Behind the Scene: Women in Music

Behind the Scene: Women in Music

Inclusivity doesn't have to be a dream. In fact, with all the diverse people taking charge behind the scenes in the creative industry, having hardworking individuals from from all sorts of backgrounds has become the norm. The scene is growing more vibrant and colorful than ever. People recognize their strengths and are ready to speak up.

More and more women have risen up the ranks to level up the greatness of the Filipino music scene. From band managers, event producers, lights and sound engineers, to live concert photographers, the grounds women have strode upon are now marked with a kind of love and passion no one could find anywhere else.

In this special edition of Behind The Scene, we speak to some of the most brilliant and extremely talented women working behind the scenes of the Filipino music industry.


Shakira Villa-Symes, Lighting Director

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

I was a Theatre Arts student in UP Diliman in 1990 studying Theatre Lighting Design. It was at that time when, on a project with Repertory Philippines as a lighting board operator for the play The Woman In Black, I was tapped by the LD (Lighting Designer) Martin Esteva to join him to light the shows of The Dawn. It was Martin who paved the way for me to light from theatre to concerts that shortly thereafter, the band True Faith got me to light their concerts. 

So with a background in theatre and a penchant for music, I was able to accompany the band’s performances via lights. The local music industry during that period was bourgeoning into the “great band scene of the 90’s” with alternative bands enjoying mainstream success. Word got around at that time that having an LD on board makes a live show look better that artists and their managers started incorporating an LD into their shows. The concept of having a well-crafted show became the norm and I was soon on tour with a lot of artists of the “great band scene of the '90s”. There was a period between 1993 and 1995 when I was touring literally non-stop across the country with bands such as Rivermaya, True Faith, E-Heads, Yano, Wolfgang, and Razorback. My works even became album covers such as Wofgang’s Acoustica album and Rivermaya’s Live and Acoustic. 

By the 2000s, I was regularly lighting mainstream artists such as Regine Velasquez and Lea Salonga while I had collaborations with bands such as Sandwich, Greyhoundz, and Sugarfree for their live shows.  Mid-2000s saw me lighting the EDM scene as well as the indie scene. Basically, what I’ve done in the music industry crosses all genres, yet I remain faithful to giving artistic value in every genre and every artist. No show should look the same. 

What's your favorite part of your job and what are the biggest challenges you face?

It isn’t simple to zone in on one favorite aspect of my craft as there are several. Lighting has a visual element that can either whisper into the eyes of the audience or shout out loud. Managing those subtly from the coda of song to a chorus is one of the best parts of the job. Much like a painter who paints or a musician who writes music, I utilize the lights as brushes or notes to create an atmosphere onstage while translating the tone of the music visually. So another favorite part of the job is when the mood I’ve created with the music and the artist’s performance come together onstage - and the audience gets the feels. I also enjoy the process, working with lots of different artists in lots of different venues. 

The biggest challenge in my craft is merging the painting in my mind onto a venue as a canvass. Some venues lack the proper height for a proper visual impact while open-air venues somehow lessen the intimacy of dramatic hues. Requiring the right equipment also meets challenges when a production finds the need to lessen the costs of equipment rental. I usually downgrade the quantity of my requirements but stick to the equipment required. A painter will always need the right brushes for the painting. 

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

With the emergence of music streaming, the audience will find a yearning to see new artists live onstage. Hence I foresee more live performances in the future. Hopefully, the Coronavirus situation has diminished by then. I see myself having more challenging concepts in collaboration with artists for their live shows. I see the music industry opening to conceptual live performances with the advent of new equipment and innovative graphics multi-media. Thankfully, most of our local artists value the art that goes into a live performance. That is what Lighting Design is – an artform. An a ever progressive one at that.

Iya Forbes, Photographer

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

I was part of a HS documentation team and we covered the usual school activities, including festivals and concerts. I've always loved music since I was young but I capturing live performances was an exhilarating experience. My music photos weren't good at all (hahaha) that's why I grabbed the opportunity to join Niña Sandejas' first music photography workshop back in 2010. With skills and learnings I gained from that workshop, I had a bit more confidence to reach out to different productions and publications when I was in college.

My first published music work was back in I think 2012 for an online music and culture site. Since then I've worked with different music productions, artists, and publications, like Bandwagon! I honestly wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the kind people who took a chance on me and who continue to support me to this day. Really grateful for all of them and I hope I get to continue doing good work, not just for them, but for the whole industry!

What's your favorite part of your work and what are the biggest challenges you face?

