Getting More Women Into Music! Meet DJ And Bitchcraft Founder Polly Miles!
She regularly spins the decks at Brighton’s numerous music venues and is busy putting on shows with her music events company. Polly Miles is a 22 year old DJ and music promoter in Brighton. She is the one pulling the strings behind the city’s monthly female-oriented clubnight Bitchcraft, a project she founded to get more women playing on Brighton’s stages and DJ decks.
It was four years ago that the young woman started her own music promotion company called Acid Box Promotions. At that time, she used to put on shows over in near Eastbourne, trying to improve the local music scene which, she says, has always been little appealing. Never would she have thought that her little promotion company would end up being what it is today.
“It was never a serious project. It was never meant to be what it is. I didn’t really expect it to last that long or that I would start booking such great bands. It started off with just putting our friends’ bands on and people were really enjoying it and we started booking bands from all over the UK and then also from outside the UK”, the music promoter describes how little she expected the music promotion company she runs with her partner Ollie to be successful.
Polly’s first real contact with putting on a music show was when she had to do her final project at college where she followed a creative art and media course involving everything from TV to radio to journalism and publishing. The project being a live music radio show, she had to get bands in and organise everything that went with it. “I absolutely loved it” is how she comments on this first experience.
Not entirely sure what she wanted to do after college, she started putting on bands in Eastbourne and ended up being offered an internship with local music promotion company One Inch Badge. Having learned “some bits and pieces there” as she puts it, the young woman felt confident enough to give it a go and set up her own company Acid Box Promotions.
At least as remarkable as having founded her own music promotion company is the fact that Polly also regularly spins the deck herself. Every Tuesday night, she plays a vinyl only set at the Dead Wax Social, mixing up sounds of the 60s as well as old and new rock’n’roll tracks. DJing with vinyls has a special appeal for her.
“I personally enjoy DJing on records more because you can really see what you are doing and what you are putting in. It’s nice to have something physical. CDs are still fun to DJ with but in the end, it’s just pressing buttons whereas it is a bit more of a skill to use records. You have to think about what you want to take with you and you really have to know every track on the album to be able to mix it up”, Polly says about her preference for vinyls she sometimes also listens to at home.
Putting up shows with Acid Box, DJing herself at least once a week and her work for Brighton’s Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, The Hope & Ruin and Resident Records keep the 22-year-old quite busy but she wouldn’t want to have it any other way: “You do work hard but I think I am very lucky I ended up doing something I really enjoy. Not everyone gets that opportunity.”
Making sure everyone, including the bands, has a good time is the main concern for the passionate music promoter for whom getting to see all the bands she likes is a real perk and helps her keep her head up when a show isn’t as successful as planned.
“You get shows that are busy and shows that are not busy. So you should make sure you are enjoying it and everyone else does too. We basically book bands we want to see ourselves, so we want to make sure other people can enjoy it as well. In the end, if you have a bad show and you lose money, it’s not that bad because you still got to see the band that you wanted to see”, she explains.
Although she finds it hard to pick favourites among all the bands she has put on in Brighton, psychadelic rock band Kikagaku Moyo from Tokyo and Italian rock band New Candys are definitely high up. “New Candys is a band we have put on right from the start and we have sort of built an audience for them over here. It’s been really nice seeing them grow as a band and having their audience grow over here as well”, Polly says with excitement.
The young promoter is always eager to discover exciting new bands she can book for shows. When she works at Resident Records once a week, she listens to all the promo CDs she can get hold of. Her special interest when it comes to spotting new talents out there goes to all-female bands and DJs as personal experience has taught the female music promoter that the music business is a playground mainly dominated by men.
“I have been a female promoter and it is really rare. At certain times, I would be the only girl at shows. You don’t necessarily get looked down on being a girl but it can be hard when the majority of people you are working with are all guys. The good thing though is that you can use your female power to get what you want sometimes. On the overall, you just have to make sure you get your point across and that you take no shit from anyone “, Polly describes her experience.
Although she says not having been overly bothered by being surrounded by only male colleagues most of the time, there was one thing that struck her: “When there was a girl band playing at one of the gigs I went to, you would have all these old guys in the front dripping over them and you just realise that it’s not a really cool experience for these girls up there.”
With this picture in her head and her general impression that “music is much more a male oriented thing”, it didn’t take her long to come up with the idea to create a female oriented clubnight when she and her boss Sally were thinking about introducing a possible new event at Sticky Mike’s.
“Bitchcraft” mainly features female DJs and bands with a primarily female line-up, giving them a chance to enjoy music and show people what they can do. Last month, the clubnight celebrated its first anniversary.
“We wanted to create sort of an equal and friendly environment and a bit of a safe space where girls could come to the front and not feel intimidated by guys. It was just to give women a bit more confidence and to let them know that it is actually accessible for them to come and DJ. The idea really is to promote equality and create a bit more of a balance in the music industry”, Polly explains her intentions behind the Bitchcraft project which, however, also welcomes a fair share of male audiences.
“At the same time, we want to make people realise that there are really cool chicks who can play bass, guitar and drums just as well as any guy and who make some really great music. If you can see an all-male line-up, why not have an all-female line-up? There should be no difference to it. There are some incredible female bands out there and we just want people to see them”, she adds.
Ever since she started the Bitchcraft clubnight, Polly has discovered many female bands she really likes and that she had never heard of before. She even has the impression that there are more and more women playing in bands and spinning the decks than there used to be, a positive sign for the DJ who wants to see more women in the music industry.
The Bitchcraft clubnight runs every last Friday of the month at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. The next one will take place this Friday, July 28, starting at 11 pm. Entry is free.