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The LGBTIQ+ List 2022: James Fleury, TicketSwap

The LGBTIQ+ List 2022 – IQ Magazine’s second annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the Pride edition (issue 112) last month.

The July 2022 issue, which is available to read now, was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster. 

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each individual on their challenges, triumphs, advice and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Catch up on the previous interview with Hatice Arici, promoting director/artist agent at Charmenko in Turkey.

The series continues with James Fleury (he/him/his), marketing lead at TicketSwap in the Netherlands.


Tell us about a personal triumph in your career
I think the milestone I’m most proud of is probably establishing my own agency Nouvague, which over time became internationally respected for the way it approached the promotion of classical music in a digital world. I founded Nouvague in 2014 through the Prince’s Trust’s Enterprise Programme, where I received a small amount of funding and a business mentor, and spent five evenings a week including all day Saturday and Sunday managing my friend’s restaurant in South London, in order to fund the early years.

Eight years later, I had notched a portfolio of clients which included some of classical music’s most successful artists, including Grammy Award-winners Joyce DiDonato, Eric Whitacre and Sheku Kanneh-Mason. In 2017, I was invited to give a lecture at the Royal College of Music; I was later informed by the college that I was one of the youngest people ever to lecture at the college. I am particularly proud of both achievements, as I felt that – as a gay, Anglo-Indian man – I held a valued voice in an industry that has been historically dominated by the white elite, and is still reluctant to show progressive change today. You learn so much from starting your own business; how to navigate people, perseverance and the need to constantly find creative solutions to barriers you or your clients are facing. I learned more about myself and my work in those eight years than I ever could have working for a huge corporation.

“My school in South London exiled me from all musical activity on religious grounds, after I came out as gay”

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
In the words of Dory “just keep swimming”. You’re always going to face people who take an obstructive view because they simply do not have the emotional capacity to understand or place a value on your identity. Those qualities are exactly what will set you apart creatively and intellectually from your counterparts, so bottle that up and keep swimming in the direction you want to go, regardless how hard it gets!

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
Not going to university. Fun fact; I never wanted to work in music… I wanted to be a war correspondent! It wasn’t really my decision to leave school early, to be honest. Despite the fact that I was a terrible A-level student, the nail in the coffin was when the incoming head of music at my school in South London exiled me from all musical activity on religious grounds, after I came out as gay.

Music was such a huge part of my school life. By eighteen, I’d toured the world as a chorister, performing in some of the world’s most renowned classical venues and cathedrals, so once that door was closed, I instinctively knew I didn’t want to be there anymore. It was a huge blow to my confidence, as I had already chosen the university I wanted to go to, as well as the scholarships and summer programmes I had applied for in the coming years.

In one weekend, I went from having a 4/5 year plan to no direction at all which was pretty confronting. I took a full-time job managing a telemarketing and customer experience department for a television company in London, while at the same time singing for a choir in London. It was then that I recognised just how underserved classical music was with marketing strategists who understood how to build campaigns both online and offline, and that was the moment the seed was planted for Nouvague.

“It’s frustrating to have people treat you differently because you don’t meet their expectations of what a queer person should be”

Tell us about a professional challenge you’ve come across as a queer person in the industry
The one that to this day I encounter the most is the fact that – to someone else’s definition – you are not gay enough. I can’t even put into words how ridiculous this notion even is. It’s especially frustrating to have people treat you differently because you don’t meet their expectations of what a queer person should be. We are such a rich, diverse community of identities, that to be all ‘queer-washed’ as the same contradicts the very nature of why we became a community in the first place; to celebrate and protect individuality.

One thing the live industry could do to be a more inclusive place?
Well, let’s start by paying people what they’re worth! I saw the recent stats from Women in Control the other day, demonstrating how the gender pay gap is actually increasing. For queer people and those from ethnic backgrounds, this gap is even worse. Let’s start by paying our creators and executives according to their technical skills and more importantly, we need to keep pushing every day inside and outside organisations to achieve full transparency on what music executives are paid. In my eyes, salaries should be public company-wide, but we’re far, far away from that.

A cause you support
The Prince’s Trust. In short, this organisation changed my life. Their programmes positively impact the lives of so many queer and ethnic young people who have been impacted by a range of issues, including homelessness, crime, domestic violence, a lack of confidence or support at home.

“For queer people and those from ethnic backgrounds, [the pay] gap is even worse”

The queer act you’re itching to see live this year
Will Young. His journey through Pop Idol was on national TV at a time when I was just discovering my own sexuality. Witnessing how the media treated him made me hyper-aware of how queer people were viewed in society. To see him still performing to full auditoriums today is a testament to his mental and emotional strength.

Your favourite queer space
Mighty Hoopla! I lost my Hoopla virginity in 2021, and was absolutely gutted to miss it this year due to work. I remember being hyper-anxious the first year – walking to Brockwell Park, talking to my friend Nicky about how the idea of 15,000 queer people in one space was quite an overwhelming and intense concept – but as soon as we arrived, all of those inhibitions evaporated.

Singing along to Gabrielle’s Dreams on top of my mate’s shoulders is core memory vibes! The East Creative gang have done a brilliant job at really developing the festival so it continues to meet the needs and expectations of all faces within our community, both online and offline. As a result, it’s become a highlight fixture in the calendar every year, and I’ll be back at Brockwell Park for the 2023 edition!

 


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Loud and Proud: IQ pride playlist now live

IQ Magazines second annual Pride edition sees the return of the Loud & Proud playlist and feature, for which our agency partners profile some of the most exciting queer acts on their rosters.

