In 2015, when Taylor Swift and Beyonce rule the Billboard charts, it’s something to consider that there are still gender obstacles to overcome in the music industry. Laura Whitmore, a singer songwriter herself, as well as the founder and president of Mad Sun Marketing, has been working in the music industry in a variety of capacities for 25 years. But in 2012, she decided to take her experiences and turn them into something positive for women in music worldwide.
The Women’s International Music Network (WIMN) was founded late in 2012 and the organization held its first awards ceremony, the She Rocks Awards, at NAMM in January 2013. The network serves as a community forum for women from all walks of the industry and the awards ceremony is a way to recognize the females who make it tick: producers, musicians, record label professionals, teachers, etc. “We really try to be all-encompassing that way,” Whitmore says.
After graduating from Hofstra University in 1986 with a degree in music business, Whitmore went on to work at CBS Records for two years. She then worked at Korg USA for 20 years and was involved in marketing, public relations, and artist relations for the Korg, Marshall, and VOX brands. She founded Mad Sun Marketing in 2008, which does marketing, public relations, artist relations, event production, and graphic design for music and audio companies.
In 2011, Whitmore was doing marketing work for Guitar World, when she suddenly found herself a blogger.
“They were relaunching the website and doing more blogs,” she explains. “They asked me to come up with different blog ideas and people to write them and I suggested a blog about women who play guitar since there was hardly anything about women in the magazine. They said it was a great idea and asked who should write it. I said I would.”
Once she started the weekly blog, Guitar Girl’d, Whitmore realized how many women there were in the industry and how little they were talked about. “I was aware of the inequities, but I hadn’t focused any attention or energy on it,” she says. “I was diligent with that blog every week and started realizing women don’t have a voice in major publications.”
Changing the Status Quo
Whitmore had attended National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show several times, and had the idea to bring a women-spotlighting event to it in 2013. The first She Rocks Awards was held in January that year. Grammy Award-winning songwriter, vocalist, and musician Holly Knight gave the keynote and singer songwriter, guitarist Orianthi was recognized (she also co-hosted the 2015 ceremony). The event and network have grown quickly since.
“I wasn’t sure if people would show up, but they did,” she says. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to speak to other women.”
Whitmore has expanded the idea into other events, including panels and workshops and a Women’s Music Summit held in the summers of 2012 and 2013, where women gathered for several days to connect both creatively and personally.
“I was very humbled,” she said. “To produce an event that changed somebody’s life … I made no money on this stuff, but I believe in it incredibly. It’s really meaningful to a lot of women and there’s a camaraderie that comes out of it.”
Since creating the network and awards ceremony, Whitmore has become the poster child of this movement in the music industry. The goal is not to discount their male counterparts, but to create exposure and awareness for females in the industry they share.
“In a perfect world, males and females would be covered equally,” she says. “But we don’t live in a perfect world. I don’t think a lot of women and girls see enough role models. It’s still a thing—to see a girl playing guitar or drums or to say, ‘She’s pretty good for a girl.’ I want to get girls thinking that it’s normal for them to play on stage, to play together, to pick up a musical instrument. The more we expose women doing this, the more successful we’ll all be.”
To become a part of the network, connect at TheWIMN.com.