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Kicking off a series of interviews with this year's queer pioneers, IQ speaks to Steven Braines, co-founder of He.She.They, based in the UK
By IQ on 01 Jul 2021
The LGBTIQ+ List 2021 – IQ’s first annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the inaugural Pride edition (issue 101) this month.
The 20 individuals comprising the LGBTIQ+ List 2021, as nominated by our readers and verified by our esteemed steering committee, have gone above and beyond to wave the flag for an industry that we can all be proud of.
To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, IQ asked each individual to share their challenges, triumphs, advice and more. Each day this month, we’ll publish a new interview with an individual on the LGBTIQ+ List 2021, starting with Steven Braines, co-founder of He.She.They, based in the UK.
Tell us about a personal triumph in your career.
In terms of He.She.They, being the first events brand to ever be taken on by William Morris this month is insane. Last year, nearly 2 million people tuned into our Global Pride Stream with Beatport, and in 2022 we’ll hopefully be diversifying dance floors in 20-30 countries. We’re talking to buyers from China to Brazil and we’re still 100% independently owned by Sophia Kearney and I, which feels like a result in itself.
What advice could you give for young queer professionals?
One of the ways I had to act was that I wanted to be the best manager and best promoter, not just the best queer one. It’s a different mindset and one that gets me over the imposter syndrome, most of the time, and away from glass ceilings. If you treat a difference as a USP rather than a weakness, you will go further as others will view the difference in that way too.
“I wanted to be the best manager and best promoter, not just the best queer one”
Tell us about a professional challenge you often come across as a queer person.
I literally had people tell me to be “less gay” or to “tone it down because the client is a man’s man”. So, all kinds of nonsense. I don’t pander to bigots; they simply do not get to work with me or my clients and, to be honest, you can be successful and bypass them. Our clients work in 40+ countries, selling out shows and winning awards, so we’re living proof.
What one thing could the industry do to be more inclusive?
People should celebrate difference rather than thinking of anything that deviates from cis, straight, white and male as some kind of problem to be overcome or feared. Our line-ups with He.She.They. are inclusive and intersectionally diverse. It’s really easy because talent and ability are spread diversely, too, and if you book based on talent, diverse line-ups naturally occur.
“The gatekeepers need to be more diverse to allow talent supported to become more diverse”
A cause you support.
The closest to my heart is A Doll Like Me who make dolls of kids with limb differences and other differences so that they can play with a doll that looks like them and they don’t feel othered. Click here for A Doll Like Me’s Gofundme page.
What does the near future of the industry look like?
I think we’ll bounce back. Though some faces and venues may have changed, some talent has kept building over lockdown with streams and releases like Maya Jane Coles or Syreeta. Our own He.She.They instagram following almost tripled over lockdown.
How could the industry build back better, post-pandemic?
The reason more cis, straight, white men play festivals and get signed to record labels is very much related to the fact that the majority of A&R’s, agents and programmers are also cis, straight, white and male. The gatekeepers need to be more diverse to allow talent supported to become more diverse, and, in turn, the audience would broaden too. We found that first-hand with our He.She.They events and label releases.