Ambition & Impact: an Interview with SheSaid.So founder Andreea Magdalina

Words by Caroline Whiteley

Andreea Magdalina has always been a doer. Growing up in Romania, she was on a path towards law school when she decided to rebel against this more traditional high achiever’s trajectory by moving to London, completing a media degree and working her way up to become the first-ever Head of Community at Mixcloud. By 2014, she should have felt on top of the world. She was in a senior position at one of the most exciting startups working at the intersection of two fields she felt passionately about: music and technology. 

But Magdalina noticed that, while both fields seemed disparate in so many ways, the one thing they undoubtedly had in common was a lack of women in leadership positions. Most of the people she corresponded with on a day-to-day basis were women, however, the ultimate decision makers tended to almost exclusively be white men. When a meeting with one of the leading media organisations in the UK (where she was, once again, “surrounded by middle–aged white men in suits”) left her feeling silenced and shut out, she sprung into action. 

The result is SheSaid.So, a support network of women and gender minorities from all sectors of the music industry that, over the course of seven years, counts over ten thousand members and has opened 21 local chapters across the world. SheSaid.So’s influencing power on the music industry is actionable and tangible: over 250 members have found jobs through the community’s internal job board, and they’ve launched a mentorship scheme called she.grows, connecting industry veterans with young members who are at the beginning of their careers.

2022 is shaping up to be a big year for SheSaid.So. In February, Magdalina announced the return of their popular Google group, the channel of communication SheSaid.So first originated from. For the first time ever, the group would expand to include members of their ALLIES tier on Patreon, which includes people of all genders, companies, and collectives that are aligned with SheSaid.So’s mission.

We dialled up Magdalina from her home in LA, where she’s been living for the past seven years, to discuss these changes to the platform, what it now encompasses, its mission, and recent developments in the music industry. 

Also, if you want to learn more about how community-driven networks like SheSaidSo, Black Artist Database and Refuge Worldwide have activated their supporters through Patreon, listen back to the full discussion between B.A.D.’s Oscar Atanga, Richard Akingehin of Refuge Worldwide, and SheSaidSo’s Nikki McNeill at London’s AVA Festival 2022 right here.

When you started the Google group in London seven years ago, did you imagine at the time that it would become such a strong force in the industry?

Oh, no, not at all. I mean, of course, I had the ambition that it would have an impact. But I never thought it would go beyond a few people that I knew. And so it was a beautiful surprise and challenge, at the same time, to create something that ends up impacting more people than you thought. After growing for several years, I was faced with the challenge of figuring out how to maintain this and how to make it work, you know, financially, logistically, and operationally speaking. Now that we have this global group of women that are activated, what do we do with it? It still is a beautiful journey for me, and maintaining the community has almost become my full time occupation.

What is SheSaid.So’s core mission? 

I just updated our mission statement for 2022, which manifests in four pillars. The first one is access. We want to provide industry access, through job listings, networking, and mentorship. Our second pillar is intersectionality. We want to address the gender gap through an intersectional lens focusing on women and gender minorities, who experience additional discrimination through their race, sexuality, or physical ability. The third one is visibility, which we achieve through our educational content featuring women and gender minorities in technical and decision-making roles, raising awareness for the various roles that are available in the music industry, and featuring artists through our creative projects. And the fourth pillar is collaboration; we want to encourage collaboration and offer mutual support between all genders with a focus on allyship from our male peers.

You recently opened up the Google messaging board to Patreon supporters from your ALLIES tier, which includes men. What led you to make that decision?

When I embarked on this journey with She Said.So, I knew that connecting women with each other was only going to be the first step. At the time, I felt like we weren’t really supporting each other as women. And if we weren’t supporting each other first, nobody else was going to do that.

SheSaid.So created a strong united voice for women and gender minorities in music to be heard, which applied the necessary pressure on the industry to take diversity and inclusion seriously. It was important to create that first step awareness at a time when it wasn’t addressed in the media, when it wasn’t really being discussed internally within companies, or externally in public facing platforms.

Now that we’ve achieved this first awareness stage, we felt like, if we just continue with that, we would end up creating this echo chamber where we’re preaching to the choir. When, in fact, we do know that the challenges that we’re experiencing as women or any other underrepresented genders is because of a certain group that holds all the power. Ultimately, we need to work with people belonging to that group, get them on board, make them understand that this is not just ‘a women’s issue’ or an ‘LGBTQ+’ issue, but that it takes all of us. It’s a cultural, societal issue that will take all of us to do whatever work is necessary. Addressing this challenge looks differently for different people, but it’s on all of us to build a more equitable, equal industry for all.

