Crash the Party: How Women Can Force Change From the Ground Up 

What if we could game the system in our favor? What if we systematically create so much demand that we are not only not ignored, but we take our power back and switch priorities for the long-haul? 

What follows is a series of posts to help navigate a sometimes uninviting industry. Each post will build on the one before it, but also stand alone as individual thoughts. Discussion is encouraged. 


Female musicians, songwriters, producers, composers, and industry professionals face an uphill battle from the moment they take their first step toward their goals. I. Could. Fill. This. Blog. with data to back it up, too. But you already know the challenges that lay ahead, so let’s skip to the part where we start solving problems. 

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow’s suggestion that women are not creating great work is just not true - but our ideas are often highjacked by men and used as their own. Just this week I found that a Cleveland band who has seen far more success than me, put out a record that included two songs titled very similar to mine. One is exactly the same. Coincidence? Could be. But given our proximity in the scene, it’s likely that at minimum, my song made its way into their subconscious. Similarly, a friend of mine once texted along the lines of “I wrote this great chorus melody for a song but then I realized it is your melody for 'I Want You'.” To his credit, he offered praise and didn’t go any further with using the melody. Creativity is often about borrowing ideas, but the waters become muddied when there is a long history of men getting credit for a woman’s idea. A-bro-priation, if you will. 

So what can you do? Be loud about your contributions. Ask your male counterparts to be loud about your contributions, too. When I share that I wrote a particular song, I make sure to mention that I wrote all of the music, as well as the lyrics because women are too often assumed to be the lyric writer only. And I make sure to share just how much of the final version of a song I tracked myself, at my home studio. This feels like bragging the first few times you do it, but I promise it is not. It has become vital to my identity that I rightfully claim my own work. 

Being loud about your contributions doesn’t necessarily mean you’re screaming. Both a visual artist and musician, Jenna Fournier of Nights does a great job sharing her skills and creations on her Instagram account, at barely above a whisper. Whether your confidence shows up as modest or arrogant, do what is natural for you. Create social media content that celebrates your songwriting process. Be authentic but never shy. There is more than enough room for all of us to thrive.

4 Songwriting Tips You Haven't Heard 

Make Space 

Everyone knows that in order to excel at anything, you must make time for it. Just as important is making space. Years ago, I rented out a practice space for my band. The room was not heated or cooled. All four sides were carpeted with samples from every decade in the last century and shared a wall with the bathroom. If you weren’t playing, you could hear every last drop of pee. This did little for our creative process. If we were a young punk band or a hip-hop group telling stories of hardship, maybe this “vibe” would have worked. But we were not that band. We literally marketed ourselves with the phrase “sun-soaked indie rock.” 

Your creative space should suit your style and should itself be inspiring, not a deterrent forcing you to quit practice because you can’t feel your fingers anymore. This is easier said than done in a world where musicians are barely scraping by on merch sales, but there are plenty of inexpensive tricks. Start with the essentials - your gear arranged for low-effort setup, a heat or cooling source, and creature comforts nearby. Then, work on the vibe. If you create EDM, buy a cheap strip of color change LED lights to make your room feel like the future. Classic Rock? Posters. Country or americana? Head to the thrift store for old, heavy items like a wooden chest to give your space a generational feel. And candles. Always with the candles. 


Cover a Song From Another Galaxy

You’re putting in the time to fine-tune your skills and now you have the right space, but how do you add depth to your songwriting tool box? Try covering a song in a genre other than your own. I recently played a Songwriter In the Round event in which we were asked to play songs in various categories. My favorite category was covering another Cleveland-based band and I chose a song from my friends in The Commonwealth

If similar-sounding songs found their homes on distinct planets within in a solar system, “3D Printed Gun” is in a completely different galaxy. Covering this song pushed me to think differently about storytelling and structure, and perhaps most noticeably, about crafting more subtle mini-hooks rather than the anthemic sing-along hooks that come more naturally to me. To really add depth to your writing, make this exercise a monthly habit. 


Co-write with Strangers

Some songwriters thrive on the focus and consistency that comes with solo writing sessions. When writing alone, clarity and execution of vision is much more easily achieved than when you’re with your band and your drummer decides that the verse needs a Neil Peart-inspired warm-up routine. But just like covering a song outside of your world, co-writing can break the monotony and inspire a new story. Sometimes what you’ll create is crap, but work through the crap anyway. You might not have a hit on your hands, but in the failure you’ll find new perspective. For that next-level challenge, write with a stranger and a time limit. 


Find Your People 

How often do you think “when I get home, I’ll write a new song” but then you start watching videos on space and the claims of flat-Earthers, and then re-awaken two hours later on the heels of a Twitter tirade? If the only person holding you accountable for progress is you, find an accountability partner. It’s unbelievably easy to make excuses for yourself, but you’re far less likely to excuse bad behavior when someone is counting on you and vise versa. Find someone you trust who is strong in the areas you are weak and make cool shit together. If you’re new to the scene and are looking to partner up, the best way to meet candidates and likely lifelong buds, is by going to shows and mingling in between sets. Be bold but not too eager. 

My primary accountability partner (engineer and producer Jim Stewart) and I crafted this superhero sized anthem, “Outlaw.”