Image by: Jahnay Fyffe
From the earliest days of her now multi-hyphenated career in the music industry, Sian Anderson has made mentorship a key part of her work. She has constantly kept young aspiring creatives at the heart of her personal brand; having managed to navigate music journalism, radio, PR and marketing – all to major success. As the number of people reaching out grew beyond her own capacity, Anderson delved deeper into her networks. The launch of One True Calling, a mentorship scheme in collaboration with friend and DJ Julie Adenuga came first, and was followed up last year by FLOOR SIXX Music Academy, a programme giving 40 young people industry experience in everything from music journalism to videography.
Today, the BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ launches Nexxt Step: Women in Music, a new mentorship initiative in partnership with the London Mayor’s Office, as part of its ongoing #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign. The women’s equality campaign launched back in January, marking the centenary of the suffragette movement. Nexxt Step however, spearheaded by Anderson, will focus specifically on emerging BAME women artists in the capital, developing their talent and helping progress their careers in music.
Anderson’s own career stands is a clear success story, testament to just where a grind of over 10 years, developing an unmatched industry skill set, can land you. The blogger, then journalist, then DJ and short-time TV presenter, founded her own PR company Sightracked back in 2011. From here she garnered the attention of major labels, and while lending her expertise as a consultant at Warner Music, helped to launch the careers of names such like Wiley, Jess Glynn and Charlie XCX. I sat down with Sian at Warner Music’s London HQ – where she now heads up her own label, Saint Music under Parlophone Records – to speak about her commitment to mentorship, and why this new project means so much to her.
gal-dem: You’ve been mentoring from the very start your career, but what was the motivation behind beginning your first formal mentorship programme?
Sian Anderson: The name itself came as a response to people saying that you can only do one thing. When you go through the educational system, and when you’ve come out the other side, you’re supposed to find a job in just one thing – and that’s your “one true calling”. Me and Julie [Adenuga] didn’t believe that. We believe in try[ing] everything. The project itself was set up in a way that brought people together, and put them through everything. You might have wanted to be a journalist, but you were doing the videography course whether you liked it or not.
There aren’t many mentorship programmes willing to do that, to actively open participants to a range of disciplines rather than specialising. How did they respond?
It’s so interesting. So many people came to us wanting to do one thing, and are now doing another. One of the girls that came to us wanting to be a journalist, is now a presenter on Reprezent Radio. And that’s exactly what we wanted it to be! At first, I thought I wanted to be a journalist, and then I sat in a couple of offices and realised – no I don’t.
What did you want to do?
I wanted to be out there! Discovering things and then writing about them! But a lot of places aren’t like that. And there were some places that said, “You can’t write for us because you don’t have a degree.” I thought, so who are you going to get to write about the young black kid from Forest Hill? How are you telling our stories? It was just important for us that One True Calling was a place people could come, see what different areas of the industry were really like, and decide for themselves whether or not it was for them.
What was the motivation behind launching Nexxt Step?
The Mayor’s Office got in contact with me, initially asking me to be an ambassador for a similar project, and I thought it sounded exactly what FLOOR SIXX was already about – so suggested we just collaborate. But the project was specifically around 100 years of some women getting the vote, and specifically wanting to focus on BAME women. The brief was specific, and rightly so. The people we’re targeting here – BAME women in music – they need something for them. This is for a specific group of women who aren’t normally listened to and don’t normally get opportunities.
At the end of the project, what do you hope for these young women to have gained?
Friendship. More than anything. I want them to be able to lean on each other, and speak to each other, and learn together, because they’ll all be in the same boat. Being in music is hard. Being a woman in music is hard. Being BAME woman in music? Jesus.
Nexxt Step: Women in Music is now open to applications from BAME women aged 18-24 living across London. If you’ve already actively started making music – performing at open mics or shows, releasing freestyles digitally or on social media – send in an application. elected artists will participate in a four-week studio based mentoring programme at Warner Music, under the wings of Sian and an array of industry professionals, singers and songwriters. The project will culminate in the #BehindEveryGreatCity EP, a collection of tracks produced by each of the artists. They can also expect to perform their work at two headline shows at London’s XOYO this November in a line-up curated by Sian, and littered with artists she describes as “established women of power. All of the women that probably got told ‘no.’ I want these young women to see that they can stand up with the greats, and the greats will stand alongside them.”
Applications are open now, and close on 20th September