Written by Sophie Wyatt
The music industry is slowly but surely becoming more accessible for women and marginalised individuals. But behind the scenes of music production and tech, white, cis men are still continuing to control the space. Less than 5% of the music tech industry are women, non-binary or trans people. And less than 1% of these are Black, Asian or ethnically diverse. And without safe spaces to find encouragement and musical education, it seems almost impossible for these numbers to improve. It’s with this thought in mind that music tech programme Saffron was born.
Founded in Bristol, UK in 2015 by Laura Lewis-Paul, Saffron operates as a non-profit organisation that primarily offers training in music production, sound engineering and DJing, as well as running an artist development programme and record label.
Saffron’s aim is to advance gender equality in the music tech sector by creating a safe space for women, non-binary people and other minority genders to learn and build confidence. They want to inhabit traditionally male-dominated music tech spaces and become visible role models for others. Saffron’s mission has been to advance gender equality in the music tech sector by creating safer spaces for marginalised people to learn, create and grow confidently through forward-thinking technological music creation, DJ and music industry experience.
But Saffron needs help. As a non-profit organisation, Saffron is struggling in a cost of living crisis to keep its programme going. Founder, Laura Lewis-Paul says “The cost of living, government arts cuts and lack of sustained funding post-BLM is leaving non-profit organisations like us without the crucial core investment we need to stay afloat …”
As a mixed Black Caribbean-led organisation Saffron was eligible for a number of grants sparked by the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement. This allowed us to thrive in the short term, but these funds were largely one-off gestures rather than essential ongoing core support. Over the past few months, a number of other crucial and expected arts grants and income sources for our work in 2023 have not materialised or been cut, and Saffron’s primary industry donor has departed.
This has left the programme in a tight spot. So they are now reaching out to you, their community to help get them through the next few months, whilst they embed our longer-term plans to make Saffron sustainable.
Saffron – and its sister program Mix Nights – have been doing this work consistently for seven years in Bristol, London, Nottingham, Birmingham and globally online. Mix Nights invites individuals from marginalised groups to attend a beginners course and online workshop series to create safe spaces to encourage DJs to learn and grow.
In 2022 Saffron provided music tech training and community infrastructure for over 1000 people around the world. This included widening accessibility:
- 40% access courses, mentoring and memberships for free or discounted
- 46% are global majority (Black, Asian, mixed ethnicities)
- 37% have additional support needs, eg. Autism, physical or mental health issues
And generating real impact:
- 41% of Mix Nights course graduates have gone on to paid gig bookings
- 34% of radio course graduates have secured their own residency
Saffrons work has been once again highlighted this year following the criticism of Glastonbury’s all-white-male headliner lineup; there is an industry talent “pipeline problem”. A problem Saffron has actively been working to address from all angles.
HOW YOU CAN HELP – a message from Saffron
We know that money is tight for many of us right now, so we are asking for any support you can give, monetary or otherwise, to support us through this next phase of development.
No matter how small, a one-off or regular donation will go a long way towards fuelling our core work transforming the music tech industry from the ground up.
We also need as much help as we can possibly get with sharing this news, so we can spread the cost amongst as many people as possible.