13 Artists, ATC Live, CAA, FMLY, Hometown Talent, Progressive Artists, Wasserman Music, and X-ray Touring are among the contributing agencies.

Read about the agencies’ standout queer acts and listen to their key tracks below. Scroll down for the full Loud and Proud playlist.

 


Eliza Legzdina 
Agent: Darren James-Thomas | FMLY Agency
Eliza Legzdina was picked by NME as one of the highlights at Eurosonic Festival 2022. A queer, London-based, Latvian, R&B “star in the making” (Crack Mag), she performed with Rudimental at Brixton Academy in June and features on one of their forthcoming singles.

Legzdina featured on lau.ra’s track, Blow, which was selected by BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders as tune of the week; while her collaboration with the same artist on Wicked also saw her placed on the 6 Music B-List. She has also worked with Idris Elba on the track Fudge.

Other recent shows include supporting Princess Nokia at EartH in London, while festival appearances have seen her take to the stages at Europavox, The Great Escape, and Pride Porto. Later this summer, she is confirmed to perform at Brighton Pride, Manchester Pride, and Latitude Festival.

Jemima Coulter
Agent: Jake Nevens | 13 Artists
Raised on classical music in Hampshire without context for what was popular, 24-year-old Jemima Coulter has developed a sound meticulously their own. Previously having cut their teeth as one-half of the Hailaker project, which has seen co-signs from the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Novo Amor, and many others, Jemima’s debut album Grace After A Party releases in July via Hand In Hive, boasting an enviable cast of guest appearances from the world of indie music.

Paige Kennedy
Agent: Rob Gibbs | Progressive Artists
Paige Kennedy is an artist and producer from Kent, UK, with an energetic alt-pop sound, drawing on a mix of funk, electronic, and indie. Their recent EP, 4 Degrees, has gained recognition from 6 Music, BBC Introducing, BBC Radio Kent, and Spotify’s Fresh Finds and young & free editorial playlists.

They’ve been gigging regularly in London and Manchester, supporting Peaness and BC Camplight, and have some exciting slots lined up for 2022. Paige also made the top five out of over 3,000 applicants for the Green Man Rising competition 2021, performing at the live-streamed finals. Paige is currently working on new material that will be released later this year.

Jodie Harsh
Agent: Chris Ibbs | CAA
UK cultural icon Jodie Harsh returned with her new single Shock, released 1 July on Warner Records. An irresistible club jam, the track combines rousing vocals and anthemic hooks with a deep, infectious bassline. It follows on from Good Time, an acclaimed release that was crowned BBC Radio 1 Hottest Record in the World by Charlie Hedges.

Kicking off the year with remixes for Kylie Minogue, Years & Years, Sonny Fodera, and most recently Charli XCX & Rina Sawayama, 2022 has been huge for nightlife icon Jodie Harsh. Fresh from supporting Jessie Ware on tour, she is currently in the middle of a hectic festival run with appearances at Creamfields North & South, Elrow, Mighty Hoopla, and Radio 1 Big Weekend, as well as starting residencies alongside Becky Hill at Ibiza Rocks and Danny Howard at Amnesia in Ibiza.

A legendary face of the London club scene, she is currently curating new queer club night Feel It at Omeara alongside Little Gay Brother. Adding another string to her huge bow, Jodie also hosts her own podcast, Life of The Party, with guests on the latest series so far including Joel Corry, Tom Grennan, Fat Tony, The Blessed Madonna, and Jessie Ware.

Lambrini Girls
Agents: Roxane Dumoulin & Suzy Noel | ATC Live
Brighton three-piece Lambrini Girls are: Phoebe (vocals/guitar), Lilly (bass), and Catt (drums). Influenced by Le Tigre and Bikini Kill but served with a tongue-in-cheek style all their own, Lambrini Girls are here to take over the scene, one bottle at a time.

Kerrang! describes them as, “A cornerstone of Brighton’’ queer music scene,” while Gigwise opts for “Raucously untamed, feral punk; a frenetic and fiery blast of thrashy mayhem that takes no shit.”

As for the band themselves, they prefer: “The best band in the world. Imagine your nan is in the boot of your car with a croissant in her mouth and hears Bikini Kill for the first time. That could be you. It will never be us, as we are not Bikini Kill, and we are not your nan. We are Lambrini Girls. Bon appétit.”

Uninvited 
Agent: Shaun Faulkner | X-ray Touring
Uninvited formed after vocalist and bassist Taylor-Ray Dillon (she/her) and vocalist and guitarist Gillian Dhlakama (they/them), previously based in Dundee, met as solo acoustic artists. With a little help from Instagram, the pair later became connected with guitarist Bex Young (they/them) and drummer Fiorenza Cocozza (she/her). They officially became Uninvited in August 2020 and joined 7 West Music Management (The Dunts, Spyres, As December Falls, The Roly Mo).

Their latest offering, Behind The Black Door, is yet another defiant single that Uninvited are becoming known for. Their debut single, Tomboy, was an important landmark for the band, who became aware that they themselves could be the change they wanted to see, writing music that pushes the LGBTQ+ conversation into the male-dominated indie atmosphere – a multidimensional reclamation of their early queer experiences in a shimmering indie-pop package.

Although their live career has been affected by Covid and subsequent restrictions, Uninvited made their debut live performance in the summer of 2021, supporting Dead Pony at a sold-out King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow. Their streak of supporting the hottest bands from the Glasgow scene continued as they opened for Baby Strange at SWG3 and Spyres at Stereo.
The band had the honour of playing the Tiny Changes fund-raiser, appearing alongside The Twilight Sad and Carla J. Easton. And, in early 2022, they supported BBC Introducing Scottish Act of the Year winner Bemz and London-based Dream Wife.

