In the latest edition of Music Week we proudly present this year’s expanded Music Week Women In Music Awards Roll Of Honour. Here we speak to new inductee Maria May, agent at CAA…
What does it feel like to be joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?
“I’m honoured and so happy to be joining the Roll Of Honour amongst such a dynamic, hard-working group of women who have collectively changed and enriched the music business for the better. I strongly believe in being a change maker and a force for good and I’ve worked incredibly hard to achieve the things I have. I like to think of myself as a grafter so, 25 years into my musical career, to now be recognised like this is a really special moment for me.”
How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry?
“I blagged my way into everything, often pitching well above my weight but giving it a go anyway, and I was lucky in the most part that people let me make mistakes and supported me in the process. In the roles I had, I learned everything on the job and it was brilliant I got the experiences I did! Of course, I came up against a lot of people saying no or not being taken seriously because I was so young and a woman, and yes I came up against my fair share of sexism as you often did in the ’90s, but somehow I just pushed through and kept going. I was 17 in 1989 when I got my first job in a recording studio and 19 when I started working for The Levellers before becoming a music agent at 23 at International Talent Booking [ITB]. The Levellers taught me about activism, authenticity and being a good role model and trying to change the world a little bit for the better. I have brought that into everything I do since that time.”
Did you have a mentor or role model who helped you?
“I sincerely credit The Levellers with seeing something in me and letting me just get on with it, and I learnt so much about myself and about the business of UK and European touring and what it’s like to be on the road for long periods of time.Later on at ITB, David Levy – who is now at WME – literally taught me how to be an agent and made sure I did well and pushed me to believe in myself and not be too hard on myself either! Another role model in this time was Judy Weinstein at Def Mix Productions who managed David Morales and Frankie Knuckles. I was incredibly lucky to be shown by her how to do business right. I am the agent I am today because of both David Levy’s and Judy Weinstein’s guidance for the first 15 years of my agent career. We are all still great friends to this day and I feel very blessed about this.”
Don’t work for companies that don’t offer you the opportunities you want
What is your biggest achievement so far?
“Still being a successful music agent after all these years – I feel very grateful for the success of all of the artists I have worked on. Live music drives my soul and it’s one of the things which continues to inspire me to do better every day at work. I was lucky in a way because I was one of the first female agents at a major agency with major talent and, certainly in electronic, I was part of building the scene into what it is today. Back then there was no roadmap. It was a very special and unique time in the evolution of the live electronic business. Now, working at CAA for almost a decade, I’m loving every moment of leading the electronic team which we affectionately call ‘Team Disco’.”
What advice would you offer to young female executives?
“Know your worth and demand it. Don’t work for companies who don’t offer you the opportunities you want or the diverse and equal work place you need to be in. Ask in interviews about these things, ask them about their gender parity and diversity. Put yourself in a place which will make you better. Your skills and talents are so needed in organisations so believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Find a mentor and build a solid support network and take care of yourself first.”
And what’s the best advice you’ve received?
“‘If you can’t agent yourself, why are you an agent?’ It was a good question and it was down to my lack of confidence in myself as a young and very inexperienced woman in a hard agency world of men in power. It got me thinking and really helped me start to recognise that negotiating for myself was, at times, very important.”
What’s the big lesson you’ll take from 2020?
“We are in a business of people and we need to support each other and listen to each other even more than ever. The entire music industry remains one of the UK’s vital global exports around the world and so we should be proud enough of this to do all we can to save it. The music business is still less than perfect and the pandemic should not be used as an excuse to go backwards from the positive changes made so far. Moving forward, and hopefully when we are out of this madness, we need to strive to continue to create even better environments for us all to thrive in. Even in times of chaos like this, the time to evolve even further is now.”