Meet the all-female creative team behind Third Side Music
The music industry is one that deals in many dichotomies: while music continues to be a platform of self-expression and empowerment for many female artists, it also seemingly perpetuates a lot of the sexist and misogynistic rhetoric contributing to gender inequality.
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A huge part of why this is so is undoubtedly the fact that music, like most industries, is a field that continues to be largely male-dominated. The only way to aid this problem is to change the industry from the bottom up – this is why it’s so refreshing to see women running shit behind the scenes.
Enter Melissa Woods and Brontë Jane of Third Side Music, an independently owned publishing and copyright administration company based out of Montreal and LA.
The company reps names you’ve likely heard before, including but not limited to Sofi Tukker, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Flying Lotus (we’re using a lot of caps lock).
Woods and Jane run the company’s Creative Services department, and have worked incredibly hard to get to where they are today. We talked to the two women about their respective career journeys, and what it means to them to be driving forces in the music industry.
So, what does each of you do at Third Side?
Melissa Woods: I’m the Head of Creative Services at Third Side Music. I mainly focus on signing new bands and providing hands on services to our artists that range from new copyright creation, scoring and custom work for film, TV, trailers, advertising, and beyond.
Brontë Jane: And I work alongside Melissa in the Creative Services department as the A&R Director, which ultimately means that I spend the majority of my time scouting and bringing in new artists while also working closely with our existing roster in various creative capacities.
How’d you guys get into A&R?
MW: I worked at a third party sync licensing company called ZYNC where each employee was encouraged to submit their ideas for A&R. I got to bring in artists like Lizzo, Marian Hill and BANKS.
BJ: Amongst other things, I have a background in music journalism, which was (in it’s own way) an incredible introduction to the skill of sifting through music and understanding who I gravitated towards and why. I started at Third Side as an intern in the Licensing Department and made it known that I wanted to eventually do A&R full-time.
Since then I’ve had my hand in bringing in acts like Sofi Tukker, Blonde Redhead, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Lost Under Heaven, and more.
Music journalism? That’s awesome. Did either of you face challenges along the way?
MW: A&R is a tricky career path, because it all begins as a pure love of an artist and their music. Then the competition kicks in and there can be a dance in order to win over that artist. There are massive victories and beautiful partnerships but you expect to be heartbroken at times. Ultimately, it’s listening to your intuitions and taking a leap of faith by supporting those artists you feel have the most talent and best intentions.
BJ: A&R can sometimes feel like “dating” because when you’re passionate, invested, and genuinely excited by the idea of a partnership with a prospective artist, there’s always a chance they’ll sign elsewhere. My advice would be to really understand the artist’s narrative/trajectory and to visualize both you and your company’s worth.
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Haha, I get that. What might you say is the coolest part of your job?
MW: The coolest part of my job is being able to see a new band grow into the professional musicians they’ve always wanted to be. There’s a band we work with called Sofi Tukker who are not only incredible human beings but are also talented, hard working, positive, and have chosen a wonderful team of collaborators and management to support them. I get teary eyed seeing them perform on bigger and bigger stages as they are still the same genuine people they were when they first played CMJ.
BJ: Being able to work at a 100% independently owned company where we have full creative control. It’s amazing to be able to work with such a wide-ranging crop of unique artists alongside some of the most talented industry professionals out there. Third Side is seriously just a big family and I consider all of my co-workers to be my mentors. It’s an incredible honor.
What are the most important things you’ve learned as a woman working in the music industry?
MW: I have worked for and with many powerful females in the music industry and have learned so much from their strength, hard work and emotional honesty. My life partner is in the industry. He treats both men and women with equal respect and I find that inspiring. I also treat my mental and physical health as my number one priority. I applaud the women who are doing great work, and I support those who identify as feminists and treat everyone with equal respect.
BJ: No matter how you identify, the most important thing I have learned is that people will respect you if you demand respect. It sounds really simple (and cliché), but it’s true. I’ve struggled with the complex of not being taken seriously because I’m usually the youngest and least experienced (woman) in the room. It’s important to realize and recognize the value in your opinion and perspective, especially in the world of A&R where taste is paramount.
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Any advice for other women who want to break through in the music industry as you have, or any male-dominated industry for that matter?
MW: Most companies I’ve worked for often hire star interns into full-time positions. Reach out to your dream companies before you graduate and that will give you an idea as to whether or not you could see yourself working there one day.
I’d also encourage you to find a mentor. Read up on the exceptional men and women in our field (as there are many). When you meet them at an event, introduce yourself and ask questions, perhaps you might find yourself at coffee with them. Join female peer groups like Women in Music and don’t quiet your voice when your gut tells you to speak out.
BJ: Do your research. Seek out the companies who work with artists you’re passionate about. Recognize and be prepared for a job that isn’t, and will never be, a traditional 9-5 ordeal. On top of that, one of my favorite people in music told me some of the (realest) advice ever: “ask a lot of questions, but don’t ask the ones you can find the answer to on Google.”
Click here for more info on Third Side Music and what they do.