Cat Burns
Agent: Alex Hardee | Wasserman Music
Cat Burns is a 21-year-old singer and songwriter from Streatham in London. The former BRIT School student went from busking on the Southbank to mastering TikTok in lockdown, singing a mix of her favourite covers and original music. As a result, she rapidly amassed around half a million followers in just three months and now sits on over 1 million followers on the platform.

Cat is not only an astounding vocal talent but also an incredibly talented songwriter offering acute observations on life and love with a fresh perspective. She draws upon gospel influences, pop inspirations, and a love of guitar-led and indie music, too. She proudly cites Ed Sheeran, India.Arie, and Tori Kelly as a few of her biggest inspirations.

Her highly anticipated EP, Emotionally Unavailable, was released in May, and performance-wise she has supported Mae Muller and Years & Years on tour, while in August she will appear at Boardmasters Festival.

Luna Luna
Agent: Joren Heuvels | Hometown Talent
As one-quarter of Luna Luna, Kaylin Martinez is a 26-year- old artist/musician who lives in Austin, Texas. Since discovering her love for the drums at the age of 11, Kaylin has seen her drum career change many times. She was in a marching band throughout high school, played in worship bands, and even went on to earn a Minor in Music.

After years of playing unfulfilling gigs, Kaylin finally found her perfect fit with Luna Luna. She has played all over the United States and eventually will play around the world. While playing with Luna Luna, Kaylin has been able to establish herself as a professional musician, allowing her to express herself through her first love: music.

Listen to the full Loud and Proud playlist below:

 


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The LGBTIQ+ List 2022: Can Büyükcinar, Wizard Promotions

The LGBTIQ+ List 2022 – IQ Magazine’s second annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the Pride edition (issue 112) this month.

The July 2022 issue, which is available to read now, was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster. 

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each individual on their challenges, triumphs, advice and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Catch up on the previous interview with Alexandra Ampofo, promoter at Live Nation-owned Metropolis.

The series continues with Can Büyükcinar (he/him/his), head of operations at Wizard Promotions in Germany.

 


Tell us about a personal triumph in your career
Of course, I could mention the biggest shows and tours that I have contributed to so far, but actually it was the past two years that showed me that, even under the most adverse circumstances in our industry, I managed to make the best out of the given situation. We made it through this pandemic craziness by developing our company, employing new digital processes and even relocating our entire office to a new, stylish site in the heart of Frankfurt.

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
From time to time, this business can be tough as hell and some of the old hands in the industry might think your opinion is not as valuable, particularly if they cling to prejudices. Don’t let them get you down, be calm, do your thing and prove them wrong! They might not say anything, but they will realise how wrong their assumptions were.

Tell us about a professional challenge you’ve come across as a queer person in the industry.
I am afraid most of us queer people can relate to Kelly Clarkson’s What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger. But gladly, I was never subject to direct discrimination in my industry experience so far. Of course, the live industry was and sometimes is a place with very patriarchic-dominated structures and old boy beliefs, but my growing up in a low-income Muslim society in Berlin gave me the toolbox to overcome these biases.

“Growing up in a low-income Muslim society in Berlin gave me the toolbox to overcome these biases”

One thing the live industry could do to be a more inclusive place
I think it is vital that we (and privileged individuals, in particular) step in and speak up whenever we observe unacceptable and discriminatory behaviour such as misogynistic comments. Secondly, representation matters, and we should not underestimate the influence diverse bookings can have. It might require some courage, but it is not only the morally fair strategy – there’s obviously a business case to cater to more diverse audiences.

A cause you support
I feel deeply connected to Kreuzberger Kinderstiftung, a Berlin-based charity that promotes educational equality. Eleven years ago, I received a scholarship through them and therefore experienced myself how impactful it can be to provide opportunities for young people.

The queer act you’re itching to see live this year
I am quite impressed by Lil Nas X’s artistic music videos, so I’m excited to see him in Berlin later this year.

Your favourite queer space
My favourite queer spaces are not specific venues but the audiences of artists who are supportive of the queer community, such as Adele, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Harry Styles, Beyoncé or Cher. Listening to great pop live performances, surrounded by a queer audience – that is a real happy place for me.

 


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Here and queer: IQ Magazine’s Pride edition has arrived

IQ 112, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online and in print now.

The July 2022 issue sees the return of IQ Magazines annual Pride issue, which was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster.

Once again, the Pride issue’s marquee feature is the LGBTIQ+ List which profiles 20 queer professionals making an impact in the international live music business and beyond. This year’s top 20, which were announced yesterday, share their challenges, triumphs, advice and email addresses with us in the bumper feature.

Issue 112 also sees the return of the Loud & Proud playlist and feature, in which our agency partners profile some of the most exciting queer acts on their rosters. Contributing agencies include 13 Artists, ATC Live, CAA, FMLY, Hometown Talent, Progressive Artists, Wasserman Music, and X-ray Touring.

More recommendations for queer artists are shared in Your Shout, where executives including Rauha Kyyrö (Fullsteam), Raven Twigg (Metropolis Music), Paul Bonham (MMF) reveal the best queer act they’ve seen live.

Elsewhere, Pride editor Lisa Henderson speaks to executives working in the LGBTIQ+ events space to find out more about the economic and social value of the pink pound.

