As one of three co-founders of the music collective Discwoman, Emma Burgess-Olson helped turn what started as a 2-day festival at Bossa Nova Civic Club into a collective and booking agency that represents and showcases cis women, trans women and genderqueer talent in electronic music. After coming to DJing on the recommendation of a friend, Burgess-Olson has found her home in music production and loves being able to work to increase gender parity in the electronic music scene.
Frankie Hutchinson, co-founder of Discowoman, knew changing the mostly white male lineups in electronic music scene would require an insider. In an effort to gain more control in booking Discowoman was born. Hutchinson leads the outreach, PR and social media for Discwoman while working to increase opportunities and amplify the voices of the marginalized.
Discwoman co-founder Christine Tran knows the importance of being a decision-maker, especially in a society where trust is seldom dolled out to women. Tran spearheads the business side of the collective and serves as the event producer. Whether she is on stage or off, one of Tran’s biggest talents is shifting paradigms.
How/why did you become involved in your line of work?
EMMA: I was encouraged by a friend to start DJing and got infatuated. Music production came next. It felt like something I had always needed to. Discwoman started out of a desire to highlight women in our scene that were killing it.
FRANKIE: Always been passionate about creating platforms for marginalized folks, so it just made sense to establish something like discwoman in the scene.
CHRISTINE: Music has always been a social platform and something I’ve been interested in as an organizer bringing people together. Realizing the importance of resources and sustainability in creative communities, I wanted to figure out my role in that conversation.
Tell us a little bit about your present work, the Cliffs Notes version of your day to day and what is at stake.
EMMA: I am on a nightlife schedule mostly where I wake up around 10, check emails, meditate, go on a walk, eat food and then work on playlists, music production or have meetings in the afternoon. It’s mostly a challenge in keeping up with emails and planning new projects while still having the space mentally to work on creative projects. Work and social life are very closely entwined. I find I have to prioritize time to myself and keeping my mental health in check to have energy to lift up others.
FRANKIE: I’m usually on the phone/computer from 8am till like 11pm at time. Typically going back n forth between artists, as my main job is a booking agent for our roster BEARCAT, DJ Haram, SHYBOI, UMFANG and Volvox. My eyes hurt as a result of looking at the screen lol. I like to rave to techno on the weekends as a release and then cut myself off from the world for a couple days after.
CHRISTINE: I’m on a 24/7 work schedule between a full-time job; working day-to-day via e-mail and texts with Frankie coordinating all our artists booking and logistics, producing events; going home packing merchandise and shipping them before work. Weekends are cathartic typically going to parties our artists are playing. Self-care for myself and those around me is definitely something I’ve been trying to focus on as a lot of the work we do is emotionally intensive, especially within the state of our micro / macro-communities.
What do you find most fulling about your work?
EMMA: Music production is the most cathartic thing for me, I am so grateful I am allowed to pursue it and I’m taken seriously. I love that through Discwoman we can see really directly that putting a spotlight on underground talent and trusting these women really does work. To see our roster grow to the next level getting international bookings and a platform to express themselves to a bigger audience is very rewarding.
FRANKIE: Seeing our community win and working with Christine and Emma.
CHRISTINE: Working alongside Emma and Frankie has taught me so much about myself and greatly affected me to be a better person day-to-day. Seeing our artists grow has been immensely fulfilling and their roles in the community (and world-at-large) is something I’m very proud of.
What is your proudest achievement with this work and what is your greatest challenge?
EMMA: I am proud that I’ve had a record of my music be published, I am proud that we were able to become a business with international recognition, I am proud I was asked to play Berghain well before I expected it. The greatest challenge is the discipline of being my own boss and the amount of time alone in this job, traveling alone is hard.
FRANKIE: I guess building a business out of nothing essentially with no framework, very proud of that.
CHRISTINE: Growing our Discwoman family in a really real way where we genuinely care about each other and how to we can all support one another. Challenge is having enough hours in a day.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field in the future? EMMA: Skepticism placed on women and people of color needs to change. The industry and every booker needs to recognize that people other than white men are capable and have something wonderful to offer. Sometimes this means taking a chance on someone you haven’t heard of to uplift their voice. The motives need to be less money driven and more exploratory.
FRANKIE: Definitely more POC/women bookers at clubs.
CHRISTINE: More women and POC in positions of power as bookers, venue owners, festival organizers, booking agents. Diversity in roles where agency and decision making allows change and opportunities.
Who would you nominate for this list?
EMMA: ghe20g0th1k, Papi Juice, KUNQ, BUFU, Seva Granik, Jahmal B. Golden, Taja Cheek, Kimberly Drew.
FRANKIE: Adrianna Moschides, Suzi Analogue, stud1nt, Neon Christina, Angelina Dreem, Quay Dash.
CHRISTINE: Thanu Yakupitiyage, Yellow Jackets Collective, Monica Mirabile, Shawna X.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.
Photo by Maggie Shannon.