#WomenCrush Music: a showcase for female artists

This Portland-based organization offers workshops, gigs and community for women musicians across the country.

_74A0346-cropPortland musician S!ege performs at a #WomenCrush showcase in September 2018.
Ashley Anderson

The idea for #WomenCrush Music came to Ashley Kervabon in 2015. Shortly after moving to Portland from New York City in 2015, the singer/songwriter injured her ankle, forcing her into a walking boot and to limit her activity for eight months. After it healed, she was itching to dive into the music scene and make some friends. In January 2017, she launched #WomenCrush Music, a showcase on the third Wednesday of every other month featuring all women musicians.

“Artists were reaching out, telling me, ‘I’ve been looking for something like this,’” Kervabon says. “When the showcase took off, I knew this wasn’t just about me. I needed to find a way to grow it.”

#WomenCrush Music in Portland and beyond

The Portland #WomenCrush showcase is held at The White Eagle, where four acts perform the third Wednesday of every other month. The performers, who range from solo indie-folk singers to rock bands, perform on  a cozy corner stage at the century-old venue. The artists get exposure not only to potential fans, but also to industry professionals like producers, DJs and venue bookers.

Today, #WomenCrush Music has expanded to 15 cities nationwide (including Austin, New Orleans, New York City, Nashville and Los Angeles) with showcases, workshops and promotional opportunities supporting women musicians in various stages of their careers.

“WomenCrush is a way to form community and connect women artists with each other and the industry,” says Kervabon. “People appreciate that we’re building a safe, supportive space for women artists.”

Portland #WomanCrush chapter leader Hannah DiMo performs with her band.

Portland #WomenCrush chapter leader Hannah DiMo performs with her band. Photo by Ashley Anderson.

Building community with #WomenCrush Music

Kingsley, a Portland-based, multi-genre musician, has performed at several #WomenCrush Music showcases. Those experiences have been empowering, she says, helping her build friendships and network with peers. Through #WomenCrush, Kingsley has connected with photographers, collaborated with musicians, and been able to ask more established artists industry-related questions — such as “What is an EPK and how do I make one?” (Answer: It’s an electronic press kit, and Kingsley now creates them for other #WomenCrush artists.

“Representation is important,” says Kingsley. “I work in the concert-producing business and it is disheartening to see that for every women-fronted act, there are about four more men-fronted acts. I’m not saying we need less men; we just need more women. #WomenCrush gives us a platform to get on a stage.”

For singer/songwriter Haley Johnsen, a 2012 American Idol finalist who has performed at two #WomenCrush showcases, the community has become a support system.

“Almost every woman I have met through #WomenCrush I have sat with and shared stories, struggles, breakthroughs, contacts and ideas,” says Johnsen. “I feel more confident knowing that I am not in competition with the other women in the Portland music scene, but in sisterhood.”

#WomenCrush Music resources

A nonprofit organization, #WomenCrush Music is comprised of performers, chapter leaders, a board of directors, and a branding and marketing team. A monthly newsletter shares every chapter’s events, and members connect through the #WCM Facebook page and private chapter groups. The #WCM blog profiles artists and provides insight on topics like vocal health and conquering performance anxiety.

In June 2018, #WomenCrush hosted its first workshop, “Women in Engineering.” The free event featured panelists Agyei Marshall (guitarist with Laryssa Birdseye) and Jeni Wren Stottrup of The Gritty Birds Podcast. The pair discussed the basics of setting up a home studio, from software and gear options to smoothing out vocals and eliminating background noise.

Portland musician S!ege performs at a #WomenCrush showcase at the White Eagle. Photo by Ashley Anderson.

The future of #WomenCrush Music

Kervabon, who recently relocated back to New York, is focusing on funding the organization to enable further expansion. She intends to start a dozen more #WomenCrush chapters by 2020, including one in Mexico. Future goals include producing #WomenCrush festivals, providing recording scholarships and offering accommodations for touring artists.

Portland’s chapter is now led by Hannah DiMo, a modern blues/rock artist who believes that the best path to success is helping other musicians. “#WomenCrush is very accepting of every artist and where they’re at,” says DiMo. “We’re big on helping women who are just starting to write music and women who are on their third album getting ready for tour.”

In addition to their showcase every other month, DiMo wants to start an open mic for emerging female musicians, as well as a showcase of well-established artists. She’s developing a workshop on entertainment law that will mix education, networking and performances by #WomenCrush artists.

DiMo encourages music fans to come out and experience a #WomenCrush showcase. “People show up from all walks of life and all walks of the industry to find out what’s going on with #WomenCrush,” she says. “I’d love to find a way to get you involved in the level that you’re at.”

Learn more at www.womencrushmusic.com or follow @womencrushmusic on Facebook and Instagram.

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