For this edition’s columns and comments, DICE’S Nix Corporan outlines ways the live music industry could make concerts safer and more inclusive for queer fans. In addition, Hatice Arici details the ramifications for the LGBTIQ+ community in Turkey, following the shutdown of Istanbul Pride.

Beyond the Pride-specific content, IQ Magazine editor Gordon Masson learns how the freight and transport business is dealing with its busiest and most challenging year ever.

Derek Robertson looks back on half a century of history that helped to shape Denmark’s iconic Roskilde Festival and Adam Woods reports on the extraordinary growth of live music in Latin America.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next six weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ for just £7.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 


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LGBTIQ+ List 2021: Remembering this year’s queer pioneers

This year, IQ Magazine launched the LGBTIQ+ List 2021 – the first annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business.

The landmark list was the jewel in the crown of IQs first-ever Pride edition, which was published on Monday (28 June) and followed our Loud and Proud agency-curated playlist.

The 20 individuals comprising the LGBTIQ+ List 2021, as nominated by our readers and verified by our esteemed steering committee, are individuals that have gone above and beyond to wave the flag for an industry that we can all be proud of.

The inaugural cohort comprised agents, promoters, COOs, CEOs, event producers, wellness specialists, tour managers and more, all of whom identify as LGBTIQ+ and, in the face of adversity, have made enormous contributions to their respective sectors.

“IQ received an unbelievable amount of heartwarming testimonials”

In no particular order, the LGBTIQ+ List 2021 is:

Steven Braines, co-founder, He.She.They (UK). Full profile here.
Sean Hill, director of tour marketing, UTA (UK). Full profile here.
Zoe Williamson, agent, UTA (US). Full profile here.
Will Larnach-Jones, managing director/head of bookings, Iceland Airwaves (IE). Full profile here.
Raven Twigg, promoter assistant, Metropolis Music/founder, Women Connect (UK). Full profile here.
Nadu Placca, global event & experience architect, The Zoo XYZ (UK). Full profile here.
Maxie Gedge, Keychange project manager, PRS Foundation (UK). Full profile here.
Mark Fletcher, CEO, Manchester Pride (UK). Full profile here.
Maddie Arnold, associate promoter, Live Nation (UK). Full profile here.
Lauren Kirkpatrick, promoter assistant, DF Concerts (UK). Full profile here.
Laura Nagtegaal, guitar technician and tour manager, MsGyver (NL). Full profile here.
Joanne Croxford, wellness + diversity specialist/ live touring/ tour assistant (UK)
James Murphy, chief operating officer North America, See Tickets (US). Full profile here.
Guy Howes, music partnerships executive, CAA (UK). Full profile here.
Doug Smith, SVP field operations UK & Ireland, Ticketmaster (UK). Full profile here.
Chris Ibbs, agent, CAA (UK). Full profile here.
Leigh Millhauser, coordinator, Wasserman Music (US). Full profile here.
Austin Sarich, director of touring, Live Nation (US). Full profile here.
Daniel Brown, event producer/programmer, Birmingham Pride (UK). Full profile here.
Rauha Kyyrö, head promoter, Fullsteam Agency (FI). Full profile here.

“I never imagined I’d be so thrilled to see my inbox soar into triple digits – that is until we opened nominations for the LGBTIQ+ List 2021,” says IQ staff writer Lisa Henderson, who guest-edited the Pride issue. “We received an unbelievable amount of heartwarming testimonials from across the business but, thanks to the help of our revered steering committee, we’ve ended up with 20 exemplary individuals who continually prove that diversity is the industry’s greatest strength.”

Subscribers can read the entire Pride edition (issue 101) of IQ Magazine now.

Click here to subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 


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The LGBTIQ+ List 2021: Joanne Croxford

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. Catch up on the previous interview with Zoe Williamson, agent at UTA in the US here.

 


Joanne Croxford
she/her/hers
Wellness & diversity specialist/live touring/tour assistant
London, UK
Linkedin.com/in/joannecroxford
@joanne_does_It

Tell us about a personal triumph in your career.
Volunteering with Girls Rock London and bringing the learnings around gender diversity and anti-racism in my recent work at the Tour Production Group (TPG) has been huge.

We recently had a production manager in the TPG give us the feedback that as a result of the space that production manager Keely Myers and I have co-facilitated, they feel comfortable to talk to their artists and clients about diversity in their crews, and that’s possibly one of the greatest achievements in my career to date.

What advice could you give for young queer professionals?
There is a massive lack of queer talent in our industry and bringing other queer people with you is a chance to make real change happen. Be sure to identify active allies who are committed to getting more queer representation hired and feeling welcome in your work environment.

A cause you support.
3T is one that is very close to my heart as is Girls Rock London. Both programmes really address the issue of ethnic and gender diversity in the industry and offer genuine safe spaces for women, trans and gender non-conforming people of colour to learn about our industry and how to get into it (and thrive!).

“[We need to stop] assuming it is the responsibility of marginalised groups to teach others how to correct the inclusivity issue”

Tell us about a professional challenge you often come across as a queer person.
Having to come out every time I meet someone new at work, or the side-eyes that I receive when people realise my partner is indeed a woman. I have noticed that doors close for me and opportunities have been taken away because I didn’t welcome, nor encourage, the male gaze.

Being sexualised as a heavily tattooed queer woman is tiring! And let’s not even get started on the challenges I have experienced when working alongside members of the trans community in this industry – trying to justify how a colleague decides to live their life to a room full of cis men is literally one of the most frustrating things I have had to do.

