Business Interviews

Q&A: Sarah Joy & Joanie Eaton, Babelogue

By | Published on Thursday 17 November 2016


New label and management company Babelogue launches this week, with a focus on improving gender equality in the music industry.

Set up by Sarah Joy, who by day works for ATC Live, and Joanie Eaton, who works for Domino Records, the company is entirely staffed by women and will work exclusively with female-fronted acts. They kick things off with Yassassin, who release their new single ‘Pretty Face’ tomorrow.

CMU’s Andy Malt spoke to Joy and Eaton to find out more about the company.

AM: What is the ethos of Babelogue?
SJ: Our core mission statement is to help female musicians find encouragement and place for their music. As we’re both young women working in the music industry, we know how difficult it is to push through barriers so we created Babelogue to help do that. Instead of managing acts for gain and trying to squeeze them for profit, our ethos is about respect, collaboration with great people, the creative process and helping more women achieve success within the music profession.

AM: What prompted you to set up Babelogue, and when did you first start working on the idea?
SJ: We’ve both attended various women in music events and whilst it is a great way to network, it felt like a natural progression to work on tangible in the same vein. The idea was floated in January and by May we had signed our first band, Yassassin, for management. We now have the label to set up to run parallel and the rest is history.

JE: I think after seeing so many of the festival line-ups so heavily male dominated last year and also how Amber Coffman spoke out against Heathcliff Berru, it really started in fire in us. We wanted to feel a little more stretched and challenged too – we wanted to be making a difference and see if we could work on things independently, using the skills we’d gained in the industry and put them to good use! For me, I wanted to be right in the heat of it all. I just don’t want girls in bands to be known as ‘a girl band’ just because they’re women in a band; it’s just not the same for a man. Gender isn’t a genre of music.

AM: What are your backgrounds in the music industry?
JE: From about sixteen years old, I started writing for music magazines and websites – I feel like my friends were super bored of me chewing their ear off about gigs we’d go to so I decided to make some good use of my thoughts and pen it a little.

After Uni, I began working a crappy job in retail and started to feel a little fed up that I wasn’t making the most of myself. Those points of realisation always spur huge moments of motivation. I hounded a bunch of labels and one of my favourites (Domino) came back to me. After a few meetings, they offered me a job on their international department. I’d never worked in an office before let alone at a label, but I worked super hard, became really engaged with every department and within a year I worked my way up to become a Junior Product Manager.

SJ: I come predominately from a live background, having started on Station Sessions at St Pancras International for a few years and then moving into management with Neneh Cherry and bookings with This Is Now Agency. I continue to work for Neneh and have recently joined ATC Live. The live sector is really the world I come from but I’ve always wondered why a label and a booking agency couldn’t work more collaboratively.

AM: What barriers did you face as women trying to break into the music industry?
SJ: You just have to look at the statistics; only 16% of PRS members are female, only five women have ever won the Mercury Prize, the gender split in music is 67.8% male to 32.2% female. How many times have female music workers been called groupies? How many female musicians patronised by soundmen? How many girls are on that festival line-up? There is still a lot to do.

JE: We want to focus on what we can do now and how we can change things, educate and inform to build equality within the industry. I’m super proud to work at a label where the ratio of men and women is pretty much equal. It’s an incredible working environment to be part of for so many reasons and I just want that to continue to progress for the entire industry.

AM: Is the music industry at large doing enough to remove barriers? What more could it be doing?
SJ: It is improving, granted, but still a lot to be done. PRS are doing a lot with their Women Make Music fund, as are networking groups such as SheSaidSo and movements like Girls Against. I think these things need to be publicised and lauded until equality gets rightfully ingrained into our society.

JE: There is still a way to go and we want to be a part of that.

AM: What’s next for Babelogue?
SJ: At the moment Yassassin are gearing up for an EP next year, which we will release digitally and physically. They are in the studio with the wonderful Dave Allen who produced The Cure and Depeche Mode records. Beyond that we’re looking to launch a club night with Yassassin and also grow as a company! We even have a bank account now.

JE: We’re getting our businesswoman hats ready.

You can catch Yassasin live tonight supporting Virgin Kids at Camden Assembly Hall, or headlining the Lock Tavern in Camden on 1 Dec. They are also set to play the Heavenly Records New Year’s Eve party.

Watch the video for ‘Pretty Face’ here: