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Future Female Sounds Founder Tia Korpe on Amplifying Female and Gender Minority DJ Voices

Future Female Sounds (FFS) is a non-profit organization and booking agency based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Founded in 2017 by Tia Korpe, FFS provides learning and networking opportunities for female and gender minority DJs across several countries.

Photos courtesy of FFS Team

Through events, seminars, networking meetings, mentorships, and instructional workshops, the organization opens doors for women and non-binary people in a historically male-dominated industry and sparks meaningful conversations about gender inequality in electronic music. FFS is well known across the world for their DJ Workshops and Academies, in which they teach essential DJ skills and valuable music industry lessons to students with varying levels of experience and production knowledge. These programs take professional music education to the next level; not only do they demonstrate hands-on mixing and mastering techniques but they also introduce an understanding of how to navigate the entertainment industry at large.

Beyond masterclasses and workshops, creates a tight-knit community of female and gender minority DJs. The organization also acts as a booking agency, preparing students for successful music careers before actually booking them with live sets and job opportunities globally. Moreover, FFS plans to take their vision to the next level in the coming years, utilizing digital resources to launch an Online DJ Academy that can be accessed by women in every corner of the world.

We spoke with Future Female Sounds founder Tia Korpe about the non-profit's vision, future expansions, and the challenges faced by female and non binary DJs daily. Read the full interview below and keep an eye out for the official FFS Online DJ Academy coming soon.


Give a brief overview of the Future Female Sounds mission statement.

Future Female Sounds is on an ambitious mission to make DJ culture accessible to women and gender minorities globally. We do that in a number of ways.

What inspired you to create FFS?

I founded FFS in 2017. I have a background in the music industry myself, mainly working behind the scenes doing booking, management, and as a cultural consultant. I have about twenty years of experience in the industry. Especially at this time, I was one of only a few women working in the industry.

I'd always wanted to become a DJ myself. I was always digging music and was fascinated by the art of DJing, but I didn't know where to start. I knew a bunch of men who were DJs, but I didn't really know that many women. I finally got into it when I met a woman who was a DJ and who became my mentor. She taught me how to mix and really introduced me to the world of DJing. I thought to myself, “if I feel this way, then a lot of other women and gender minorities must feel the same way.” From there on, the idea of FFS started. I mainly wanted to build a community and a safer space where people can ask questions that they may feel embarrassed to ask in a public forum.

It was, first and foremost, a platform where people could exchange information on anything from what type of equipment to buy to how to get a booking or deal with certain situations in nightlife. That then grew into us doing DJ workshops. We started as a very community oriented, grassroots organization, which then organized DJ workshops. We've been developing the last couple of years, growing our programs to more and more countries each year. We've trained over a thousand DJs the last couple years.

"I knew a bunch of men who were DJs, but I didn't really know that many women."

What were the biggest obstacles when you were getting started?

Funding. Like every other independent organization, especially nonprofit organizations, the biggest challenge starting out is getting enough funding. It took a long time to convince the industry that what we do is important and that it's not only about nurturing the talent that's already out there. It's also about creating a platform where new talent can emerge. That's kind of our role–helping people take that first step and being a gate opener, rather than a gatekeeper.

A couple of years ago, there was definitely not as much of a conversation about gender equality in the music industry at all. It's definitely advanced a lot in the last couple of years, but when we first started out it wasn’t even a discussion. It took a lot of advocacy work from our side to get people to understand why this is important.

Where do you currently offer programs?

We have DJ programs in Denmark (Copenhagen), Berlin, Paris, Cairo, and Tunisia.

Why these locations?

We’re based in Denmark; it's where we have our headquarters, office, and DJ Academy. We run a DJ school there, and then we basically expanded to the Middle East because I've been working there for the last ten years on and off and I had a big network of creatives. I called a couple of people that I thought would be good to work with and luckily, were happy to be onboard. There is so much underrepresented talent in the Middle East and North Africa. The electronic music scene is very interesting, but women and gender minorities have it ten times harder there than we do in the West. It was twofold, as there is a lot of talent there but also a lot more obstacles for people to actually get started.

Paris and Berlin have been developed in the last couple of years. In Berlin, our program has a very specific focus because we offer the workshops primarily to refugee or migrant women and minorities. In Paris, we also have a strong focus on BIPOC representation.

"There is so much underrepresented talent in the Middle East and North Africa. The electronic music scene is very interesting, but women and gender minorities have it ten times harder there than we do in the West."

Do you plan to add new programs and countries in the future?

So far we've opened one new country program a year. What's happening now, which is very exciting, is that we’re working with Beatport. They are basically supporting our project of digitizing everything and creating an online DJ school. This will be the first time that we're actually able to reach everyone. We're definitely planning to expand to more countries, but we are specifically focusing right now on making it accessible through a digital product.

Share a little bit more about your DJ academies and online DJ Academy.

