Inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement and driven by a persistent ambition to run a record label, we speak to Music Production & Sound Engineering student Megan Archdale-Evans about her new project: Scorpio Rising Collective.
Conceived as a “New Age of Riot Grrrls” and driven by the enduring aspiration of owning a label, Scorpio Rising Collective’s Megan Archdale-Evans wants to provide a safe, inclusive and supportive environment for womxn in music.
Classically trained from a young age, Megan - who also runs the womxn at dBs society - “fell in love with being in the studio” in college and knew from her first day that she wanted to run a label. That impulse was cultivated during her Industry & Development module, where she planned the blueprint for what would become Scorpio.
“It's a record label by womxn and for womxn in music,” says Megan, “There's a lot of research that shows that people respond really positively to being taught by accessible role models… So I want to use Scorpio to teach womxn my side of things.”
Megan’s desire to carve out a space and provide agency for womxn in music is a reflection of, what she sees as, an industry that isn’t doing enough to ensure womxn are equally represented and equally remunerated. Despite the “extraordinary things” womxn are doing for sound, Megan highlights the dearth of womxn in positions of power and influence within the industry.
“Womxn don't have enough space in music. However you look at it, they just don't. In an ideal world, Scorpio wouldn't exist. I wouldn't need it to and no one else would need it to. But the industry looks the way it does. Therefore, it is something that's needed. And it is something that's important.”
A recent study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, which examined the “gender and race/ethnicity for artists, songwriters, and producers appearing on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts from 2012 to 2020”, found that just 2% of credited producers were womxn. These findings illustrate an issue that is particularly prevalent in the upper echelons of the industry; specifically in the offices of major labels.
“I think major labels are a huge issue… There's a quote in an article that I read where someone had said that ‘major labels won't hire womxn as producers’. You only have to look at their production credits to see that, to some degree at least, it is quite true… It's difficult because they make up so much of the music industry. They own so much music; they have so much influence. It's three companies that are right at the top, that are constantly contributing to this issue and doing very, very little about it when, in a lot of ways, they would be the best people to address it.”
Although major labels present the starkest illustration of imbalance, the solution that Scorpio Rising Collective presents is centred around “taking back space” for burgeoning artists; creating something disentangled from the industry’s conscious and unconscious biases for young womxn. Although Scorpio is a service for womxn, men have a positive role to play as well; primarily being allies.
“I think that men need to be very aware of the problem and be talking about it. Calling out misogyny, sexism, and microaggressions,” says Megan, “Because sexism in music, for me, has never been like, ‘womxn shouldn't be in a studio. Womxn shouldn't be making music.’ It's these tiny little comments, tiny little microaggressions that I think are really easy to let slide, or not even pick up on the time. Being aware that that's happening and calling it out when it does, that's going to be a much easier, faster way to affect positive change. There's only so much that womxn can do from the positions that we're in when there's such a smaller percentage of us. We're not being heard in the way that we should be, so allyship is probably more important than anything else at the moment.”
The end goal for Megan is an environment where she is considered a sound engineer, “not a ‘female sound engineer’”; where she and her female peers are able to work and are judged on merit rather than being lumped into a homogeneous ‘female’ category. With artist Sophie Sykes signed and music on the way, her vision is beginning to bear fruit.
As inclusive and collaborative spaces for womxn grow, the creative work of womxn is highlighted and womxn become involved in positions of influence, Megan thinks that “over time, it will improve.”
There are tentative signs that the wheels of change are beginning to turn at the top of the industry, with increasing numbers of womxn being elevated to the top of A&R departments. The ascension of initiatives like Scorpio, Saffron, Dynamics and Cactus City Studio may help provide more upwards pressure as well as create a safe and nurturing space for young female talent as they cut their teeth in the early stages of their career.
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