Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Jess Kangalee, founder, Good Energy PR

Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Jess Kangalee, founder, Good Energy PR

During this year’s Women In Music Awards, we inducted game-changing industry executives (including one posthumous award) 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, Sarah Stennett, Rebecca Allen to Kanya King, Stacey Tang, Charisse Beaumont and Mary Anne Hobbs, who 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 trailblazers 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.

Jess Kangalee is the founder and director of broadcast media promotions company Good Energy PR. 

With 15 years of experience working in promotions across artists, events and festivals, Kangalee founded Good Energy PR in 2019 with a specific ethos – a holistic approach to inclusion, creating space and promoting marginalised artists across broadcast media platforms. Good Energy is the only QPOC-run broadcast media PR company in the UK that prioritises multi-genre artists that are queer and/or people of colour. Its current roster features acts like Big Joanie, Cakes Da Killa, Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul, Grove, Future Bubblers, The Linda Lindas, Moor Mother, Mykki Blanco, Rochelle Jordan, Tokimonsta, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Yazmin Lacey, to name a few. 

Throughout her career, Kangalee has worked across a huge variety of acts, including Bombay Bicycle Club, Caribou, M83, Metronomy, Moses Sumney, Phoebe Bridgers, Run The Jewels, Serpentwithfeet and Sharon Van Etten and Lovebox, Green Man, Wilderness and Citadel festivals, amongst others. 

In addition to Good Energy, she has also worked in a consulting and supportive capacity across AIM, Black Music Coalition, Women In Ctrl, UK Music and is a mentor via Ilikenetworking and Power Up, and this year she was nominated for AIM’s Music Entrepreneur Of The Year, and was included in She Said So’s 2020 Alt List.  

How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?

“It’s brilliant to be included in this year’s Roll of Honour, I’m happy to have the opportunity to celebrate alongside several inductees who have created change in the UK music industry and to follow on from previous inductees who I have long respected. I was nominated by someone who I deeply admire and who has been integral to my journey over the last few years, so it feels good to know that I’ve made them proud.”

How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry?

“I had some amazing experiences during the earlier years of my career – like running the broadcast PR for Lovebox festival – but a lot of my early years were marred by negative and harmful experiences. I never truly had a voice until I decided to create my own company, I was consistently silenced, held back from progression and put down. And the enormous lack of diversity and representation in the sector of the industry I came up in bred a normalised culture of racism, misogyny, sexism, queerphobia, sexual assault and abuse. These experiences now fuel me and it’s become my mission to change the industry culture and standard of practice so that future generations have healthy and safe environments, with better access and routes for progression and equity. 

“Because of the exploitative patterns of treatment many women of colour face in the music industry as well as there [being] a lack of visible role models and peers that I could identify with for a large portion of my career, I never thought I could be a business owner. I have managed to move through these experiences though and create a business which has inclusion, representation, holistic strategy and care at the core of its ethos. When I made the decision to start my own company, it allowed me to create something that fully stands for my ethics and morals, and I did it without having to compromise my integrity or beliefs. More than anything I hope that sharing a small part of my story could serve as an example that it is possible to overcome huge adversity and build a successful, completely self-funded business by doing things your own way.”

Did you have a mentor coming up through the industry?  

“I’ve never had a proper mentor, but mentorship is something that I’m incredibly passionate about and actively engage in now that I’m in the position to do so – I’ve worked with a couple of great mentorship schemes and done several 1-2-1 mentorships. During the pandemic, I attended a virtual Women In CTRL talk featuring Jasmine Dotiwala as the guest speaker, where she discussed the importance and benefits of co-mentorship, and it’s something I’ve been encouraging ever since. I think it’s especially important to have co-mentorship for people who have various protected characteristics and that are from marginalised communities. For myself as a queer, chronically ill, first-generation immigrant, neurodiverse, person of colour, I want to be able to use my knowledge and lived experiences to help people that don’t feel they have a network of support or feel alienated in the industry.”

You’ve forged your career in the indie sector and now run your own promotions business. What does independence in music mean to you in 2023?

“Independence to me means active evolution, the ability to grow freely and challenge accepted norms, perceptions and behaviours that need reformation. From the perspective of working with artists, it means having the capabilities to create different pathways that enable me to tell the story of the artists I work with, in the way they want to tell it. It means not limiting artists stylistically or creatively, working with their experiences, not against them, and above all it means having the freedom to do all of these things.”

Independence means active evolution, the ability to grow freely and challenge accepted norms, perceptions and behaviours that need reformation

Jess Kangalee

Good Energy PR is the only QWOC-run plugging company in the UK that prioritises multi-genre Q+/POC artists. Can you tell us how you've built your roster and your business up? 

