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10 Trailblazing Women of Colour Who Are Transforming The Music Industry

In an industry often dominated by male voices, the rise of trailblazing women is not just refreshing but revolutionary. Our latest feature spotlights ten incredible women of colour who are reshaping the music landscape. From systemic underrepresentation to overcoming gender biases, these powerful voices navigate challenges with resilience and creativity. Their personal stories and quotes offer an intimate glimpse into the hurdles and triumphs faced by women in music. This article celebrates their journey, shedding light on both the struggles and the immense contributions of these talented individuals in forging a more inclusive and dynamic music industry.

  1. Olivia Taylar – A&R and Creative at Graduation

Olivia Taylar is a rising force in the music industry, showcasing her creative prowess as one of the most successful A&Rs on the scene. Her fine art background, coupled with a knack for discovering new music, led to the rapid popularity of her playlists. Despite facing rejection for Apple Music’s internship twice, Olivia took matters into her own hands and stalked Ruby Atkins (a previous curator) on LinkedIn. The pivotal moment came when Ruby recommended Olivia to Apple Music to launch and edit the WXVED playlist, marking her entry into the industry. Ruby also introduced Olivia to her current boss, propelling her from Junior A&R to A&R manager and now a music executive, Olivia emphasises the importance of taking initiative and networking, especially during challenging times as her first job landed just as C*vid-19 hit.

Amidst the industry’s pressures, she candidly notes her greatest achievements: “Not doing cocaine and staying sane!” She sheds light on the industry’s blurred lines and the pressure to maintain a relentless work ethic. Olivia’s latest triumph? Securing Sexxy Red to open for Travis Scott at Wireless. “Shoutout to Larry Jackson for making the call and letting me run around to make the day go smoothly for the hood’s hottest princess.” All Hail Queen Ruby Atkins, and don’t miss Olivia’s curated playlists on Spotify and Apple Music!

2. Ayo Maurice – PR & Entertainment Publicist

Back in 2018, Ayo stumbled into the TV scene, as a marketing assistant and social media manager for an African channel. With only one of two Africans at the gig, Ayo was practically a jack-of-all-trades. She had to bring talent for specific shows for interviews & guest appearances while building the brand. “A friend pointed out that I was practically doing PR already so fast forward to now, and here I am.”

But let’s keep it real, being a woman in this game comes with its own set of hurdles. People sometimes mistake passion for being too emotional. Ever walk into a room with a client and people assume you’re just a groupie? Ayo’s been there. And don’t get me started on the “opportunity” that comes without a pay check – “I had a guy once who said he could do a client’s PR and collected the fee but he didn’t know what to do so asked me but said he couldn’t pay me for doing it? Be so for real lol.”

Although Ayo has worked with the likes of Bella Shmurda, Oxlade, Sarkodie & more she believes just persevering and not quitting is a win. From killer press runs to organising events and hearing positive feedback, it’s the little victories that keep Ayo going. And working with artists she used to fan-girl over? That’s the dream. “I’ve Still got more years in this game, so ask me again in a decade!”

3. Ella Bonai – Head of Broadcast at Ditto

Meet a trailblazer in the music industry, the head of broadcast at Ditto Management. Her journey has been unexpected as Ella originally wanted to be a footballer or accountant. Yet her career has been marked by incredible milestones. From educating youths in event management to managing artists at Renowned Management, she discovered and nurtured talents like Hamzaa and Henrie.

Witnessing her clients’ journeys from independent releases to appearances on renowned platforms like Jools Holland and No Signal showcases her commitment to her roster. Despite this, Ella has had to face many difficulties “Being a Black woman is an extreme sport. You have to deal with so many invisible undertones, misogyny and stereotypes but that’s just life. You have to keep faith, knock down walls & persevere.” That’s exactly what Ella has done, with a diverse roster including Henrie, Sarah-Jane Crawford, Papz, Sian Anderson, Destdol, Shayna Marie, Omah Howard, Mamadiyna and Minaa Simone, she continues to shape the narrative and impact the music scene profoundly.

4. Shauni Caballero – Senior A&R Manager at Sony Music Publishing & Founder of The Go 2 Agency

Shauni is a multifaceted talent, not only is she an author, music executive, A&R and CEO of her very own agency but she’s also a mum – and manages to make this balance look effortless. She has become the go-to girl for the world of publishing, helping many artists including Central Cee, Blanco, Dig Dat & more to get paid what they deserve. Her Go 2 Agency has helped independent artists to understand legal jargon and studio fees, royalties, PRS, label contracts and so forth. Shauni has made it easier for independent artists to protect their rights by publishing her book ‘A Quick Guide 2 Music Royalties’ which helps them to navigate this. She’s also had a string of developing successful artists such as Central Cee, so she always has a good ear out for new talent.

5. Natalie Wade – Director of Industry Relations & Engagement at PPL, Founder of Small Green Shoots & Co-Founder of the Cat’s Mother

Natalie is a renowned figure in the industry, from creating pathways and training for young people from low-income backgrounds with her charity Small Green Shoots & helping artists to get funding, she’s the definition of a trailblazer. Initially training as a journalist, it wasn’t quite the right fit. Embracing the flexibility of internships, Natalie started a different one at a studio, honing organisational and communication skills that laid the foundation for her burgeoning career.

Natalie also knows the struggle of balancing career and family, and how hard it is to be a woman in the industry. “Things have gotten a lot better since I started but it’s sad I still have to advise our young shoots on how to get out of vulnerable situations, especially in an industry where alcohol and drugs are dare I say, part of our music culture.”

