Throughout the pandemic, people got to see the fluidity of the music industry. Humor some dramatic symbolism if you will, but this industry is like an ocean. It’s this lifeforce that’s responsible for both serenity and chaos. Home to hundreds of unique creatures. Dominated by sharks, yet filled with communities and networks that protect and nurture one another. Trends and triumphs are ever-flowing like waves, never ceasing to crash even when our shores went show-less.
Women like Andie Aronow, founder of Women That Rock and true music business veteran, can attest to all of this. Her work shows just how major the music industry is, and she has set the blueprint of how to both protect and reimagine the depths of this sea.
“I dipped my toes into so many parts of the industry and there was just this little voice inside of me with an urge to do something on my own,” Andie tells me as we sit on our afternoon phone call. Although from opposite sides of the country, Andie and I immediately connected. Whether barely treading water or swimming laps around the rest, we have both fallen in love with the music industry for its simultaneous individuality and community. What Andie has accomplished with Women That Rock, she also immediately accomplished in our hour-long interview, creating a space that made the vast ocean-like industry feel small, connected, and like home.
Andie dove headfirst into music as a child, described by her parents as perpetually singing in place of an expected scream or cry. Born and raised in New York City, Andie met with an agent at just eight years old and found a very early career as a commercial jingle singer. She went on to devour all things musical theater until her freshman year at USC. Here is where she discovered a lot. For one, she discovered that performing didn’t have to be her job and maybe the music industry would be a better study. She also discovered that USC was not her home, and she aptly transferred to the highly competitive Clive Davis Institute at NYU. She became the intern of all interns, exploring the depths of the music biz and soaking up all the knowledge around. After many professional years, she decided to take the leap to do something on her own, and Women That Rock was born.
Women That Rock is what it sounds like, a place of platformation and celebration of female-fronted artists and acts. After developing her own network while working under the wing of others, Andie wanted to pave a place of her own. She wanted to “not be a small fish in a big pond… and the calling was finding a way to support artists.” After a swift Instagram handle search (divinely, @womenthatrock was available) Andie dove right in creating the account and reaching out to all of her favorite badass female acts inquiring to feature them.
“Like a tsunami, they were all like ‘oh my god yes’,” Andie tells me. “It was like a tidal wave. The inbox went from 10 to 25 to 50 to 500 to the thousands in a snap.”
Although Andie describes making Women That Rock on a whim, the success was anything but an accident. Women in the music industry are innately connected, like a school of fish built to protect one another from the all too common abuses. Women in the industry share stories of familiar frustrations, like being questioned on their merits or inappropriately spoken to at their very own shows. However, finding a space to share in these stories and support one another was far and few between.
“One of the things I learned in school was to find the gap in the marketplace and fill it,” Andie explains. “It was an unequivocal message of this being something that people need, that people want. This is a space that I can have an impact. My whole life is women and music, so it all fell into place.”
Once Women That Rock was cemented in the digital space as a community of necessity in the broader music industry, Andie went on to achieve her next goal. “It became a goal to get into the live event space because I really like the idea of marrying the digital music experience with a live music experience. I wanted to have those two things coexist like arms on a singular body.”
In 2019, Women That Rock hosted their first live event at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. To say it was a success is an understatement. In a sea of mundane and male-dominated music events, this show rocked the boat.
“We created music concert showcases with all female-focused lineups. There’s never a band onstage that is a ‘dude-band…’ The effort there is to create a safe space for women on stage, create celebratory spaces for women on stage, and create a space where the women are in charge. All of that is an effort to help counteract all the gender inequity that exists in the industry and kind of tip the scales. If you look at the stats of the amount of women winning awards and having festival slots, it’s abysmal still. We’re kind of looking to reclaim that space and change the numbers… Seeing the impact it has had on people has been wildly fulfilling.”
Of course, the past year and a half has been rocky to say the least. Live show companies struggled to stay afloat, and everyone in the industry clutched tightly to their life jackets. “All of the sudden it was like stage lights off, lock the doors, everything disappeared,” says Andie. “I felt an obligation to myself, my community, and to all the women artists who went from playing gigs to suddenly having no opportunities to just keep going. To find ways of pivoting to virtual stuff so that we could still connect and commune and make music and make the best of the circumstances.”
Women That Rock went back to the virtual world, and in this, they stayed true to their mission within the music industry. They never stopped because they couldn’t stop. Their work in supporting artists that needed it most kept the broader music biz flowing through this tumultuous time. They remained individuals who were better together, treading on even when it all felt stuck.
Now, Women That Rock is back to the live stage. With immense excitement in her voice, Andie informed me of all the amazing things set for their first big event back this week. “Women That Rock: Live in LA” is a testament to the work that Andie has done not only in the last year but in the last 20. Held at Junior High LA, a highly respected multi-purpose art and music venue committed to creating space for marginalized voices to be heard loud and proud, the event is made by and created for a community that runs on equal ethos. Andie built a bill of five standout music acts including Rozzi, Disco Shrine, Tomi, Trace, and a very special surprise guest. They also partnered with some of the absolute best brands in the business, Reality Eyewear, Re-Inc, and Ollipop (run, don’t walk to the grocery store if you haven’t tried one.) The event was carefully curated with the community in mind, a moment to celebrate each other in the ways that Women That Rock has been doing since its start.
As we patiently wait for the weekend to roll around, we can use Andie’s impact as a reminder that we’re all riding the same wave. To Andie, the music industry is nothing without all of its inhabitants, artists, A&R, and audiences alike. I ask Andie what it was like to find success in this vast and often isolating space. “You can’t succeed in a vacuum,” she says. “You can’t succeed without the help and community of others. By keeping my eye on the mission, I found other people who identified with the mission. It becomes like a magnet. The more women I put onstage, the more people I meet that become friends and collaborators… it becomes this space where all of these people who are existing in uncomfortable isolation can forge a community together.”
During our chat, Andie and I went off the deep end. Talking about the in’s and out’s of the industry. But the biggest takeaway? We’re all just trying to make friends out here. Andie validates a familiar feeling for me, that making friends as an adult is a challenging feat. Our world is oceanic itself, so vast and deep and confusing. All we want is to find connections, support, and pockets that feel like home. That’s what Women That Rock is for. If nothing else, it’s home when nowhere else feels like it. When you can’t keep out-swimming the sharks and when the tide won’t stop pulling you. Andie craved friendship, community, and connection. Not only did she find it when she dove in headfirst, but she also gave it all to us too. And she sure did it all with a splash.