One of the early contenders for a piece on the reincarnated Around The Sound was Fran Veltman, who sent me an email saying that a mutual colleague in the music media had recommended she get in touch. Going by the professional name, Fran, she was a complete unknown as far as I could see and, having hunted down some of her music and had a little listen, almost entirely unremarkable. But, as a person, there was something in Fran’s email that piqued my interest, so I agreed to meet her and have a chat at some time in the indeterminate future.
Furthermore, Bec + Leanne, as a transgender woman — given that you mentioned “trans people” in your email — you do not represent my interests or contribute one tiny bit to alleviating the prejudice and discrimination I face on a daily basis across all aspects of my life. Do not condescend to me ever again by pretending that you can and do.
We to’d and fro’d via email for a while and then Fran asked if I’d like to come along to Lyric’s Underground to see her singing debut. Against my better judgement, I said I would. Fran was such a newb she didn’t even offer to put me on the guest list for the event. I was a bit annoyed about that, but I got over myself, turned up to the venue, paid my money and went downstairs to see the show. Based on subsequent events, I’m glad I was beholden to no one that evening.
I met with Fran a week or so after the show and we sat down to chat. We exchanged messages subsequently and met a few more times. I’m interested in trying to distil the essence and variety of people who make music in WA, so I do like to take some time to try to get to know a person just a little bit before I write about them. If I were on the clock in any other professional capacity, doing the background work and writing the articles I write for ATS would cost a client between $3,000 to $5,000, with Fran’s piece being at the upper end, because we had no background with each other; I had to start from scratch. I don’t charge for my time, because I do what I do on ATS these days for the love of it. Besides, few in the local music biz would be able to comprehend the value of my time and expertise in the real world.
I published the piece, #2 CUCKOO IN THE NEST on 7 December and, in it, I said the following about Fran’s debut live performance:
“I admired her moxie. I could never have gotten over that mountain of nerves. I appreciated the costume changes, one for each of the three songs she debuted. I loved her demeanour. The songs were good, too, but I couldn’t see then how she could make it as a muso.”
Coincidentally, I was back at Lyric’s Underground recently. This time I walked through the venue’s soundproofed doors while the opening band was in full flow. My first thought was, ‘No,’ but then I spent the rest of their set at the back of the venue talking to one of Perth’s best-of-all-time guitarists whose enthusiasm for their raw talent turned me around to a, ‘Maybe.’ It was similar on the night I went to see Fran, although I don’t know who was in my ear that night, because I knew no one in the venue except the booker and the sound engineer. Somehow, I managed to suspend my judgement and go the journey with Fran.
Immediately Fran had finished her set, I upped stumps and went home, judging that there was no one else on the bill who was going to make it worth my while staying up late on a school night. My prerogative, disagree if you like.
After I published the article, things got a bit weird. Controversy ensued. I’m used to people criticising my point of view, it goes with the territory so, while Fran found some of the commentary she received about the article a bit confronting, it was all grist for the mill as far as I was concerned.
Then Fran forwarded me an email she had received from the event organisers which had the subject line, “WIP $$$$ + Values Clarification”. WIP is the acronym for Words In Progress, the collaborative group that put on the event. I read the email and there were some really nasty, passive aggressive digs at Fran in its text. To me it read as coercive and bullying, and it ended with the following:
“This is not intended as an attack or a rejection, and we want you to continue to be part of WIP events and workshops – but this concept of collaboration over competition is very important to us. I would ask that if you do feel attacked or inclined to respond to this email immediately out of a place of hurt that you take some time to reflect before doing so.”
I’m not going to respond to that or any of the other criticism of Fran in the email on Fran’s behalf. She’s a grown up, so it’s up to her to decide what, if any, action she takes. However, for the sake of full disclosure, I have included the text of the email at the end of this article. Read it and make up your own mind. I did reach out twice to the authors of the email to ask them if they would like to contribute to this article and had not received a reply at the time of publication.