The DJ Academy follows a three month curriculum where we introduce students to the art of mixing. We focus a lot of time on technical skills, learning on different types of equipment, and talking about finding and defining your sound as a DJ–your artistic expression. The second part of the education is more focused on how to navigate the music industry. We train them on everything from how to land their first bookings to what they should negotiate in a contract…basically all the stuff that people don't know how to do unless it’s their job or they have a management team. Of course, a lot of emerging DJs don't have those things. We’re teaching DJs how to be self-sufficient and then we book them out to gigs (festivals, radio, clubs, and other places). We try to give them that first positive experience of mixing in front of an audience. We also have mentorships and industry talks, where we invite gatekeepers of the industry to come in and talk about different subjects.

How do you set up those mentorships?

We have a really, really big network of people working in the industry. For example, in our Copenhagen program, we have female DJs as mentors who have been active in the industry for ten or more years. They teach students technical tips and tricks on mixing. Moreso, they share their knowledge and experience, as well as acting as a point of contact. If the students ever feel insecure or unsure about something, they can write to their mentor and get some feedback or words of encouragement. Everything that we do is very much about supporting each other in the industry and beyond.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of launching the academy so far?

What makes me really proud and happy is when I see how well a DJ is doing after they've been through our academy. I’ll look at a DJ's Instagram and see that they have tons of gigs booked and people are really getting to know them. For me, that’s a real success story. They all came to us not knowing how to DJ. Now they're booked at some of the biggest clubs. It shows me that there’s always space in the industry for new DJs.

"They all came to us not knowing how to DJ. Now they're booked at some of the biggest clubs."

Tell me more about how the DJ workshops operate.

The DJ workshops are usually two or three days. Here, we focus mainly on the technical aspects of DJing, especially beat matching, sound selection, building playlists, working with software, and how to mix. We spend quite a lot of time talking about different types of setups and equipment. We talk a lot about what a DJ is… There’s a huge misconception in general where people think that a DJ is someone who's just kind of going, “woo-hoo!” at the club. In reality, there are so many different ways to DJ and we want to really change the narrative.

You can be a radio DJ, one that curates for art exhibitions, one that performs at festivals, and so much more. There isn't just one way to do it. We also are genre fluid, so we work with all kinds of music genres and teach how to mix for different sounds. Afterwards, we connect them to our digital community and they can also network with DJs from the other cities.

At what point do the DJs join the Advanced Masterclass?

Usually we have the workshops every two or three months and then we might have a masterclass every six months or so (all for free). We do an open call and people apply. It's always way too many applicants compared to the number we can actually take. For one class in Berlin, we had eight spaces and fifty-something applications.

What advice do you have for young girls and non-binary DJs who are hoping to break into the music industry?

My advice is definitely to join our community because we can help open certain doors. My other advice is to find people around you who have a similar interest. Building a community around you is a great way to start off your career. If you can't find anyone near you, there's a huge digital community of people who are in the same position as you. Another thing I would recommend is to find what you're passionate about and practice a lot. Don’t expect things to happen overnight, but practice a lot and don’t be afraid to put a product out, even if it's not perfect.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for women in the music industry today?

I think there are plenty of allies in our industry who are willing to change, but I think that there's a deeper structural issue in the music industry, which especially concerns gatekeepers who are in high positions. I think that every organization or company needs to have a clear policy for gender inclusion. If you don't have that, you're missing out on talent and social change.

What can other industry professionals do to better support women and non-binary people in music?

I think the best things that allies can do are to listen to the people that this directly concerns and to reach out to communities who do have talent. That’s the thing about gender equality, diversity, and inclusion; you can’t be lazy about it. You have to work for it. You can’t expect to say the magic word and make things happen overnight. Rather, you have to proactively seek it out.

"You can’t expect to say the magic word and make things happen overnight."

Was the FFS booking arm included in your initial vision or was it added to the organization as it developed?

It was always a part of my plan to also have a booking agency. There was so much talent that we were nurturing and if you have an agency, it's easier to book DJ's out to places. As our name and our brand grew, naturally more and more companies started contacting us about talent from all over the world. It's one of the only women owned DJ booking agencies with a women and gender minority roster in Europe. The demand is there and the vision was always there, so the agency came about a year after I started FFS.

How do you find the artists that you work with?

A lot of them are people that I already had in my network since I've been in the industry for a long time. This is my passion, so I'm always interested in discovering female and gender minority DJs around the world. I'm always searching for new talent and with the academy and workshops, a lot of DJs that have come out of our training are people that I book today. A lot of talent has actually gone from knowing absolutely nothing to now being on our roster. I have a solid combination of emerging talent and very established DJs that have been in the game for fifteen years.

Are all your artists based locally or do you also work with DJs abroad?

I work with DJs abroad, too! For example, I might have a client who needs a DJ in New York or somewhere else, so I have a list of DJs that I know and that I work with pretty much all over the world.

What's next for Future Female Sounds?

Next up is our major online academy, which we are launching in 2023. It's going to be a complete course. All the knowledge we have gathered over the last five years will be presented in the online program. Everything's going to be video and tutorial-based, with digital resources to go along with the materials. When people get the course, they also can download templates for contracts, technical riders, and other industry must-haves. It's really the perfect kickstart guide that you’d need as a DJ.


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