During this year’s Women In Music Awards, we inducted a further 14 game-changing industry executives (including two posthumous awards) into the Roll Of Honour, in association with TikTok.
They join the pantheon of previous honourees, including some of the biggest names in the business, from Emma Banks and Sarah Stennett to Kanya King, Rebecca Allen and Stacey Tang, that have been selected since the awards began in 2014.
The Roll Of Honour aims to highlight the breadth, depth and variety of individuals who are game-changers in the music industry, with their activities consistently benefiting women, or focusing on empowerment/gender disparity.
Following the Women In Music Awards ceremony, Music Week is running Q&A interviews with all of this year’s Roll Of Honour inductees.
Indy Vidyalankara is a communications professional with a diverse career spanning over two decades across music, media and third sector. She is the founder of Indypendent PR, a boutique music PR, communication brand, and diversity consultancy, as well as part-time head of communications at award-winning talent development organisation and charity Tomorrow’s Warriors.
Here, Indy Vidyalankara opens up about industry achievements, mentors and offers advice for the next generation of executive talent...
How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?
“It’s humbling actually, because having been in the industry for over two decades, mostly in the corporates like Sony Music and Radio 1, you have to wait your turn. Women have to wait in line for recognition. Not that any of us are waiting, we are just getting on with it, never really thinking someone might notice and appreciate us. That is until the Music Week Women In Music awards came along! Thank you, Music Week, for filling a much-needed gap. So now being ‘Indypendent’, (the name of my business), getting this recognition is amazing and wonderful, because in another way, being independent and noticed for your contribution has its own challenges. So, thank you Music Week!”
How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry?
“I have had a few career pivots before I came to music. Looking back, I was fortunate on my entry into the industry, because it was people I knew in my network, that allowed me to get the introduction to get an interview at Sony Music. It didn’t work straight away, but I persisted, and I followed and asked to work for free, or even shadow people. Thankfully, I never had to work for free, and I know what a privilege that is. Before I joined Columbia Records as a press officer, I was a ‘suit’ working in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi. I was unhappy, unfulfilled and conflicted and I just knew I had to do something I loved, and that love was working in the music business.”
Did you have a mentor at that stage?
“I didn’t really have a mentor in my early music industry career. There weren’t really many women of colour, women that looked like me in high level, aspirational roles in the music business back then. But the few that were, were proper warrior women, and hugely influential and inspirational, people like Kanya King and Lorna Clarke. When I worked in advertising, I had come through the graduate training programme, through the backdoor in fact. I had been a PA, so not the usual route, and my male boss at the time saw something in me and wanted to help me progress and helped open doors for me. To this day I am really grateful for him and that’s why I really believe in male allies. Men have a major role in using their privilege and standing with and behind women, they have a major part to play in gender equality. Now I do have an unofficial mentor in Paulette Long, she is absolutely amazing, and her friendship, support, and wise counsel is something I’m very grateful for. I also love working with Janine Irons, the co-founder and CEO of Tomorrow’s Warriors, I respect her so much and all she has achieved across 30 years of leading the organisation, she is an absolute powerhouse!”
What’s your biggest achievement so far?
“Setting up my own business Indypendent PR was absolutely huge for me. After 20 years of being in corporate life, I really admired people who did it, but never really believed it was something I could achieve. The idea of building my own client base and going it alone used to be quite a scary concept, but when I finally did, it was the best thing I ever did! It dawned on me that by working for myself, I was in a position to really be a contribution to the industry, to choose who I worked with and carve out my next chapter. I wanted to have fulfilment, a purpose and ‘put back in’, rather than ‘take out’ of the industry.
"I’m really grateful for the opportunity to use my skills and experience to work with incredible, creative, and purpose driven artists and organisations. Core to this has been heading up Comms for music charities like Help Musicians in launching their Music Minds Matter mental health service, as well as working with black run and black led organisations that make a difference like Tomorrow’s Warriors, the Richard Antwi Scholarship and Girls I Rate with Carla Marie Williams. Only when I was ‘Indypendent’ did I get the chance to sit on two high profile industry diversity boards like the UK Music Diversity Taskforce and the BPI Equity and Justice Advisory Group, as well as join charity boards at Parents In Performing Arts and Midi Music Company. Who knew that going it alone means I now have my seat at the table? Today the music industry is so much more diverse, and a dynamic place to work and thrive in, but the inequities are prevalent, just less overt, much more digging is needed to find out the root cause of the gaps and barriers that exist for women and diverse talent.”
What advice would you offer young women about enjoying a successful career in music?
“Boundaries! Having a balance in work and life is really important. We women are very much doers, cracking on, getting shit done. But slowing down and taking time to reflect is really important. We can love our job but have very little opportunity to think about whether we are happy and what we could change to open up new possibilities. Aligning with your purpose in your career creates a huge shift. As a mother, I would say to other industry mums out there to keep a chunk of time away from your main hustle. After having my kids, I never gave anyone 100% of my time, I kept some of that time for my side hustle and my home life.
"Also, it’s important to have your allies with you. Peers, associates, and senior people who you really trust and connect with, who have your back and you have theirs. Thankfully, we are seeing a real culture shift in the industry where people’s wellbeing and diversity is being made a priority, where inclusion means that underrepresented voices are starting to be heard and opportunities are being created and investment being made. But there is still a lot of work to be done, as exemplified by the recent Black Lives In Music report and the UK Music Diversity Taskforce’s report and subsequent Ten-Point Plan.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever had?
“Actually, it was a piece of advice that I didn’t take on that really made a difference for me! After setting up Indypendent PR, someone said that I needed to specialise, that I needed to decide whether I would offer corporate PR or consumer and artist PR, because I couldn’t do both. How wrong they were! It’s not just a cliché that women can multi-task. We do lots of things and we’re not defined by one thing. I’m a mother and business owner. A corporate comms specialist and artist PR. Someone once told me it’s all about the side hustle, and it truly is, the side hustle is usually what you love. Another piece of advice I liked was that becoming a mother could help me become a better leader. Never a truer word!”
What’s your biggest lesson from 2021 so far?
“It’s starting to look like things are going back to normal, we are returning to the office, live events are back, and it’s becoming business as usual. We could be coming through the major challenges that the music industry faced through the lockdown, but I’ve learned to never be complacent, as there is still a lot of uncertainty and things can turn quite quickly. As we learned this year, things were particularly challenging for self-employed people, people of colour, women, and mums. I stand at all of those intersections. So, this year, I have started investing and planning my finances properly.”