“Music is a social business with late nights, a lot of relationships are developed in the evenings and over drinks at events etc and this can be really difficult for mums without childcare or having to get up for feeds or 6am starts. I remember when Maceo was little how long my days were – to get him up and ready, drive to the childminders, and then drop the car back, then start a commute to work after a night in the studio finishing at 1/2am….”

Despite this,  A standout accomplishment is the placement of 170 young talents in the industry through Small Green Shoots, with these individuals serving as proud ambassadors and a meaningful legacy.

Not only has Small Green Shoots helped those who want to work in music business secure a job, but the organisation has helped artists a lot too. From Jorja Smith to The Compozers, Snap Capone, Hamzaa and more, the organisation has helped them to get early-stage funding. Natalie has helped to pave the way for many individuals & overcome the obstacles that come with being a Black Woman and a Mum, in the industry.

6. Sheniece Charway- Artist Relations Manager at Google

Meet another pioneer in the music industry, whose most significant achievement is spearheading the creation of ‘YouTube’s Legacy Series’, which celebrates Black culture. The Legacy Series showcases a diverse range of events, including Fashion x Music pop-ups featuring UK Black-owned fashion brands, fashion shows with prominent artists like Tiana Major9 and Ms Banks styled by Black designers, as well as insightful panels and inclusive dinners fostering connections within underrepresented genres in Black Music.

Sheniece started her journey as an intern at Columbia Records (Sony Music), considering it the perfect stepping stone into the industry. She emphasises the importance of starting from the bottom to absorb invaluable knowledge from peers and leaders. In a predominantly male-heavy industry, Sheniece has faced the challenge of ensuring her voice is heard and standing firm in her beliefs. Supported by a network of incredible women, she has successfully navigated the industry’s intricacies. Sheniece’s tips?

“Be your biggest champion. Unapologetically highlight your work and what you bring to the table, recognising that no one can advocate for you in the way that you can for yourself.”

7. Stephanie Achigbu – Music Marketing at TikTok

Steph’s impressive journey started nearly a decade ago in the live space as an Events Intern and Social Media Manager at Acoustic Live UK. Transitioning to SighTracked, Stephanie played a pivotal role in PR campaigns for notable entities such as Nines, JD Sports, Virgin EMI, Island Records, and Polydor. Joining Universal’s team in 2016 marked a significant chapter, where Stephanie curated playlists and contributed to marketing campaigns for Universal’s compilation album releases. Collaborating with major labels including Island, Polydor, Def Jam, Virgin, and Republic Records, Stephanie worked on streaming campaigns for illustrious artists like Drake, Nicki Minaj, Stefflon Don, MoStack, and Eminem.

One of Stephanie’s proudest moments in her career was being the global marketing lead for Little Simz’s groundbreaking album ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.’ This transformative campaign not only propelled Simz to her first Brit award but also garnered accolades such as an Ivor Novello Award and the prestigious Mercury Prize of 2022. Recognised as one of the top campaigns of 2021 by Musically, it received a nomination for Campaign of The Year at the 2022 Music Week Awards.

For aspiring women in the music industry, Stephanie’s advice is:

“You don’t need a big label to launch your career. Utilise available resources and networks to proactively build your own experience. Whether assisting an aspiring artist friend with releases, managing them, or contributing to their social media strategy, showcasing self-starting and entrepreneurial qualities will set the stage for a standout career in the dynamic world of music.”

8. Hiba Zizenia- Editor in Chief at Mixtape Madness

Hiba is a jack of all trades, from penning detailed reviews & interviews, to PR & styling, Hiba has built up a good network of contacts as her career propels. After studying Journalism at University, Hiba graduated and freelanced for three years, covering writing, styling, and production. After building up an impressive portfolio she became editor-in-chief for Mixtape Madness and the rest is history! When asked about her biggest accomplishments, humility shines through. Grateful for every moment, Hiba emphasises that each experience is a stepping stone, none taken for granted. Navigating a male-dominated industry, challenges are acknowledged, but Hiba consider herself as blessed as so far being in a male dominated industry hasn’t come with many difficulties .

“I’ve been blessed that way. But what I have learned is to always speak up—your voice is as important as anyone else’s.”

 

9. Shante Collier-McDermott – National Radio Plugger & Freelance Journalist

Another trailblazer making waves in the industry is Shante. She started her journey through the world of music journalism and initially delved into controversial music topics on her own WordPress blog during her university days. Shante’s passion caught the attention of a platform, leading to opportunities that expanded her experience. In 2018, she balanced an internship with a radio promotions company while working in retail, setting the stage for her trajectory in the industry. Shante’s proudest moments include being featured on 1Xtra Talks post-article, earning her first platinum plaque, and joining influential black women for a KISS FM feature—an inspiring chapter in her music journalism story.

 

10. Lisa-Marie Boateng – Publicist at Columbia Records

Lisa’s journey in the music industry began at the age of 18, assisting a DJ before landing an impactful internship at Sony Music UK at the age of 22, fresh out of university. Currently making waves at Columbia Records, Lisa is passionately dedicated to crafting compelling campaigns where she has worked for the likes of; Davido, Rosalia, Busta Rhymes & more. Success to Lisa is getting to do what she loves, ensuring that both professional and personal endeavours are sources of genuine joy.

Her journey is marked not by specific accolades but by a remarkable resilience—navigating the highs and lows of the music industry with a commitment to finding peace amidst challenges.

“Being at peace has been my greatest accomplishment!” This unique approach has led to a series of accomplishments, not just in the projects she’s undertaken but in the unwavering dedication to Lisa’s passion for music.

Shelby Briggs

Music journalist and tastemaker

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