International Women’s Day returns on Thursday March 8th and to celebrate, SEM has joined forces with Manchester based collective Queen Bees to curate a week of free events and workshops for women. Queen Bees is a Manchester based project run by females for females and the project which has been running since 2014, is the brainchild of SEM Music Technology teacher Nikki Crowley, who has been working with young people since 2009.
We spoke to Nikki about her role within the music industry, how she built her career and how she finds working within a male-dominated field of work.
Congratulations on being nominated for Best Female Jungle DJ of 2017′ at this years We Love Jungle awards! Can you tell us a bit about how your DJ career started?
Thank you very much! My music career has been quite a long and winding road. I always used to write lyrics and play melodies on my keyboard when I was a teen, got into Ejay when my mum bought it for Christmas (a really simple piece of sequencing software) then in my hometown (I’m from the hills) the older kids used to put on raves in caves and quarries and take DJ gear and sound systems as there was nothing else to do. Nobody would teach me how to DJ because I was a girl, so when I got the opportunity to do music at college, I went for it.
I loved college and got myself some DJ equipment, played the rave scene for a awhile and was lucky to be offered a slot at Hit & Run when I was 18. Following Music Tech I studied Music Management and Broadcast at University and by 19 I had launched my night Subwoofah and was guesting on radio. I later approached Unity Radio 92.8FM for a show and they said yes. Off the back of this I was being sent lots of new music and therefore I launched the Record Label Subwoofah Records. The rest is long rollercoaster of a history and I’m chuffed to say it’s taken me to places I never thought it would!
What’s been your experience working in a predominantly male environment?
It’s a challenge sometimes, but right now there are a lot of really supportive men doing their bit to promote equality which is really positive. Unfortunately some people still don’t see it as an issue, with full festival line-ups only featuring one or two women, it’s highly frustrating.
All we can do as women is push our skills and talent, empower other women in the music scene and keep speaking up. With the launch of Junglist Queens (female DJ trio) alongside JazzyLioness and Indika, the Queen Bees Women In Music Project and organisations like GTA (Girls Take Action) in London and Peachy in Leeds, it can only get better!
You’ve been teaching at SEM for the past year. What made you decide to become a tutor?
I was inspired my teachers at college, people that were active in the scene and passionate about what they were doing. I also struggled in school and music was always an outlet… I went on to youth work alongside Unity Radio and it really inspired me to invest my time in educating others. After a couple of years as promo manager at a venue after college I decided my extra funds alongside music should come from education – giving something back – and making sure the next generation learned from my experiences…. and mistakes!
“Women are working together and getting stronger as a unit. Technology isn’t a man’s world anymore and ladies in tech and music tech, are being pushed more than ever which encourages more to break through.
Men aren’t looking at women like they used to and like I said, there are a lot of people out there promoting equality on line ups, on record labels and in the music business.”
Do you have any advice for musicians / DJs struggling to get their music noticed?
Network. Meet everyone and present yourself well. We all like a party but a music event its also a networking opportunity, meet greet get details and chase them up when they’re not busy (or as busy). Promote yourself. It’s all good being the best producer in the world, but get the word out there. Finally, don’t give in; it’s a tough industry, you will fall down, you will have to give up some things in order to prioritise but it will be worth it. Make sure you take the time to look back and see how far you’ve come on the way.
Have you always specialised in Jungle Music?
I originally loved and played Techno – the Detroit stuff. I later got into my house for a bit, always always loved Reggae, but Drum and Bass and Jungle is where my heart lies!
How did your label Subwoofah come about?
Well, as I said it was off the back of my radio show with Unity FM. Myself and S Man were getting a lot of music sent through for the show, and a lot of it was from unsigned unheard artists, some of which was incredible! One in particular I remember, our golden boy, Epicentre. He was our first signing and continues to release with and is now signed to multiple internationally recognised labels and is still banging out tune after tune. Off the back of this and my experience in PR and S Man’s experience as a producer, we decided to launch the label.
Want to find out more about the music industry? Come to our female-only workshops or our International Women’s Day Meet Greet and Discuss event to network with women in the industry and help support women in music. Find out more here.