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Bringing Canberra girls to the front of the stage, Great Ydeas grant winner Sarah O’Malley is changing the tune of the music industry.
Winning the 2022 Joyful Business Club Great Ydeas Grant, her mini-music festival—CBR Grrrls to the Front—is aiming to address the male-dominated nature of the music industry by featuring female-identifying musicians and artists.
Moving to Canberra from Sydney at the start of 2021, the 27-year-old is the founder of Burntout Bookings, an independent promotions company that focuses on strong line-ups and awesome shows in venues around Canberra and the mid-north coast region.
Passionate about showcasing a diverse range of talent as well as working closely with Girls Rock! Canberra, Sarah says the idea of CBR Grrrls to the Front is to create an event that will be hosted and produced by women for women—as well as upskilling participants in running live music events.
“I really want to make it just primarily female-identifying performers, and gender diverse performers like non-binary persons and trans folks,” she says.
“I wanted to put an emphasis on women in the workplace, especially for the music industry, because the numbers for it across the whole industry aren’t great for female-identifying staff…So I’m planning on having a female soundcheck, a female door person, I want everyone who’s on-site to be really comfortable and really happy with how things work.”
While Sarah quickly integrated herself into Canberra’s music scene (helping bands book gigs at Blackbird, Transit Bar, and more) she never imagined she would be the winner of a grant designed to help her follow her passions and improve the local community.
While she admits when she found out she was a recipient she “literally screamed for joy” in the middle of a restaurant, Sarah knows there’s a long journey ahead of her.
“I know we’ve got a long way to go across the whole gender diversity span, in terms of there’s very little non-binary representation, there’s very little trans representation and gender-diverse representation…In a lot of ways, it’s still very much a boys club,” she says.
“I’m trying to show other companies that it’s really easy to make it diverse and accepting of everyone. It’s not a lot of work, you just have to reach out to people and ask them to have it happen.”
Planning on hosting the event on International Women’s Day 2023 in a local venue, the four-to-six band lineup will be a mix of established and emerging performers from around the region, showcasing the best of Canberra’s music—a scene Sarah admits she has fallen in love with.
“Compared to Sydney, Canberra just feels a lot more inclusive,” says Sarah. “Everyone actually supports each other,”
“It’s just got a better community vibe and we’ve got some really great musicians down here. Every show that I’ve been doing so far, all the musicians have been really tight, their sound is really good and when they put on a live show, they know how to put on a live show.”
As she starts to plan the nitty-gritty details of CBR Grrrls to the Front, Sarah’s advice for any girls or female identifying people interested in pursuing a job in the music industry is simple: stand your ground.
“Ask a lot of questions and if you want to work with someone or work for a company, just email them and keep harassing them…surround yourself with really good people and a strong community of support because that’ll make such a huge difference in being able to just keep going with the music industry.”
Interested in being a part of CBR Grrrls to the Front? Message Sarah and the Burntout Bookings team on social media with details about how you want to get involved—and include a music demo or two if you want to take the spotlight.