“Before starting my own company, I worked with a large cross section of labels, management companies, marketing companies – and more – so already had a significant contact base, even though I’ve never been much of a networker. Once I started speaking openly and publicly about the goals I had for my company and what I wanted it to represent and achieve, I was met with a lot of opposition, but I quickly found the supportive people that understood what I was trying to do and why. All in all, it’s been an easy process rebuilding my roster from the ground up, people and projects naturally come together with the energetic fit they’re supposed to have.

“Having the freedom and time to figure out my own internal processes and best practices has also meant that I can work a lot more thoroughly and flexibly with my artists. With most artists, I’m involved from the early planning stages, and with a handful of them I design and project manage the entire campaign.”

What are the cornerstones of a good promo campaign? 

“There is more music being released daily than ever before and everyone has less capacity to consume and reflect music, [which means] organisation, strategy and an emphasis on upfront planning are all key starting points for a solid promo campaign. Every aspect of a campaign feeds into the other areas, so having proactive communication and open information sharing between the entire team is essential to the process, and having the flexibility to pivot if needs be is also incredibly important. Artist campaigns shouldn’t be looked at as ‘one size fits all’ or ‘paint by numbers’. We have a lot more opportunities to be creative and communicate the artist’s vision in different ways nowadays.”

You’ve spoken previously to Music Week about your experiences around discrimination and inequality in the business. How have your views changed in recent years, in light of a number of organisations that have been launched?

“I’ve worked in various capacities across a lot of organisations, and everyone is doing great and necessary work. This doesn’t change my views though, as the issues I’ve previously spoken about still exist. It takes time and fervent will to unlearn systemic biases and recalibrate from archaic structures, and it will be a long time before we collectively as an industry can change, as it requires an active approach to reforming cultures and perceptions.

“That being said, many amazing things have come from a lot of the organisations and initiatives that have been launched, and it’s been brilliant to see all of these organisations grow and achieve. There are more beacons for representation than ever before and that has been a positive change.”

What’s your biggest achievement so far? 

“I view my biggest achievement as being able to create space for the artists I work with across broadcast media. When I started Good Energy PR, I had to change the way I perceived success and what that meant to me. As a plugger, you measure your successes by achieving big promo slots and playlist additions, but to work with the artists I wanted to work with, who in the majority would not have been supported at radio prior to 2020, the goal posts changed for me. I had to unlearn what I had previously used as a measure for success, and the task of trying to find ways to promote these artists who had previously been overlooked and underrepresented was a much bigger one. I wanted to be authentic to myself and my beliefs, so in essence Good Energy PR is an extension of what I want to put out into the world. There are some key people I would like to give thanks to – knowingly or unknowingly due to either their support, encouragement, innovation or progressive spirit – [as] without them I wouldn’t have been able grow and build as I have. Amy Frenchum, Camilla Pia, Jamz Supernova, Kath McDermott, Mary Anne Hobbs and Nadia Khan, my sincerest gratitude for who you are and everything you do.”

What advice would you offer young women about enjoying a successful career in music?

“This is a bit of a cliché, but find your people. Having a network of people who understand you on a human level, who have had or are facing similar experiences to you, offers infinite support and collaboration. You’re not lucky to have a job in music, you have skills, you bring value and you deserve to be here, and finally, do things in the most authentic way to you, protect your energy and enforce your professional boundaries.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever had?

“Back in the days when I was too afraid to answer the work phone, my first proper boss in music once told me, ‘Don’t ask a question if you can answer it yourself.’ At the time this completely petrified me and induced a lot of anxiety as it made me afraid to ask any questions or get anything wrong, but it really stuck with me throughout the years. Proactive working and communication have become a big part of how I work now, and it stems in part, from this bit of advice.”

Is there a young woman you'd like to shout out who you think is a rising star in the industry?

“I must shout out some great young women in radio – Ella Atcheson at BBC 6 Music, Hana Staddon at 6 Music and Pippa Brown, who is freelance. I would also love to shout out Tayler Ross, who’s also freelance, who was incredibly impressive on campaign management and marketing duties for Grove’s recent Pwr Ply EP.”

Similarly, is there a young woman artist whose music you're enjoying right now?

“I have to mention one of the incredible artists on my roster, Sola, who releases music via Jamz Supernova’s Future Bounce label. She is truly phenomenal, her creativity and composition are utterly transcendent and genre-defying and I feel so lucky to work with an artist whose music connects so directly to my spirit. You can find her on @thisissola across the usual social media platforms and I highly encourage you to watch her amazing visuals!”

What’s your biggest lesson from 2023 so far? 

“You don’t need to be offered a seat at the table, build your own table.”

Final notes… 

“My closing words are simply this, big ups to all the women out there who support, encourage and create space for each other. Thank you to the women who paved the way [for us], who are waiting in the wings and who are in the here and now, working tirelessly to bring about change.”

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