Musician, presenter and activist Sophie Hamartia has dedicated her working life to music and campaigning for women’s representation and safety within the industry. The vocalist leads artist features and partnerships at Cactus City, the UK’s first ‘safe space’ recording studio and presents the feminist, music, podcast Not A Groupie.

In a video call interview, Sophie talks about her career and gender inequalities in the music industry.

What did you discover about the music industry through being in a band?
I’ve learnt that communities seem to love holding onto the classics and the legends, at the detriment of new bands rising through the ranks. In the rock and metal scene, there is a huge lack of diversity, and I am often the only woman on a line-up. I have experienced sexual harassment from venue owners, promoters and people in the crowd. I was too shy to talk about these things when I was just starting out, but not anymore, which is what lead me to work for Cactus City.

What is Cactus City?
Cactus City is a feminist organisation, who’s whose main aim is to make the music industry safer for women and gender minorities. Our focus at the moment is the Charter of Good Practice, which is a series of pledges for recording studios to sign.  Sexual assault and harassment often takes place in that environment. A lot of the pledges are very basic reminders about personal space, saying hello to people as they enter the room, and being aware of derogatory language and how you deliver unsolicited advice. We also have a careers podcast to educate women about jobs they can have in the industry other than being a performer.

How does misogyny and sexism exist within the industry?
I worked with a venue promoter once who sexually harassed me in person, and publicly on Facebook. I later found out he only pays women in bands if he finds them attractive. I’m glad I got paid but it feels tarnished because I probably didn’t get paid for the right reasons.  Power and money seem to be reoccurring themes in a lot of conversations about systemic misogyny and harassment.  You’ll also find that a lot of radio stations that specifically play rock and metal are playing artists that are hairy men. I love that music but when I’m listening, I always wonder where the women are.

Have you always found it easy to campaign in your work and your music?
Not always but, over time you’re forced to be headstrong in these networks – I find it much easier now. As a woman if you get offered a gig you have to prove yourself ten times more than a man would. Campaigning doesn’t always have to be confrontational, simply booking female artists and paying them can go a long way.

How do you stay positive about your career and the future of the music industry?
More than anything, I love the feeling of playing live and I love the feeling of going to gigs so I can’t let anything get in the way of that. But being aware of the bad things that happen does impact how I navigate the industry, whether that means not booking certain shows or calling out microaggressions. Sometimes I get consumed by some of the horrible stories I hear, so I engage with therapy to better understand my triggers and take time off of social media to refocus. Ultimately, I have to give myself a break sometimes because fighting sexism and misogyny isn’t a one-person job.

What are you most proud of so far?
I’m most proud of the careers podcast because I think it’s really empowering. I also just got mentioned in Music Weekly which I’m so excited about. Both of those achievements really motivate me.

Since this interview, Sophie has started hosting a weekly radio show called Changing Tune, playing rock and metal tunes from women and gender minorities.

More information can be found on Sophie’s Twitter and Instagram