Hmm. My favorite part could also be counted as the biggest challenge. I put so much pressure on myself (my editors would know this!) to give justice to a show/band/performance. How do you capture it through photographs in the best way possible? There's so much going on in a single show or performance so how do you encapsulate that visually? I believe it's such a huge responsibility. But man, the feeling once you DO get the shot you need? It's unlike anything else.

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

The music industry, especially locally, is getting more and more vibrant so the future is undeniably bright. I just hope that people take us music photographers more seriously, because at the end of the day it really is a job. It takes a lot of work to deliver even just a single good photograph. So let's respect the work and give what's due. I believe that it will benefit everyone if we start setting a certain standard in working and collaborating within the industry.

Pat Sarabia, Offshore Music

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

When I was about 7 years old, I already knew I wanted to be a musician or artist of some sort. I started playing the drums when I was 13, and went to college in College of St. Benilde for Music Production and graduated in 2010. Since college and thereafter, I was part of a psychedelic rock band called Wilderness, where I played percussion. As a drummer, I took on any session or recording gig that came my way and played with basically any band that would ask me to. That was my life in my 20s. Moving into my 30s, after joining my other band Apartel, I joined Ely Buendia and Derick Villarino to form Offshore Music.  It started out as an independent label solely for its flagship artist, Apartel, but has since then grown organically and we are proud to have artists such as One Click Straight, Ena Mori, Pinkmen, and Cheats under our roster. Musicians and music fans ourselves, it is our labor of love. Lovers of physical music, we try as much as possible to keep the tradition alive by releasing music on vinyl. Currently, I am also [the] drummer for Apartel, Oh, Flamingo!, syd hartha, Ely Buendia, and whoever needs me to session for them. 

What's your favorite part of your work with Offshore Music and what are the biggest challenges you face?

Listening to the artists' unreleased music and being part of their process is definitely the most fun part. They inspire me because their musicality is so refined and mature for their age. It's kind of that give-and-take where they seek your opinion and there's so much self-realization going on internally. Aiding the recordings, shoots, etc and helping their vision come to life is the best part. It's not tiring - it's not work. The main challenges come from being part of the music industry, in general. We face all the same challenges most labels and artists face, which is trying to keep up with music's ever-changing landscape and maintaining financial stability.

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

No one will ever be able to truly predict that, but I feel optimistic about music from Asia especially being more and more heard by the world. Transfer of information will just keep getting faster and more accessible. With this, I hope that stronger ties can be built between the scenes within the country so that bands can tour and listeners' reception can be widened. On a personal note, I'll most probably still be keeping at it, in one way or another. It's too late to turn my back now. Facts only, haha. 

Isabel Aguas, Funky Records

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

I guess you could say my proper entry to the music industry was by way of Karpos Multimedia, being family friends with the Uys for years. I’ve helped out with a number of their projects and at one point went full time as their Content Head back in 2015.

With a plethora of jobs you could get into with a Communication Arts degree, it was definitely difficult for me to narrow it down to just one. It wasn’t until I realized that the common denominator throughout years of trial and error was my natural inclination to Content Marketing. I was able to carry that over into the work I do today — running a social enterprise (Hopskotch), doing freelance marketing work, and now as a partner and CMO of boutique record label & artist management Funky Records."

What's your favorite part of your work with Funky Records and what are the biggest challenges you face?

The best part about working on all things Funky Records is that I love what I do and who I'm doing it with. I may not be as well-versed in the music industry just yet, but my partners, our artists, and our collaborators motivate me to keep navigating this new territory. It’s been pretty fun."

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

Representation is something that’s highlighted in the music industry today more than ever and if the work I contribute can get local Filipino talent to a place it deserves to be, that’s genuinely more than enough for me."

Jmi Orara Salcedo, Artist Manager (Reese Lansangan & Paolo Mallari)

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

I’m Jmi (Jamie) Orara, I work as a talents and events manager. I'm a student of life and child of the universe. 

I was in first or second-year college when my sister made me watch 'Telepono', the music video of Sugarfree, on UNTV and went home with a copy of their album days after. Best CD purchase ever! We joined their mailing list and started watching their gigs back to back. We got exposed to other artists and they became our favorites too! From Admit One’s Twisted Halo, Cambio, and Dicta License to Play4Serve’s Sandwich, Pedicaband Imago. We also luckily got to watch and follow Squid9, Wolfmann, Radioactive Sago Project, The Itchywormsand oh Cynthia Alexander, the gem that she is! We’d go from one gig to another! Then my sister started writing her own songs and as the ”Ate” I was on manager mode LOL! She was my first artist! I started talking to productions including Revolver, the first production we were part of, and gave her demo to whoever I could give it to. I was also watching college concerts [at] that time and really liked my best friend’s band from UPFA so... I managed them too and other bands from different colleges and universities. We were all having so much fun! Using our own allowance for transportation, drinks, and Mister Kebab after hahaha! Our one rule was never to pay to play, yes that was a thing before hahaha! Cris from Revolver offered a slot in Suburbia Malate for a gig of my own so I talked to my friend about it, who was a member of the band I was also managing then, we got excited and went for it! Finally, it was a gig of our own, our own terms, our own party! That’s how Cubism Family was formed, mostly with friends from UP Fine Arts, the college I loved the most lol, I’m from Arts and Letters though hahaha no hating. I was a Frustrated Artist then hahaha!

