had so much to offer my [mentee] as she already had all the ingredients there, she just needed a little head in the right direction to get her started,” even becoming friends in the process. The program helped her gain more confidence and become more aware of the industry process. Her favourite part of the program is seeing “a strong female artist take on your words and make themselves into the artist they truly are. It feels so rewarding.”
Hypertribe also offers their incubator, which gives industry expertise at a low monthly cost. Dickson is proud of how the expertise is democratising music. “It is a full industry education.” This allows the process of traditional music training to become more accessible to women from non-traditional backgrounds. “Even if you’re not paired with a mentor, we still want to offer something for everyone. We must help as many people as possible.”
While the mentorship program is in its second cohort, Dickson understands the importance of continuing to grow and help women musicians. “We’ll always be growing the Pioneer Program but we won’t see the impact for five years or so”, as success is never achieved overnight. Overall, Hypertribe is actively trying to tackle gender inequality through building communities and bringing industry knowledge to women who cannot afford a University education. Hopefully, we’ll see more women come up through the program and progress into the industry with the support of Hypertribe behind them.
Featured image is courtesy of Kimmy Dickson. It shows Dickson stood in front of a white background.
Editor’s note – this article was edited after posting. ‘Kimberley’ has been changed to ‘Kimmy’ and clarity has been added to the second paragraph.