Followed by having to continually correct people when they misgender someone. This kind of toxic masculinity is really unpleasant and certainly makes for a seriously unhappy workforce.

What one thing could the industry do to be more inclusive?
Not assuming it is the responsibility of those from marginalised groups to teach others how to correct the problem around inclusivity. We all need to dig deep and take a very good look at the culture we have in our industry.

What does the future of the industry look like?
Many of the new and younger artists and crew that I have been working with during this time are talking about introducing things like inclusion riders into their list of demands for live shows – as well as introducing Safe Space Agreements backstage where people can work with no worry of harassment. This is the future, and I am so excited to be a part of it!

 


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Pride & prejudice: Promoting behind enemy lines

Palestinian artist Bashar Murad is used to risking his life to perform. As a queer Arab and a resident of East Jerusalem, Murad has learned to live with oppression and the threat of violence, both onstage and on his doorstep. Neither, however, has deterred him from openly addressing loaded issues such as the Israeli occupation and LGBTIQ+ rights in the Middle East. “But the more vocal I become about these issues, the greater the danger is,” he tells IQ.

In 2019, Murad took one of his most daring steps when he performed in a wedding dress at an event in Ramallah, a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank. While the West Bank’s biggest draw for promoters is that it’s the only place where Palestinians from both sides of the barrier can meet, Murad says that the mixed demographic is also where the danger lies.

“Probably the biggest risk is if someone in the audience doesn’t like what I’m doing. Audience members could be from anywhere, from all over the country. There are different kinds of mentalities, people who are extremely open-minded but also people who are uneducated and attached to the traditions and the customs that we are taught in this quite patriarchal society,” he says.

Murad explains that each city in the Palestinian territories has different variations of laws relating to queer people. Jerusalem, where he lives, is under Israeli law but the West Bank is under Israeli military law as well as Palestinian civil law, which presents varying degrees of discrimination and legal challenges for queer people. To make matters more complicated, Murad says, some of the laws aren’t representative of the reality on the ground.

This minefield of laws across the territory means Murad is forced to make a risk assessment before booking a gig. While agents and promoters in liberal nations may book shows based on venue capacities, fees and convenience, Murad has to weigh up how dangerous each city is, the make-up of the audience, and how provocative his show should be. However, Murad has found refuge within the realms of the music industry, “the safe place,” having built relationships and established trust with promoters and record executives.

The international showcase at which Murad performed in the wedding dress, the Palestine Music Expo (PMX), is one such stronghold. Though Murad would not generally view Ramallah as 100% safe for queer artists like himself, PMX is something of a haven “free of oppression, for all human beings.”

PMX co-founder Rami Younis has been something of an outspoken ally for oppressed artists and is eager to give queer artists like Murad “a free and fair platform to do the show they want.” When IQ asks what he thought of Murad’s 2019 performance, Younis says: “I absolutely loved it. In general, we encourage our artists to be as creative and free as they can and to not be afraid to experiment. Murad’s show was a big success and a great example for that.”

Murad says he depends on support from alternative organisations like PMX, as the culture ministries are “too scared” to back queer artists like himself – though his talent has been verified by international press including CBC, The Guardian and the BBC. “They don’t show any support towards me because they’re worried about me being gay,” he says. “They fund music videos and productions for artists who have taken part in competitions like Arab Idol but forget about other artists who are carving their own paths and doing things their own way.”

Not only has PMX provided Murad with a safe space in which to deliver his most thought-provoking show, it has also given him a rare gateway to the international live music business and a world outside of conflict-ridden Palestine.

But establishing a platform like this, which has invited 150+ international music industry professionals each year since 2017, is no mean feat in a state where promoters, agents – and even performance venues are few and far between. “People must understand that we never had a chance to develop a proper industry simply because we never had the proper infrastructure,” says Younis. “Developing art industries organically in war zones is near impossible. So, what we do is push back against that and lay foundations for a proper and healthy infrastructure in the future.”

While agents and promoters in liberal nations may book shows based on venue capacities, fees and convenience, Murad has to weigh up how dangerous each city is

From the ground up
“I can’t believe that any queer person who is living in Poland and looking at the news doesn’t feel personally attacked,” says Kajetan Łukomski, a queer Polish artist, promoter and Keychange ambassador who goes by the name of Avtomat.

Poland is one of just a handful of countries in Europe that is yet to legalise same-sex marriage, and already bans same-sex couples from adopting children. As of June 2020, some 100 municipalities, encompassing around one-third of the majority Catholic country, have adopted resolutions declaring themselves “LGBT ideology-free.”

In a campaign speech when he stood for re-election, President Andrzej Duda called the promotion of LGBT rights an ideology “even more destructive” than communism. Elsewhere, the Archbishop of Kraków recently warned of a neo-Marxist “rainbow plague.”

“We just don’t feel safe in our own country anymore,” says Łukomski. “I started carrying tear gas with me on the street, and every time I go out with my boyfriend and we hold hands, we have to keep looking over our shoulder because there have been occurrences of queer people getting knifed in the street. This is why we need to work so hard to change the status quo.”

According to Łukomski, a shift in paradigm is also needed in the mainstream music scene, which has eschewed queer artists like himself. This segregation has forced queer artists to adopt a do-it-yourself mentality and promote their own shows and establish their own performance spaces. Back in 2017, Łukomski co-founded the Warsaw-based Oramics collective, which acts as a promoter, in a bid to “level the playing field for under- represented groups.”