Eventually, I was given the opportunity to manage artists I admired dearly like Maya’s Anklet, Peryodiko, and Johnoy Danao. Louie Talan also approached me for Kalayo with the Sammy Asuncion. Wow, I’m still shocked and amazed that all of that happened.

Now, I manage Reese Lansangan and Paolo Mallari and plan to keep it at that number for the time being. I’m gearing towards the less is more path nowadays.

What's your favorite part of your work with Reese Lansangan and what are the biggest challenges you face?

Four years ago (2016) this quirky one of a kind genius asked me if I could co-manage her with Jason Conanan. I tried co-managing before and it didn’t work out but I felt that it was worth a try! I’ve adored her/ their music since Reese and Vica and I already actually worked with her for her first solo album launch last 2015 as the events consultant with the talented Reese Interns headed by Miss A Game Sanne Barlaan. So why not right? It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life! Little did I know that not only would I be working with this hardworking rainbow-colored bilao of sushi (yes that’s how talented she is, not just one sushi, but a tray full of it lol) but I’d also be part of a new family and I’d have a newfound sister in her.

My favorite part- is the entire journey! It’s been a roller-coaster (ups and downs) for the team but as we progressed it was always about understanding and supporting each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We survived all the challenges as a team and we’d always try our best not to point any fingers… MY HEART IS SMILING WHILE THINKING ABOUT IT NOW. There are times that we stumble greatly but we’d always focus on the solutions and well-being of the team members.

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

My oh my, it’s a bright future for the local music industry! The college bands are upping the ante, age is no longer a factor and the digital age has majorly contributed as an avenue for the artists to express themselves especially during these times. The whole world is listening whether you are indie or signed! 

There.. I’ll still be watching and supporting artists as a manager and as a fan.

MC Galang, The Rest Is Noise

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

I started writing music reviews around 2011 or 2012 for Vandals On The Wall, which was run by my The Rest Is Noise (TRIN) co-founder, Ian Urrutia. Around that time, I’ve also started attending local music shows and festivals, mostly Terno Inferno gigs in Route 196 or SaGuijo. This was all new to me.

Beyond Up Dharma Down, Sandwich, Itchyworms, Sharon Cuneta, Apo Hiking Society, Francis Magalona, and ABS-CBN’s ASAP and GMA-7’s SOP divas and balladeers, I don’t know that much about what’s traditionally categorized as Filipino music. Not even the Eraserheads. And then suddenly, it was an avalanche of music - of all sorts of genres and styles from Filipino artists added to my, let’s say, 97% Western music consumption (3% early days of 2010s K- Pop). It broadened not just my idea and perspective on music as more than a form of entertainment, but I’d like to think, how I contextualize experiences through music, which is essentially a form of storytelling. That was really important to me, and I think that played early on into the idea of heightening that experience through live music, which is how I’ve decided, albeit reluctantly at first, to go into producing TRIN shows.

Since 2015, what started as a supposedly one-off thing turned into a multi-platform curation featuring Filipino music (with a strong emphasis on independent and underground music), and the rest of Asia. We’ve since produced 34 music events, including medium-scale to outdoor music festivals that featured artists from different parts of the Philippines, as well as Asia, the U.S., Europe, and Australia, showcase, talks, online magazine, music market, and other music-related efforts that promote and educate our community, such as a film screening and including Filipino Sign Language interpretation at our bigger shows. In the last two years, we’ve also participated in music showcases and conferences in Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan.

What's your favorite part of your work with The Rest is Noise and what are the biggest challenges you face?

My favorite would be booking new artists we just discovered (sometimes, they even haven’t performed live before), creating playlists, watching other music festivals abroad (it’s equal parts research and personal entertainment), and meeting people working in various fields in their own respective independent music industries and communities overseas. Mostly, I think being my own boss when it comes to the creative direction and branding of TRIN: from conceptualization to execution, allows me to take stock in the value of creative freedom and independence.

