Sounds of the Future: In Conversation with Keely Liptrot, Founder of Sass and Snarl

According to Keychange, a pioneering international movement which empowers women to transform the future of music whilst encouraging festivals to achieve a 50:50 gender balance by 2022, only 15% of music labels are majority owned by women. The gender imbalance in the music industry workforce is stark with the gender pay gap sitting at around 30%, and in the US women only make up 14% of the acts on festival stages. 

But things are changing and a number of organisations are committed to the pledge towards ensuring greater balance and openness. Already 130 festivals from across 26 countries have signed up to the 50:50 gender balance pledge and the work of Keychange has inspired swathes of women across the world to lend their voice to the initiative. 

Individuals including 18-year-old Keely Liptrot from Manchester who has founded Sass and Snarl, a platform that encourages self-promotion, supports women in the music industry and provides a place for all creatives to network. Her exciting new project aims to end the gender divide in the music business through virtual events and online campaigns, at least during lockdown, with big plans for live events and networking once restrictions are lifted.

Under a banner of unashamed self-promotion, Keely, who has been running her own music blog since the age of 13, understands the barriers that currently exist and hopes Sass and Snarl will be part of the solution. Features such as her Future CEOs posts, highlighting the upcoming female talent that inspires her, along with her brilliantly curated Spotify playlists, are sure to resonate with followers and play a part in evening the playing field for all female creatives.

We had the chance to speak to Keely, who has recently started her degree in music management, about her initiative and discussed some her favourite female acts and producers and why she wants to help more women celebrate their work and contributions to the music industry. 

Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Keely Liptrot, I am 18 years old and have just finished my first year taking a Music Business degree. I am originally from Manchester which definitely gave me lots of inspiration when I was 13 and starting my own music blog.

In May, I launched my own platform Sass and Snarl where I teach self-promotion to young creatives in music. Being so heavily influenced by the organisation KeyChange, we also work to support women in the music industry. This ultimately gives us a perfect opportunity to build our own community, so we are definitely wanting to start some networking events once lockdown is over.

What is the mission statement of Sass and Snarl?

Encourage shameless self-promotion, ending the gender divide in our industry and provide networking opportunities for creatives in music.

What inspired you to create this platform?

Seeing so much talent going unnoticed. Anyone from photographers to artists to copywriters, there are so many creatives not getting the attention they deserve, mostly because they do not know how to self-promote. And also, the amazing work from KeyChange!

Where did the inspiration for the name come from?

Sounds so ridiculous but it is how I describe my dog. He has so much sass, but boy can he snarl. I think it sums up the aims perfectly and I get so much feedback on how people love our name.

Why do you think the music industry still fails to fully represent women?

As I said, I was in the heart of the Manchester music scene when I wasn’t even old enough to go to gigs by myself. I was constantly surrounded by men, my music teachers were all men and still are for that matter, the artists I would interview were all men, the promoters, photographers, managers and other journalists I would work with were all men. It didn’t seem important at the time because I was still working with so much talent but I would sometimes feel like I wasn’t meant to be there and that maybe this isn’t the place for me and now I am in this community of amazing young women, I now know how important and empowering it is.

In the future, I would love to work for a major music company but if I was in the exact same job as a man, I would be payed 30% less. I refuse to let that happen; I know my worth! And for an industry based off talent and creativity, we really do lack diversity, I’m sure we have all seen the festival line ups, they perfectly sum up the lack of representation in the music industry. I personally think it all stems from the perception many still have of women, if women were taken as seriously as men were would we be having a different conversation?

How are you planning to get the concept out there into the world?

So, in July, we will hopefully be starting our virtual events to teach about self-promotion. We are also running a campaign called Future CEOs where we feature a young woman making her own way into the music industry every week.

I have also done some really cool interviews with Priya from @BhamBNails who spoke about building her own business, doing the nails for Little Mix, Mabel and Jorja Smith and even Serena William’s nails for Wimbledon! We spoke to Manchester band, PINS, who have launched their own label and just from a little bit of self-promo and showcasing their talent got them a song with the legend, Iggy Pop! I also interviewed my most favourite Manchester DJ, Shell Zenner and we talked about how aspiring presenters can help themselves get a job at a radio station and also the high school pettiness that some women still have in this industry.

So yeah lots of new campaigns, events, interviews and of course lots of self-promotion, it seems to be working so the only way is up!

What support have you had with launching the platform?

I launched the business all by myself, told everyone about it, gave myself a week to build a website, write the interviews, start looking at branding which was hectic but done is better than perfect in my eyes so it just needed to be done!

I still solely run Sass and Snarl but have had some amazing opportunities to talk about it like with this interview and the chance to co-host on the BBC Radio which was really awesome. There are so many platforms and organisations trying to help women and new talent in this industry in lots of different ways so building myself into that community has been a lot of fun and has helped me out a lot mentally!

What do you hope it will achieve in the long-term?

Ending the gender divide sounds so bold doesn’t it! But it is truly why a lot of us are here, of course Sass and Snarl isn’t going to change the industry solely on our own but being part of the movement that will, that’s a goal!

