Singer-songwriter Laura B. Whitmore is no stranger to the double standards in the music industry, and she has spent her career trying to change that. She realized, after all these years, she didn’t know many of her fellow female artists. And when she would meet them, they were in the same situation. But what could Whitmore do? She created her own network of female musicians and industry professionals to help support and teach each other.
The Women’s International Music Network (WiMN) was formed in 2012 to create a sort of hub for all resources a woman in the music/audio industry could need. It’s all about connecting. Through WiMN, Whitmore created the She Rocks Awards. January 26 marks the sixth annual award show honoring female musicians and industry professionals. When we spoke to Whitmore, the final honorees had not been announced. With this year’s show closing in, the final names include: Pat Benatar, Melisssa Etheridge, and Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson of The B-52’s.
Whitmore opened up about her music, her Berklee dreams, and all things She Rocks.
You are a singer-songwriter at heart, tell us about your journey with that.
I’ve been a singer-songwriter since I was a teenager. I had to put it to the side when I had kids and all, but I’m starting to get back into it. Since they’ve grown up a little I’ve been able to make some time for writing. I’ve been writing and co-writing for an album by Jenna Paone, shopping that around. It’s an album of strong, girl power songs for teenage girls. And I’ve decided to release my own album I wrote about two years ago. I’m tweaking a few things, but it should be out in February.
I make it a point to put myself out there and still play. I’ll play open mic nights or wherever I can. I just want to connect with people through music. It keeps me out of my comfort zone.
You have such a passion for playing. Why did you end up going to school for Music Merchandising and Marketing instead?
I grew up in Massachusetts and I really wanted to go to Berklee. This was in the early ‘80s. Both of my parents were in business, so they were like “no way, you’re not going to music school.” So we compromised by finding a music business program. And back then, there weren’t many schools offering the program. Maybe three or four, it was still a new concept. When I found out about it, I was thrilled because it was like being a music major with a business minor. It has really served me well over the years. But sometimes I still wish I could have gone to Berklee. I’m currently taking online classes through Berklee, so it’s kind of scratching that itch.
Being a woman in the music industry, you know as well as anyone how tough it can be and how women are sometimes overlooked. Is that what led you to form The Women’s International Music Network (WiMN) and hold the She Rocks Awards?
Yeah, I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years now. It got to a point a few years in, probably about six or seven years ago, where I realized I didn’t really know the other women in the industry. It didn’t feel like there were many of us, compared to the men. During that time, I was writing a blog for Guitar World focusing on female guitar players. I was interviewing so many female players, and I realized there isn’t a voice for these women. I heard a lot of stories from women saying people thought they were the merch girl or people would think they couldn’t set up their own gear. A lot of the stuff we still hear today, but I hope that we are more aware of who each other are and what’s going on. I formed the Women’s International Music Network (WiMN) in 2012, and I was thinking of doing an event to bring the women together. Maybe it was a selfish thing because I wanted to get to know all the women in the industry. We launched the She Rocks Awards in January 2013; it started off as a breakfast during the NAMM show. It would bring in about 200 to 250 people. It was just nice to meet people, hear their stories, and give some awards to amazing women. It just grew from there.
With all of it, WiMN has really grown too. We started out as a home for the She Rocks Awards, and then started highlighting other women’s stories. We interview a new woman every week on the site, along with post events. We’ve grown to have multiple correspondents submitting information and interviewing people. It’s become a great outlet to find out about women in the industry and what they’re doing. That organization has grown into what I hope can be a valuable resource for women in music and audio.
What can people attending the 2018 She Rocks Awards expect?
There are a few honorees we haven’t announced yet but so far we have five members of the band Fanny. I’ve met them in the past, and they are just so inspiring. They were this pioneering, all female, girl band way before anybody else was doing that. We have Exene from the band X, whose an amazing spirit. There was recently an exhibit at The Grammy Museum on them. We also have a lot of women from the industry like Candace Stewart from Eastwest Studios, Dawn Birr from Sennheiser. There’s Fabi Reyna whose editor in chief at She Shreds Magazine. That’s another magazine blossoming, and doing amazing things for women in guitar. We have Lisa Loeb, and Karla Redding-Andrews from The Otis Redding Foundation.
We just try to spread it out and honor people from all parts of the industry. We want to make everyone feel as important as a rock star. Kat Corbett from KROQ is my co-host. She and I will be up there running the event, which will be very fun. I just recently met her, and she’s so funny.
Before we finish, if you could tell your younger self something, what would it be?
Oh my gosh, there are so many things. How many do you want to hear!? I was really down back then. I think the first thing I would say would be to do things even if you’re afraid. I feel like my younger self was too afraid to put myself out there, and I probably missed out on a lot opportunities because of that. I would say that it’s ok to be afraid, but do it. I didn’t have a lot of self confidence when I was younger. I feel like I let a lot of other people define me, lot of them were men. Over the years I’ve realized I can define myself.
The She Rocks Awards will be held at The House of Blues Anaheim, January 26. Award show kicks off at 6:30pm. Tickets to attend are still available at thewinm.com.