The biggest challenge would always be financial sustainability. It’s hard to convince a bunch of corporate folks to invest money in what would—in this day and age—be considered as left-field or experimental. While we love ourselves some commercial pop, our shows don’t necessarily reflect the mainstream demand. Personally, I leave more of that side of the business to Ian since he does the PR work and has a more extensive network and relationship with our local partners, so I am more focused on building a relationship with our foreign counterparts (who’ve also become our friends), since we essentially speak the same language when it comes to music. Long way to go, but the thing with this is that it really takes time. It’s an investment that comes with risks, but also rewarding payoffs.

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

I hate making predictions because there’s so much work that we need to do right now. I’d prefer to come up with forward-thinking ideas and solutions, if you will—which are ultimately grounded on our current issues and environment.

Locally, I think the approach to globalizing the appeal of Filipino music in some ways is still hindered by rather rigid schools of thought in terms of marketing, first and foremost. The skill is obviously not the issue, but the question we always get is how to build and grow an audience —but more importantly, inspire and cultivate loyalty. I think a lot of our homegrown musicians have to learn that knowing what you want, what you have, and being assertive of both is not a bad thing. Only then we would be able to find solutions together. I honestly want the community to relearn the meaning of support. If we get stuck in fighting over semantics (e.g. OPM) and impose rules that focus on geographic origin, i.e. “support local”—which to me, oftentimes feels like “I have to” rather than “I want to,” then that feels antithetical to what supporting means. When it happens organically, it yields so much. I mean that sincerely.

As for my role in that future? Probably the same right now, but hopefully a little more graceful when stressed.

CJ Cruz, Sleeping Boy Collective

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

It all started when I went to my first SBC show (Hierophant) at Mow’s in 2015 and just kept going to their shows until I met everyone and they decided I was cool enough to be on the team. 

Right now, I’m mostly the tour manager. I do stuff like fetch bands from the airport, show them around, and buy the [items for the] hospitality rider for the show. But I also do other behind-the-scenes stuff, like coordinate with local and international bands and promoters.

What's your favorite part of your with SBC and what are the biggest challenges you face?

My favorite part has to be being around my closest friends and working with them. Everyone’s really fun to work with and we’re almost always on the same page. The support from everyone in the community is also always very heartwarming. I’m glad to have met everyone who shares the same interests as me and I get to discover bands too that I end up loving! Meeting and working with local and international bands are just the icing on the cake.

I think the punk scene, in general, is still very much male-dominated. But recently, I noticed that more women and members of the LGBTQ+ community have started attending our shows and even feel comfortable enough to actually join the pit. I think that says a lot about how much the scene is changing and I’m proud of that. Definitely looking forward to seeing more of that in the future!

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

I hope the Philippines will be a place where bands will look to first when they’re touring Southeast Asia. In the past, the Philippines often gets overlooked by international bands. Now that more bands are coming over here, they know how hospitable, warm, and welcoming the Filipino audience is.

One of the biggest dreams right now with SBC is to work with Japanese punk rock band Otoboke Beaver and get mostly great Filipino bands with women on the bill. I just want to show everyone how women are taking over the scene and it’s a safe space for everyone.

Cherie Gonzales, FURIOSA

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

I have always been a music-lover but I was kind of a late bloomer in terms of full immersion in the local music scene. I've always just wanted to be with people who I can go with to watch live music. That was how I first met Romel Amoncio of Furiosa and The Rave Tapes who then initiated me into the indie music community that had set up base at Mow's.

Watching the gigs, my mind was blown by the immense talent of bands like Narcloudia, The Strange Creatures, We Are Imaginary, and The Rave Tapes, to name some. It just felt wrong that such amazing music is confined within the walls of this basement club, being heard only by a handful of appreciative folks. I started helping them promote the shows via social media while Romel focused on curating the shows. I eventually became a full-fledged [member of the] Furiosa staff.

Through the course of my duties as a promoter, I was able to establish connections in the bigger shoegaze community, extending as far as the US. I found that this niche sound receives more appreciation overseas than locally so I focused on that. These connections allowed me to introduce the Philippine's brand of shoegaze and dream pop to eager fans of the genre overseas through airplay on The Shoegaze Collective Radio Show of DKFM as well as features on the iconic When The Sun Hits blog. I've also helped to launch and promote albums internationally for rookie bands like Polar Lows and SCOTT.

I have to admit that my efforts have been done in a haphazard, hit-and-miss way since I've got no formal training for marketing but I'm doing my best to learn along the way. Hopefully, I'd be able to put some system or methodology into my work at some point but right now I'm just playing it by ear.