What I will respond to are the references in the email to me. On the first few reads, I wondered who this Andrea was that they were referring to. Then it dawned on me that it was…me. On the fourth or fifth read, it also dawned on me that the authors were referring to my attendance at the event I saw Fran perform at and were responding to the article I had written about Fran.
Essentially, the authors of the email, Bec + Leanne, accused Fran of gatekeeping by not introducing me to them while I was at the event, saying:
“By inviting Andrea and – most importantly – not telling anyone you practiced gatekeeping by preventing Tenille, Zoe, Cathy, Cath, Rob, Nici, Paul and Alexia from accessing an opportunity to progress towards their own goals.
They are not your competition. Providing them with information will not mean less promotional opportunities for you. Introducing them to Andrea would not have taken away from you and your music.”
Oh dear! What opportunity did Fran deny that long list of names? The opportunity to have an article written about them in ATS? What if I just wanted to have a quiet night out and wasn’t interested in meeting a whole stream of people in a noisy venue. I’d never even have remembered their names. I knew nothing about any of them or their music. And, most of all, though my email address and phone number are all over the Internet and I’ve put out the call for people to express their interest in having me write about them multiple times, I had not heard from a single one of these people. Whereas Fran had reached out, had cultivated a relationship, had made me interested. These people were just feeling entitled.
Well, Bec + Leanne, I am not a commodity to be passed among musicians and pawed over. I am not an opportunity to progress towards anyone’s goals. I am a human being, expressing my love for the deep well of creativity in the WA contemporary music industry by writing articles for my website in my own way and on my own terms. I choose who I write about. I choose what I write.
Furthermore, Bec + Leanne, as a transgender woman — given that you mentioned “trans people” in your email — you do not represent my interests or contribute one tiny bit to alleviating the prejudice and discrimination I face on a daily basis across all aspects of my life, no matter how you identify. Do not condescend to me ever again by pretending that you can and do.
Unfortunately, this sort of passive aggressive bullying dressed up as collaboration when it is straight out coercion, is quite common in the music industry. Usually, people cover their tracks a bit better than Bec + Leanne did this time, but it seems to be par for the course. It’s time it stopped.
I’ll be steering clear of everything to do with Bec + Leanne and Words In Progress in future. What others do is an opportunity for them to clarify their own values.
Full text of Bec + Leanne’s email.
Subject: WIP $$$$ + Values Clarification
So – you’re the only one who hasn’t been paid – can you please send through that invoice for $50? We fully aware it’s not much, but it is an even split of the profit from the night.
I hope that you didn’t take my curiosity for interrogation – that was not absolutely not my intention. I do just want to take this opportunity to clarify something about WIP now that it has come up.
One of our core values is ‘Collaboration over Competition’. In practice this can look like sharing other performers music on social media and giving emotional + practical support to other performers on the night.
What it is not is gatekeeping.
Gatekeeping is the activity of controlling and limiting access, usually to advance the agenda of one group over another.
It’s exactly what keeps 54 year old electronic music producers and performers like yourself from achieving the level of success they deserve. ‘The Industry’ has for centuries withheld information, contacts and opportunities from women, from older people, from trans people in order to maintain power.
By inviting Andrea and – most importantly – not telling anyone you practiced gatekeeping by preventing Tenille, Zoe, Cathy, Cath, Rob, Nici, Paul and Alexia from accessing an opportunity to progress towards their own goals.
They are not your competition. Providing them with information will not mean less promotional opportunities for you. Introducing them to Andrea would not have taken away from you and your music.
This is not intended as an attack or a rejection, and we want you to continue to be part of WIP events and workshops – but this concept of collaboration over competition is very important to us. I would ask that if you do feel attacked or inclined to respond to this email immediately out of a place of hurt that you take some time to reflect before doing so.
Thanks – and send that invoice through!
Bec + Leanne