Following the enormous success of their event last year, the creative minds behind Women Sound Off are holding the popular festival once again. Women Sound Off emerged as a response to the lack of space for women and especially women of color within the music industry. The enthusiastic response quickly compelled WSO founders Carmena and Vang Elder to expand the festival to all industries with the intent of sharing advice and fostering sisterhood among women of color in a variety of creative and professional fields. The festival showcases many speakers and panels aimed at inspiring participants to achieve their goals, while also providing them with the skills – and hopefully the friends! – to do so. Women Sound Off runs April 5th-7th in Oakland, California.
Cliché: Your event was formerly known as Women in Music. What prompted the name change to Women Sound Off?
Carmena: We noticed that our attendees were people that worked in all industries and wanted to open up the festival to support and celebrate them as well.
Evangeline: There are so many women out there doing amazing things and we want to celebrate their accomplishments and encourage their growth, too. Women Sound Off is really about women across all industries who are hustling just like us.
Cliché also interviewed you when the festival debuted last year! What was the community response like?
Carmena: Our community has grown tremendously. We’re also seeing other groups creating spaces for WOC, and we couldn’t be happier with this. We’ve all been so supportive of each other to push for the ultimate goal of creating community & sisterhood.
Vang: It’s been really amazing to see how many people rally behind our mission and connect to what we’re doing. We’ve also seen our volunteer team become even more involved this year, and many have used the experience they gained with Women Sound Off last year to change their career path all together.
For those who don’t know, explain the inspiration and intention behind Women Sound Off.
Carmena: We were inspired by the lack of attention paid to the women in the music industry. We noticed there weren’t safe spaces for women to let loose and be celebrated, so we came together to create that for Oakland.
Vang: Carmena and I connected initially because we shared the desire to work with more women and celebrate the women working in the industry with us. We felt that this kind of community was really missing in the Bay Area.
Have you kept in touch with any participants from last year? How did the experience alter their perspective as creative artists?
Carmena: We’ve kept in touch with almost all panelists & performers. Many of them have gotten involved this year as well, and have helpful in helping us create another unique experience this year. We definitely see a lot of the artists honing in on their crafts and projects. They have also been so gracious and supportive of the rebranding.
Vang: We had overwhelmingly positive feedback from those who participated in the festival last year. One of the panelists told us it was one of the most rewarding professional experiences she’s had to date. We heard a resounding feedback that it was refreshing to connect with other women in the same industry in such a supportive environment. We’ve also heard that it was a strong reminder of how much their voice matters, especially to other womxn coming up in the industry.
Why is it so crucial to provide women of color their own spaces to network?
Carmena: It’s very rare that events like ours create spaces to actively include women of color or acknowledge intersectionality. We wanted to create that space.
Vang: Because these spaces don’t exist, we need to be our own role models and pass that knowledge on.
What advice would you give to women of color hoping to break into the music industry? Are there any words of wisdom you wish you could’ve given your younger selves?
Carmena: Keep working hard and be resilient to achieve all of your goals. Don’t give up, your time is soon to come. You’re already amazing.
Vang: Disregard the rules. Don’t believe everything you’re told because chances are that a man made the rules. So, question everything and remember that you really have more power than you think, especially when you’re charting uncharted territory.
On that note, the festival also features several speakers and panels. How did you go about selecting these women? What sort of guidance can they offer?
Carmena: Our Artist Relations does an amazing job at scouting womxn off season and meeting monthly in the planning session to do outreach. We also use our network to fulfill our tiers. All womxn we selected are badasses in their respective industries and can offer sound advice, inspiration, and encouragement to take the world head on.
What can we expect from the festival this year?
Carmena: You can expect to be blown away by the informative panels, dope experiences, and performances at WSO Concert. We’ve brought in women from all over the country to rejuvenate your energy so you and crush the rest of the year.
Vang: You can expect to tap into a beautiful community of womxn and leave inspired with tangible skills to help you tackle your goals. Plus, you’ll leave with some new friends to help support you along the way.