What's your favorite part of your work with FURIOSA and what are the biggest challenges you face?

The actual show will always be my favorite part of my FURIOSA work. I love being with these uber-talented people and hearing/seeing them give a piece of their heart and soul through every performance. It's almost a spiritual thing for me, getting lost in all that reverb and fuzz. It keeps me sane.

Personally, I'd say my only challenges would be having enough energy left after the workweek to still get to the gigs and the commute from Bulacan to QC. However, as a production team, our constant challenge is how to create that impetus for people to get out and go to gigs instead of being content with their streaming apps and audio files. The hellish traffic alone is a big enough issue, then add the unpredictable weather and lately, the coronavirus scare. These are the hurdles loom big not just for the Furiosa team but for other productions as well, I believe.

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

In the spirit of optimism and with my rose-colored glasses on, I'd say we are in the midst of a revival of the Filipino indie or underground music scene. I'd like to believe that the ubiquity of technology that allows for DIY production, release, and distribution of music is a great boon allowing for so many talented Filipinos to create their own niche in the scene without having to clamor for the attention of big music labels. There's so much talent and there's a whole world that's ready to listen as long as we know the right channels to tap. That's where I want to be in the midst of this, a herald and paver of paths for these amazing musicians. I would like to hone my skills in promoting these artists as much as they continue to give us such a big part of their hearts and souls for almost nothing in return.

Pola Beronilla, Love-Da Records1

Tell us your story and the work you’ve done in the music industry.

When I saw Almost Famous for the first time in high school, I immediately fell in love with the idea of becoming a music journalist, which at that time I thought was something that didn’t exist in our country. I started collecting music magazines through Book Sale and studied the craft with what I had.

I never had the talent or patience to learn how to play the drums or guitar nor was I blessed with a decent vocal range — but I was a big fan of music. Eventually, I picked a pen as my instrument and found a voice as a writer for a magazine. During my time at the publication, I handled most of the music pitches, wrote about and interviewed musicians both locally and internationally. It was like I was living a dream, doing what I love to do for a living. Even though I felt like the impact I was making in the music industry wasn’t that big, I found comfort in knowing that I at least am making an effort for the benefit of it.

But as passions evolve, I found myself wanting to explore a different kind of environment. That’s when Love Da Records entered the scene, serving as a portal to the new world I was craving. Now, I’m at the opposite side of where I was when I started. I’m now the one who reaches out to the people to share the wonderful music from our label’s diverse range of artists. 

It’s a different scene to what I’m used to, and it’s perfect.

What’s your favorite part of your work with Love Da Records and what are the biggest challenges you face?

I guess just pretty much being surrounded by music. We’re always surrounded by new releases and new artists and it’s a pleasure to discover new music for a living. And to get to share that to more people is even better. Luckily, our label handles a lot of musicians that I’m a fan of, and I get to have a sneak peak if they’re up to something. 

Not really much a struggle, but Love Da Records has different offices in Asia, so the entire team barely gets to meet each other in person. Thankfully, we share the same vision and same love for music that we work together seamlessly despite the distance.

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

The music industry is only going to get better and more diverse as years go by — and I’m here for that. Right now, Love Da Records mainly works with international artists, but hopefully, we will get to sign local artists under the label in the distant future.

On a personal note, I hope to see the resurgence of physical music magazines soon, even if it’s just for a small, close-knit community. I believe music magazines were a big part of the scene back then, so running a little music zine is a pipe dream fantasy for me.

In general, I see myself continuing telling stories, discovering and supporting pure passion and talent, and maintaining the same love for music as I had the first time I fell in love with it.

Karen De La Fuente, Photographer

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

I’ve been in the music industry for about maybe 9 years now. I started shooting music in AMP (Ateneo Musicians’ Pool), here’s also where I learned the value of music photography - which as they would say - is to immortalize music, to show how music communities live through time. Since college I’ve been shooting concerts, gigs, and been working with local bands; I’ve also been part of some music production groups. A lot of my music work, I could say, is grounded on the idea of pushing boundaries - in art or even in just being a woman photographer in the local music scene. It is also real important to me to be able to give way to self expression and to producing good, legitimate work that would encourage the music community to trust their visual artists. 

What's your favorite part of your job and what are the biggest challenges you face?

That grit and determination you get to be real good when you enter a photo pit full of men. Haha! But seriously, it’s that whole idea and challenge of being able to transform moments into photographs - that people can somehow hear music in them. Given we are talking about an art that speaks of human experience, music photography should also be able to connect and tell stories. Another big one would be seeing and being part of events and concerts mounted by individuals from different industries who share the same passion for music. Music photography wouldn’t be effective if you don’t understand the context of the community. 