“No one had really thought of that. All of the line-ups were male and there was no real push towards making women and queer people and so on visible in the scene, so it had to happen as a grassroots movement,” he says. “We’ve had to carve out our own space in the music industry.” Developing their own queer underground scene has also been a means of protecting the artists and fans within it because, like Murad in Palestine, Łukomski has to be selective about where he performs.

“It would be easy to go ‘I’m playing in this huge prestigious club’ but then my community may be in greater danger of, say, harassment. I make it a point to play in spaces that I deem safe for my community,” he says. Łukomski says that as Oramics’ reputation has grown, they have had greater bargaining power to talk to clubs about their safe-space policies and line-up balances. The collective has even brought workshops to smaller, less tolerant cities to show queer people how to organise their own spaces – though Łukomski says they had to organise their own security for these visits.

While the queer community in Poland may be safer existing on the fringes, their exclusion from mainstream culture creates a glass ceiling for artists, which prevents them from performing at larger capacity venues, earning bigger fees or securing representation. On a broader scale, if queer people and creatives aren’t able to assimilate with the rest of society, the oppression will likely perpetuate.

Warsaw-based promoter Follow The Step (FTS), however, is sensing some progression in the acceptance of queer people, which is allowing them to expand their portfolio of queer artists. Next year, the company will promote its first-ever show by a queer artist – American drag star Sasha Velour at Warsaw’s Palladium (1,500-cap.) – which FTS’s Tamara Przystasz says has been a long time coming. “We’ve been trying very hard to promote queer artists, but a lot of agents were saying Poland is not ready for it. But finally, people are much more open-minded than they were before,” says Przystasz. “To do something for the first time, after so many hard months, was a huge risk, but we thought let’s just do it, and it’s going well already. We didn’t expect such amazing feedback,” she adds.

Przystasz says FTS are keen to use Warsaw as a litmus test before promoting queer artists in more rural cities. “We are so lucky because we are living in Warsaw and it always works differently with capital cities, but in the smaller cities, it is hard; we have to fight for their rights. Education via music; I think that is the best option for us.”

Kostrzyn-based festival Pol’and’Rock, which has been running for more than 25 years and typically attracts an audience of almost half a million people, has had a little more time to establish a portfolio of queer artists, and hopes to lead by example. Originally inspired by Woodstock, the community- based festival deems itself an outlier in creating a refuge within the country’s conservative society.

Over the past three decades, the festival has played host to performances by queer artists such as Skunk Anansie and Polish children’s artist Majka Je owska, as well as Polish singers Ralph Kaminski and Krzysztof Zalewski – some of which have incorporated demonstrations for queer rights into their shows.

“We want to show Poland as an open place, a place where people can be themselves, which becomes more and more difficult each year,” says Olga Zawada from Pol’and’Rock. Zawada says that the festival has encountered many challenges since the recent government came into power, including reportedly being saddled with “high-risk” status four times since 2016.

The high-risk label, according to Polish law, applies to events where acts of violence or public disorder are expected to take place, though Pol’and’Rock has never encountered anything of the sort. Zawada believes that this is the government’s way of indirectly jeopardising the festival: “I don’t want to speculate on the government’s motivations, but we’re quite unpopular with the very conservative ruling party.”

The high-risk status means that Pol’and’Rock has been required to introduce different safety measures such as a fence around the perimeter, which Zawada says tarnished the festival’s aesthetic as a free and open festival and proved to be a “massive expense.” Does she think that the government was taking aim at the festival’s Achilles heel – its budget? “Yes. The fence was the biggest thing in our budget and from a crowd management point of view it was completely pointless. But the guests respected the fences and even used them creatively, to dry their laundry and things,” she says.

“We want to show Poland as an open place, a place where people can be themselves, which becomes more and more difficult each year”

Against all odds
“Turkey is a place where two times two doesn’t make four,” says queer senior talent buyer Bura Davaslıgil of Istanbul-based booking agency/promoter Charmenko. “On paper, it hasn’t been illegal to be homosexual since 1858, the Ottoman Empire, but it’s still a taboo.”

Taboo is a light way of putting it. Hate speech, violence, and discrimination have already put Turkey second to last on the advocacy group ILGA-Europe’s ranking of LGBTQ equality – no surprise considering that there is no solid law against discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Gay Pride has been banned in Istanbul for several years, on pretexts of public order. “Even if a municipality is pro-LGBTQ rights and they want to, say, put on a festival, they wouldn’t dare to do it because of the current political climate,” says Davaslıgil.

According to Davaslıgil, the conservative party, which has been in power for the last two decades, tends to “look the other way” about queer culture, as long as it’s kept relatively quiet. “The discrimination against queer people is not systematic. If Morrissey, Pet Shop Boys or Elton John performed, it wouldn’t be a problem; if an artist’s queerness is not too overt then it’s fine.”

The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC), however, was one artist the government could not ignore. In 2015, the Chorus found themselves at the centre of a political storm ahead of their concert at Zorlu Performing Arts Center in Istanbul. Conservative Islamist papers described the group as “perverts” and thousands of people signed a Change.org petition calling on Zorlu’s owners to cancel the show because it would take place on the tenth day of Ramadan. The venue, reportedly owned by a close confidant to Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, at the time, was running for re-election and campaigning to get the conservative vote, had reportedly asked the chorus to take the “Gay” out of their name but the group refused. “We weren’t going to let prejudice win… visibility saves lives,” says Craig Coogan, executive director of the BGMC, adding that the group has had the same name since 1982.