What was the feedback from the community?

Overall positive. Every year we run a member survey posing different questions that help us understand what the community wants. We’ve asked this question a few times and every time the general consensus was, yes, we should figure out a way to get men involved in the mission while still keeping a safe space exclusively for women and gender minorities, where we can have discussions in a safer environment before we bring it to the world. That’s why we decided to bring back the Google group and open it up to our male peers. But on our Patreon page we still have a private space for our women and gender minority members.

What are some of the challenges of running a project like SheSaid.So?

I started SheSaid.So as a passion project in London and people voluntarily raised their hands and said that they wanted to be a part of this in some shape or form, and that they wanted to create a version of it for their respective cities. 

Now, after a few years of this organic growth, you get to a point where you need to transition from the volunteer phase into something with more structure and accountability – while still maintaining a sense of flexibility and a way for people to volunteer their time to develop creative projects of their own. Right now, we are going through a bit of a transition with the global core team. It’s been very UK-focused because that’s where SheSaid.So was born and where I lived for seven years when I got my start in music. But after having lived in the US for seven years now, I’ve decided to embrace the fact that I’m here, expand the SheSaid.So network in the US and focus a bit more on developing our existing projects here. So, with that I’m rebuilding the core global team to be split between the US, the UK, and Europe. I’m still in the middle of that exercise, and I’m figuring out what’s the best way to structure this within the available resources – which aren’t plenty. When you’re running an enterprise like SheSaid.So in a B-Corp {Benefit Corporation} way, you always have to balance things out between growth and reinvesting any sort of surplus money back into developing projects that either provide resources directly for members, or furthers the mission long term.

Do you feel like there are certain types of roles in the music industry that SheSaid.So has had a particularly strong impact on?

I would say that we had a pretty big impact on the electronic music space, overall. And that is also partly because, at the beginning of SheSaid.So, I had a lot more contacts in the electronic music industry than in other genres. As a result, we developed partnerships with artists, with conferences, and stakeholders in that field. Can I say that we’ve had an impact on specific sectors within electronic music? That’s much more difficult to quantify. There is no data on it, and I keep getting asked by various people if there are any statistics on female producers, or engineers, or women on the business side of things. There are some studies, but they’re not complete.

One of the projects we’ve been trying to support – which is run by a woman who has a publishing company in New York – was to force record labels and publishers to submit gender data when they ingest music into the metadata systems. We’re trying to get them to introduce gender as a data point that you have to submit when you’re uploading your songs to be released. And even that is such a difficult thing to achieve online. Without that, how do you even go about having a more accurate measurement of where our industry is at, when it comes to diversity?

In an interview with the LA times in December, Insecure creator Issa Rae called the music industry “probably the worst industry I’ve ever come across”. The quote made the rounds on social media, so I’m curious to hear your reaction when you read it? 

I was like, ‘Yes, thank you for saying it!’ Nobody in music had the balls to say it, because a majority of the successful people in music fall in that category, you know? The reason they became successful was because they stole from artists, they gave artists a bad deal. Unfortunately, it’s the truth. There’s a lot of bad apples in music that ruin it for everybody else. The music industry really feels like the one percent versus the rest of the world. I mean, look at the music streaming data, 0.7% of artists receive 90% of the payouts from Spotify. It’s insane. 

I think that’s why a lot of people, me included, are excited about the Web 3.0 space, because, finally, we have some technology, some tools that force a more equitable distribution of revenue off of pieces of creative work – whether that’s in music or visual art. 

What are some of the things that you’re excited about this year with SheSaid.So?

We’re about to announce a really exciting activation for International Women’s History Month where we’ll be curating a series of live content, live interviews and DJ sets from four cities in the US and in Mexico City. 

Over the last seven years, we’ve achieved a lot during this initial awareness stage and now we’re moving into the solutions phase. We’ve already engaged in things like mentoring and recruitment, and we’re also trying to experiment with more creative projects this year. Producing creative content and working with artists in creative ways that still further our mission, you know. And that’s something I’m particularly excited about, because it brings me back to my original ambitions as a professional. I was never really planning to be an activist, I guess nobody is. It’s a different type of work that you have to do and it took me away from what I initially set out to do, which is to work at the intersection of music and technology. So, now I have the opportunity to operate in that space while still touching on topics that are very much in service to the SheSaid.So mission.

Caroline Whiteley is a writer, editor, and DJ currently based in Berlin. Her work has been published by Resident Advisor, Crack Magazine, Electronic Beats, Fact, and many more.