As a woman… there’s been a lot. As a small woman with sometimes colored hair, even more. The industry have since been dominated by men and there have been many times that they’re prioritized. Recently though, women have been pushing boundaries in the music industry it is slowly becoming a safer place to work and tell stories. The goal is to make the industry as inclusive and safe for younger women photographers.  Another big challenge (and I guess will always be) would be in improving on how I tell stories through my work &  becoming a better human being and photographer with every step. 

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

I’ve been seeing a lot of great creative women slowly forming and rebuilding the music industry into a more significant and compassionate community. I’d like to think the industry has a solid future - possibly a lot more open to acts from other regions and other countries, given the people working in it now. Manila is a small city but it has so much talent and promise. I hope I’d still be part of this industry in the next couple of years, and I’ll always be advocating for women, self expression and experimentation.

Lenian Gaspar, Sleeping Boy Collective

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

I first had the experience of putting up shows back in 2012 with Indie Iligan. I was based in Iligan at that time and my buddies wanted to have shows and a regular thing for local bands to look forward to. We used the term "Indie" at that time, and it just meant "independent", not the "indie" genre being used today. We had a mixed bill - from hardcore, pop punk, ska, experimental stuff, anything goes!

I moved back to Manila on 2014, and of course I wanted to find a community just like what we had in Iligan. Not long after, I got to know the folks of Sleeping Boy Collective. My first show to work on-board with the team was Turnover in 2017. It was a pretty huge project. I became the Ticket Fairy since then hahaha

Aside from that, I also play in Irrevocable! ♥️

What's your favorite part of your work with SBC and what are the biggest challenges you face?

It warms my heart when we get messages of thanks from showgoers and when I see stoked people come in the booth to get their tickets. I know how it feels to be part of the audience. Now that I'm on the other side of the coin, we try to go the extra mile to cater to special requests and connect with the showgoers - something I never experienced with other production teams before I got involved with SBC. 

And of course, I'm also thankful to be part of a like-minded community who gives importance to the same values as I.

It has become a norm that rock shows equate to a room full of rowdy dudes, and it comes with a stigma that girls and the LGBTQ+ will have a high chance to be harassed. SBC has been striving to maintain a safe space for women and the LGBTQ+ with every show and have them enjoy the night without getting worried. It makes me happy when I see a bunch of girls and the LGBTQ+ come to shows and I see more of them often. Enforcing the safe space is a challenge, especially with events when people from other communities are part of the audience.

Operating under a DIY ethic will always have a lot of hiccups since we don't have the machinery that other productions enjoy. It’s challenging staying afloat, but we make it happen. We will always learn to get better if we keep on trying. It all pays off when we huddle at the end of each show with big smiles and happy hearts, and get reminded why we do this in the first place.

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

In the next few years, I think there will be more international bands that will consider having a SEA tour and drop by the Philippines. I'd hope that the general ticket prices from other productions/promoters will become considerably cheaper too, so more people can come - a very important principle of SBC. 

A considerable amount of shows I've attended in the last year already started early and ended early, and I'd love to have it as the new standard. It would be great to end shows before midnight so people can have time to eat after the show and get home safely before 2am. People are also getting progressive lately and I'm really stoked to see more punk bands with girls and the LGBTQ+!

There's a lot more great changes in the music industry today, and with the collective efforts of the different active productions, I really hope it's headed to a path that will be beneficial to us all - showgoers, artists, and promoters.

And of course, I'll still be the SBC Ticket Fairy.

April Hernandez, Sound Engineer

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

I really started out as a singer-songwriter [TheSunManager]. I was doing gigs with previous bands and doing my solo acoustic sets as well. When I entered college, I joined the UP Underground Music Community where I learned not only to produce music (arranging and recording) but also how to do music events, and scoring. After I graduated, it was really a strong yearning to continue to surround myself and grow in this field. I became a mentee for live sound engineering and was learning during jobs. I joined Red Ninja Production and became their in-house sound person. I also do session work for some bands. Sometimes, I get to produce other artists as well and help them with their songs and their music. Recently, I learned how to DJ too. 

What's your favorite part of being a sound engineer and what are the biggest challenges you face?

My favorite part is when everyone at the show is happy. If we get to set up and tune everything really well, the artists would be happy on stage and they get to bring out a great performance; and that in turn translates to the audience enjoying. That for me, makes up for a really great show. I’m also very grateful when artists or some of the audience come up to me and tell me that it sounded great. I constantly ask as well what I could improve on next time. 