The government withdrew their previously issued permit allowing BGMC to perform at Zorlu and no other government agency would issue one. In an admirable display of allyship, the LGBTQ student group at Bosphorus University – a privately held institution, which didn’t need a permit for performances – stepped in and offered the Chorus their outdoor space. In order to keep the group safe, the buses were unidentifiable and the routes that each bus took to the same destinations were varied. Members were encouraged to be cautious on social media, not posting location information in real-time. According to Coogan, the group even collaborated with the US secret service on security issues, and a diplomatic note was sent to the government underlining the importance of the group’s safety to US relations. On the day of the concert, sharp-shooters were stationed around the area, drones surveyed the crowd, and audience members had to go through airport-style security to get into the concert.

The media frenzy, the political tension, and the logistical rigmarole would’ve been enough to discourage any artist from going ahead with the concert but the group found allies in the most unexpected of places. According to Coogan, The Nederlander Organization, which manages Zorlu, were “mortified” that political considerations forced them to cancel their contract. “In fact, to prevent an expensive lawsuit, they paid for the production costs at Bosphorus,” says Coogan. It was not difficult to find supportive professionals to work with. The issues we ran into were political, not with the professionals.”

BGMC hasn’t returned to Turkey since 2015 – the group has been busy touring elsewhere, including other anti-gay territories such as Poland, the Middle East and South Africa. But IQ wonders: could an incident like the one with the Chorus happen in 2021? “As long as this government stays in power, yes,” says Davaslıgil. And would Charmenko ever book BGMC, in spite of all the political and logistical issues? “I wouldn’t think twice,” he answers, underscoring the importance of allyship in the industry.

“Everywhere that we perform is an opportunity to dismantle prejudice and preconceptions about LGBTQ people”

Music as an act of resistance
Queer artists like Murad, Łukomski and the BGMC put their safety on the line again and again to perform in anti-gay countries, but what’s the pay-off?

“Everywhere that we perform is an opportunity to dismantle prejudice and preconceptions about LGBTQ people,” says BGMC’s Coogan. “Live music as a social activism tool works. It did in Istanbul, as it did in so many other cities around the world. I saw the joy and transformation on the faces of thousands of locals. “Music builds bridges, enhances communication, breaks down stereotypes and humanises the ‘other’ in powerful ways. It has the power to transcend boundaries and create connections among people from different backgrounds, languages, and beliefs, and has long been a central part of social justice movements.”

In all three stories, the live music industry has proved itself to be the antithesis of the political wars waging outside of it, thanks to real allyship from promoters and festivals like PMX, Follow the Step, Pol’and’Rock and Charmenko. But what they want, quite simply, is for their respective countries to be recognised for the budding talent, not the conflict. “I want people to know that Palestine isn’t just war, apartheid, and occupation; it’s also music, cinema, art; it’s life,” says PMX co-founder Younis. “There are actual people living here with hopes, dreams, and culture. There’s talent in Palestine and it is just waiting to be discovered. We don’t want to be seen as victims but as equal people who deserve to have their culture and music represented everywhere.”

Pol’and’Rock’s Zawada has a similar message for the international live music industry: “Poland is more than politics and oppression.

It’s important for us to say: ‘You know what? There is this community of people that has a different opinion. There are people who are tolerant and welcoming and accepting, and they would have your back, and everyone else’s.”

 


Read this article in its original format in the digital edition of IQ 101:

 


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The LGBTIQ+ List 2021: Daniel Brown, Birmingham Pride

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. Catch up on the previous interview with Rach Millhauser, coordinator at Wasserman Music in the US here.

 


Daniel Brown
he/him
Event Producer/Programmer, Birmingham Pride, Nightingale Club, Hare & Hounds, Hooker Club, Disco P*ssy, Glittersh*t
Birmingham, UK
https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniel-brown-676ab3187/

Tell us about a personal triumph in your career.
A personal triumph for my career was becoming the programmer for Birmingham Pride in 2018. Seeing your plans and ideas that you created in your mind in real life: there’s nothing like it.

Being able to make Birmingham Pride one of the most diverse lineups in Europe is the goal for me and I think we are getting there, seeing all these amazing queer artists being their true authentic selves and seeing the reaction of the crowd, in awe that they finally have people that represent them on stage.

What advice could you give for young queer professionals?
If you see a gap that needs filling, don’t wait for someone to fill it. Get your friends together and create that space that you need, you will be so surprised how many people feel the same as you. But also keep at it! The amount of parties and events I have created that have had 20 people attend – if you take it personally, it can knock your confidence. But your next event could be your best, always remember that.

“Get your friends together and create that space that you need, you will be so surprised how many people feel the same”

Tell us about a professional challenge you often come across as a queer person.
Being taken seriously, especially in heteronormative environments. Many people stereotype the sort of work you can produce or want to produce just because you are queer. I’ve spoken with events and venues in the past, who, when I mentioned collaborating, basically laughed in my face. But it lit a fire under my arse to make sure I will prove them wrong!

How could the industry build back better, post-pandemic?
More grassroots nights taking front and centre! I think people now will be so much more excited to see local talent! A more community-based vibe is what I want to see post-pandemic!

A cause you support.
Emerge, in Birmingham, is a youth group for 13-19-year olds who are trans or questioning their gender, identify as trans and/or non-binary. Young people are offered the unique opportunity to support and be supported by their peers. They provide a safe space for conversation, learning and support.

“Many people stereotype the sort of work you can produce or want to produce just because you are queer”

Rainbow Migration supports LGBTQI+ people through the asylum and immigration system. It provides practical and emotional support for those seeking asylum to help improve their confidence and self-esteem and reduce isolation. It also provides legal advice and information to LGBTQI+ people who want to live in the UK with their partners.

