MusicNL works to put more women, Indigenous acts on stage with diversity forum

MusicNL works to put more women, Indigenous acts on stage with diversity forum

Newfoundland and Labrador's music industry association is aiming to get new faces to music fans across the province by partnering to lead a new diversity initiative.

Before revealing the nominees for its annual awards on Friday, MusicNL announced a partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society to hold a forum focusing on advancing diverse acts during festivals and performances.

Rebekah Robbins, Music N.L.'s communications director, says women and Indigenous groups are particularly underrepresented on the province's stages, and the forum aims to fix that.

"This is just going to be bringing together all the festivals and venues and events in the province that we can to talk about how do we [better] promote women and also Indigenous people — just diversity in general," Robbins said.

"We would really like to see more diversity programmed on stages."

Robbins said diversity has long been a focus for the Folk Arts Society when organizing the annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, and that the forum will be a "true partnership" between the groups.

She said other promoters and festival organizers have already committed to attending the forum, including some that have been the source of controversy in the past due to a lack of diversity.

"The people who we've been in contact with, they were really keen on the project. It's a really complex issue, and we know that it's hard," Robbins said.

"We want to create some role models for young aspiring artists and festivals can work with us to do that. I really think that they want to, they just don't know how, and so we're hopefully going to help them figure out how."

'Doors are being swung wide open'

Musicians are also throwing their support behind the initiative. Country artist Mallory Johnson said more diverse lineups will also be a positive for younger performers. 

"I think this is absolutely wonderful. These stages, these festivals that have come on board — it's a great opportunity for not only artists that have been in the industry for awhile, but upcoming artists," Johnson said.

"It's very encouraging, and I can't wait to see the girls rock it."

As both an Indigenous artist and a woman, the forum holds particular importance for singer-songwriter Carolina East. She said the "doors are being swung wide open" to an industry that is heavily populated by men.

"For people to be taking notice and trying to take initiative to even out the playing field, how can you go wrong? Only benefits can happen from that," said East.

"I really feel this year's going to be a pretty insane year for music, all over Newfoundland."

The diversity forum will be held as part of MusicNL Week 2018 in Twillingate, which runs October 10-14.

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