The biggest challenge I met when I was starting out was sexism.

I would offer help but some people would just instruct me “Ah tawagin mo nalang si kuya”. It was really difficult because I was immersing myself in a field of this industry that is so heavily dominated by men who have been in this line of work far longer than I have; and I respect their place and experience. In some way, I also respect the hesitation because we’re talking about expensive equipment that if you don’t really know how to operate, could end up broken haha. Since working on multiple projects, I’ve gotten to learn from and be friends with a lot of different artists’ crew, the sound engineers of the local suppliers, and it’s easier now to work in that environment because I feel welcome. I never come into the tech booth assuming that I know everything; I’m never afraid to ask. I always learn from the people around me during each and every job that I’m fortunate to do.

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

The music industry is so diverse now. We used to just rotate a certain amount of artists before because not a lot had the capacity to record or release material. Now we have home studios, streaming, and social media; that helps with reaching people that could potentially be that artist’s audience. I really can’t keep up now with all the new music coming out haha. I feel like the artists these days are pushing for bigger and better ideas, shows, etc. Since we already have this community that supports the music, there are a lot more concepts explored and a lot more creativity that’s shown.

In the future, I still see myself immersed in this crazy journey that I’ve put myself in. I still see myself performing, sound engineering, and music production. It’s really what makes me happy. With music, I’m able to share that joy; not just through the songs I make but through the experiences that events can bring. Being able to learn, grow, and live off of doing what I love is such a rare scenario, and I’m really grateful for it. Maybe I could learn a new skill and add it to my arsenal so I could adapt and survive whatever life throws at me.

Maddie Castillo and Li Perez, Make Good MNL

Tell us your story.

It has always been about telling and re-telling stories for us. This became one of our inspirations behind putting together a music and lifestyle PR agency. We are firm believers that there are a lot of beautiful tales that get drowned in the white noise of endless information we get on a daily basis. We wanted to be able to help share these worthwhile stories in the most effective and efficient way possible.

We're new but we have been blessed to be able to share meaningful stories: from fresh efforts in promoting new culture (such as Cassette Store Day 2019), elevating advocacy in new, innovative ways (like Malasimbo 2020), marking important milestones in one's musical journey (the way Ebe Dancel did with his first solo major concert), and even making a 10-year-old wish come true (through Red Ninja's MAE Live in Manila). Our first year has indeed been very rewarding because of these opportunities.

What's your favorite part of your job and what are the biggest challenges you face?

One of our favorite parts would be hearing the story, learning about the vision and finding out the inspiration behind a project. It makes you realize how there's always more than what meets the eye and how some stories worth telling are not being told.

Another is doing press conferences! We really like seeing the reaction of our friends from the media when they hear the stories of our clients and partners first-hand. We also love seeing our clients' and partners' faces when they start talking about their stories -- the passion, the dedication. It's indescribable. It's irreplaceable.

For us, the biggest challenge is really making people see the importance of music PR. While it is closely related, it is very different from marketing. PR is one of those things that might seem small but actually leave a great impact when done right. One of the challenges for us is making people understand that PR is more than about reaching out to media and writing press releases. It's also about having the best tools to be able to send the right message across, work consistently on good public perception, and even manage a crisis.

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourselves in it?

Nothing is certain given the current situation, but we would love to be able to be supportive by doing what we do best: making sure that the best narratives are listened to, chronicled and spread. 

Paula Castillo, Almost Crimes

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

Hi I'm Paula, 24, a musician and designer based in Manila. I sing & play bass for Ourselves the Elves, Memory Drawers, occasionally play bass for Sour Cheeks and once in awhile I make softer sounds through my solo project as pcastlesss. 

Last 2017 I helped my friends Red and Lyon run their gig prod Almost Crimes - it started with the show "Do People Think of Electric Sleep?" I helped book the bands that played. I believed in their philosophy as a duo running and curating shows; they wanted to make a platform for music they believe in and for friends who make great music. It's just really amazing to work with friends on projects like these; then I had a crazy idea. I pitched a show to get bands from outside Manila - Sobs and Subsonic Eye (SG). Lyon and Red supported it wholeheartedly and it went really well.

That same year, we also put up a show for bands from Indonesia (Kolibri Rekords' Bedchamber, Grrrl Gang, and Gizpel). Just last year we also hosted the Manila leg of For Tracy Hyde's (Japan) album tour, supported by Cosmic Child (SG).