What does the near future of the industry look like?
I’m excited for the future, I feel like people are slowly becoming more switched on and understanding about what is needed by an event, especially queer events. I feel another summer of love coming!

How would you like to see the industry build back better, post-pandemic?
More grassroots nights taking front and centre. Events slowly became so much about big names before the lockdown! I think people now will be so much more excited to see local talent. A more community-based vibe is what I want to see post-pandemic.


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The LGBTIQ+ List 2021: Leigh Millhauser, Wasserman Music

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. Catch up on the previous interview with Guy Howes, music partnerships executive at CAA in the UK here.

 


Leigh Millhauser
They/them
Coordinator, Wasserman Music
New York, US
[email protected]

Tell us about a personal triumph in your career.
I spent many years leaving a lot of myself at the door when I walked into the office or a show. While far from easy, deciding to walk 100% of myself through the door has been a profound relief and quite rewarding – both professionally and personally. Now I feel a strong sense of responsibility to use my voice to push for more opportunities for trans and gender-nonconforming people, both onstage and backstage.

What advice could you give for young queer professionals?
Be yourself. No career opportunity is worth compromising your identity for. One of my favourite words of wisdom came from Lenore Kinder – “There’s going to be very few people that hold the door open for you in this business, so you just gotta swing the fucker open and walk through.”

“No career opportunity is worth compromising your identity for”

Tell us about a professional challenge you often come across as a queer person.
Going to shows and meeting people face-to-face for the first time can be a wildcard scenario: sometimes I’m not quite what they imagined on the other end of that email address. While some moments have stung, I move right along and let my work speak for itself.

What one thing could the industry do to be more inclusive?
We still have a long way to go when it comes to truly including and uplifting marginalised communities. How many queer people of colour work at your company? The answer is usually not great.

Causes you support.
Trans Lifeline and The Okra Project. Personally, I’m committed to donating to trans people who need financial assistance with healthcare via crowdfunding websites and cash apps. The financial barriers the trans community faces when it comes to healthcare is astonishing.

“Promoter versus agent mentality has to go out the window…”

What does the near future of the industry look like?
Promoter versus agent mentality has to go out the window. Currently, in the US, the floodgates have opened but in a patchwork way, making it trickier to route a several-week tour months in advance. We’re responding to differing local regulations in real-time, putting shows on-sale with much shorter windows and facing avails that are few and far between. At the same time, live music has never felt more precious and meaningful.

How could the industry build back better, post-pandemic?
Sustainable touring and climate change need to be at the forefront. No one needs to be an expert to make an impact. Carbon offsetting has never been made easier and there are many exciting new ways to approach concessions, catering, merch, fuel and so much more. Shout out to Reverb for leading the charge on this!


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The LGBTIQ+ List 2021: Lauren Kirkpatrick, DF Concerts

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. Catch up on the previous interview with Sean Hill, director of tour marketing at UTA in the UK here.

 


Lauren Kirkpatrick
she/her
Promoter assistant, DF Concerts
Glasgow, Scotland
[email protected]

Tell us about a personal triumph in your career.
Having a helping hand in TRNSMT and achieving the Silver Award for accessibility with Attitude is Everything is a top highlight for me. A lot of hard work went into that project and seeing it from the start to completion was an extremely proud moment. When we first started TRNSMT Festival in 2017, our accessible platform allowed for 100 people, and then, in 2019, we had the capacity for 300 people. I couldn’t believe the size of the platform when I stood on it for the first time. It was almost as big as the main stage!

What advice could you give for young queer professionals?
Never let your sexuality be a barrier to your success. I’m a 24-year-old lesbian working in a department with five straight men, which was quite intimidating at first. It took me some time before realising that my situation wasn’t something to be apprehensive about but, instead, something to thrive from. Nobody else will go out and get opportunities for you so you need to do what is right for you every single time.

“It’s not only down to the LGBTQI+ community to try and evoke change”

Tell us about a professional challenge you often come across as a queer person.
I think for many queer people there is that fear of being likened to a pre-existing stereotype. That is ultimately why I kept my sexuality quiet for around a year until people got to know me without it being a factor. I always worried that I’d be judged for being a lesbian as opposed to my capability for the job. Thinking back on it now, it was quite a challenging time for me.

What one thing could the industry do to be more inclusive?
We need more straight allies to be vocal about diversity within the industry. It’s not only down to the LGBTQI+ community to try and evoke change. When a company supports its employees regardless of their sexuality and gender, it’ll empower people and set a standard across the industry, which will, hopefully, pave the way for mass change.

“I think for many queer people there is that fear of being likened to a pre-existing stereotype”

A cause you support.
Equality Network. They aim to achieve equality and improve the human rights of the LGBTQI+ community in Scotland. They work towards providing opportunities for people to become engaged in making Scotland a place for everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or gender. They want people to live free from hatred, prejudice and discrimination.

What does the near future of the industry look like?
Hopefully more gigs than ever before! We can’t wait to get back to doing what we do best – bringing live music into people’s lives. In Scotland, our last live music event was in March 2020, so we are all so excited to get back into a venue as soon as possible.

How could the industry build back better, post-pandemic?
In my opinion, music is the most powerful form of art and its way of communicating a message can be unparalleled. Having role models in the music business who promote positive messages about diversity and success will make people feel like having a career in music is absolutely achievable no matter what anyone may say.

 


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