In between those, we also collaborated on putting up shows with other small independent gig prods; Stay Useless, Ultra Parallel, Salad Days, Offend Maggie, Furiosa, and The Flying Lugaw. This was more of Lyon's vision Red and I wanted to continue - with this we broadened our networks and friendship circles in the community.

What's your favorite part of your work with Almost Crimes and what are the biggest challenges you face?

It's the freedom to curate shows - seriously so fun to get all of your favorite bands to play in one night and to see the crowd really enjoy themselves to the music. To build networks as well - I believe we somehow helped shape the connections of artists and musicians from Singapore, Indonesia and Manila. Everyone just listens to each other's bands and genuinely becomes fans of one another - which I find very awesome.

When hosting bands from outside the Philippines, my favorite part is taking them around metro manila  to eat and showing them around to places we usually hang out - while still sticking to the itinerary!

The biggest challenges we face as a small prod team is resources. We’re still pretty much DIY and we like to keep it that way so we rely on ticket sales, funds from our pockets and for other logistical stuff; help from our friends.We’re a small team as well so we ask for whoever is free and game to go with us to pick up the bands from the airport or help us man the door during shows. What matters is, we still make it pretty fun.

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

With the internet, I feel like it’s going to be easier for us to connect with people outside Manila, it’s easier to plan and book shows with band friends from La Union, Baguio, Naga and Cebu or even outside the Philippines, especially if you manage to have a reach for it. What matters is the genuine intentions and artistry you emit to your audience.

I still see myself making shows and creating - maybe in a more artistic way and in a pace less anxiety-inducing. (Haha!)

Mika Ordoñez, Artist Manager (Lola Amour, Ysanygo)

Tell us your story and the work you've done in the music industry.

I started out in the music industry as an ordinary fan in 2012. I got busy for awhile, and went back to gigging after Cheats' first album launch in 2015. I enjoyed that gig so much that I made sure to watch 1-2 gigs per month so I could discover more artists. September of the same year, I decided to throw a charity/birthday show at Mow's, which eventually encouraged me to start my own prod in 2016, called Raccoon Productions. Our prod team has since grown and we now get to produce bigger, mid-scaled shows outside the regular gig venues. In 2018, I decided to explore artist management. Coincidentally, Lola Amour's bassist, Raymond, messaged me to ask if they can perform in our Raccoon gigs. I asked them if I could speak with their manager and he said they didn't have one. So I volunteered. Haha! For Ysanygo naman, I just officially started handling them January of this year. I've been close to the Ferrazes since last year, which is why I was both excited and scared to be part of their team. It's been great so far with both bands. I can honestly say that they're seriously the kindest (but equally kulit) people I've met in the industry. This is why I take my job seriously and do my best to help them out in any way I can. 

What's your favorite part of your work with Lola Amour, and Ysanygo, and what are the biggest challenges you face?

My favorite part of working with Lola Amour is actually being with them throughout their journey. When I started working with them in 2018, they were a bunch of college kids who had absolutely no idea how the music industry works. At the same time, I was a corporate employee who had no experience with artist management. Surprisingly, we got into the groove quite quickly because we have such great chemistry together. We set our goals, identified our plans, and eventually, things just fell into place. They're so easy to get along with, and it's hard to not love them. I am happy they trusted me with their career, and it's very fulfilling to see how far we've gone together. I am excited for what lies ahead!

With Ysanygo, I really love working with them because they're sooo enthusiastic and passionate about their music. When we talk business, they're just so eager and excited to learn. When they get invited to perform regardless what event it may be, they'll always find a way to make it work. We've only been working together since January this year, but everything just flows so easily too. They're like the little siblings I never had, and I'm equally excited for them as well!

I guess the biggest challenge would be time. I think some people don't know that being a manager takes a lot of time, work, and effort. We don't just work when there's a show or when someone sends a booking inquiry. There's a lot of research, analysis, marketing, and planning involved that takes up a lot of our time. Not to mention the crazy traffic that eats up your entire day haha! Despite the challenges, everything is worth it!

Where do you think is the music industry headed in the years to come? Where do you see yourself in it?

I think the music industry will only get bigger in the years ahead! People used to only listen to foreign acts, but now, there seems to be a bridge between "Local Indie" and "Mainstream" that makes local music more palatable to everyone. Radio stations have started to play local music more frequently, businesses play local music in their shops, big brands are investing in local artists, and even the Filipino listeners are also more open to unique sounds. Eventually, when I fully get the hang of things in the industry, I'd like to manage more artists and make more music events that really give opportunities to new/aspiring artists.


1 An earlier version of this article referred to Pola Beronilla as Pola Beranilla. It has since been amended.