For myself, I hope Sass and Snarl inspires people to know their self-worth and want to start their own side hustle and build their own business because it really does feel so good!

And I want to do networking events and travel and meet lots of new people! 

Why do you think women find it hard to talk about their achievements?

I think we all find it hard to talk about our achievements, sometimes I think it’s a British awkward thing, sometimes I think it is because we don’t know our worth and sometimes, I think it’s because we care too much about sounding like we have a huge ego and what other people will think! 

I was in a webinar, not so long ago and I remember one of the panellists saying care less and share more and I have honestly had that in the back of mind since.

How can we change that as magazines, media platforms, communities?

Giving creatives a chance to show it and being excited when they do. People are putting their heart and soul into their work, if you have the opportunity to share it, not only will it help them feel good but also yourself. A huge part of self-promotion that nobody realises is actually supporting others so if you want to promote your brand, promote others too!

A proud Manc, what are some of your favourite spots in the city?

My favourite ever music venue when I was younger was Sound Control which has now been completely knocked down and is being turned into flats, so this is the perfect time to say to help our grassroots venues.

I’m also a jazz guitarist so having Matt and Phreds on my doorstep is amazing.

I’m a lover for some vegan food, so V Rev is a lovely spot! And if you have never been to Flight Club, I guarantee you that it is so much fun!

How has being from the north shaped you?

My mum has the poshest voice being from Henley on Thames. My dad is from Bolton. I have THE WORST Bolton accent you can ever imagine, and my mum always says, “you’ll never do well in a job interview with that accent” but I think our northern charm reigns supreme and for a brand that is all about communication, I can definitely tell you it hasn’t held me back.

I’ve gone down South for uni and I miss that sense of community that northerners have, I think that is why I am so passionate about it!

If you could dispel one myth about the north what would it be?

That our accents mean we won’t do as well in job interviews.

What inspires you on a personal level?

Good music. That feeling of putting your favourite track when you are feeling on top and then putting on that special playlist to help those bad times feel a little bit lighter. Nothing spurs me on more than that!

Which female musicians should be tuning into right now?

Chika! I swear I say this every week! She is a black, gay, plus size woman in the music industry, every single one of those things makes it so much harder for her but she is killing it! Her EP Industry Games perfectly sums up what is going on in our industry, yet it is so empowering and just makes you want to dance, I honestly have no complaints. 10/10!

Follow Sass and Snarl and Keely for more information of how the music industry is changing and how to get involved.

Keychange is an international initiative which transforms the future of music whilst encouraging festivals and music organisations to achieve a 50:50 gender balance by 2022.

Interview: Jenna Campbell


Person of interest: Angela Chan, Producer and Musician

Words by Sarah McManamon

NRTH LSS had the pleasure to get to know the very talented producer and musician Angela Chan.

Coming to Leeds to study a degree in classical and contemporary music, and a master’s in music production, Angela tells us why she stayed up north as she built her eclectic musical career around her distinctive “fuzzy” sound. Angela also shares some foodie recommendations for the noodle lovers amongst us.

Angela has an impressive discography, including her work as a touring band member of alternative rock group Placebo since 2017, her creative involvement with indie rock band Lanterns on the Lake since 2014 and, more recently, her time on tour with Kyle Falconer of The View.

NRTH LASS: Tell us about a typical day on tour. What are the highs and lows of tour life?

Angela: There’s not much routine to touring. There’s a lot of travelling and packing and unpacking things – vans, boxes, bags, cases. I love the camaraderie of it all especially on the smaller tours where everyone is mucking in. There’s always plenty of chat, jokes and silly games to pass the time. Apparently I sleep a lot too. 

Image: Hello Cosmos

NRTH LASS: Would you say that you have a signature “sound” you find yourself returning to?

Angela: My viola and reverb! Other than that, I don’t think I have much of a signature sound … but I do love playing around with other instruments, pedals and getting geeky with tech. I try to mould my sound to fit each band I play with – orchestral strings, dirty fuzzy noise, ethereal soundscapes, synthy pads. I rarely use the same pedalboard setup between bands. I can get really weird with the sound and people often think they’re hearing a guitar. It’s not. It’s a viola!

NRTH LASS: What’s it like being a woman in the music industry? Have you met any gender-based barriers in your career?

Angela: I’ve never felt like I’ve encountered any gender-based barriers, but it’s something that is being talked about a lot at the moment. I went to a “Women in Music” conference recently to try and learn more and after hearing about others’ experiences, I started to think about my own. There are sexist attitudes but it’s very rare that I come across them. On the whole, I find the creative world quite progressive and open. There are many sides to the industry that I’ve not experienced though, so I can’t speak for all women.

NRTH LASS: Tell us about your work as a producer. How does it compare to performing live?

Angela: Performing live is about being in the moment, playing my instrument. In the studio, it’s about crafting and creating. It’s more cerebral, not as automatic, and I’ve got a lot to learn. I like making music for performance art (dance, theatre) and moving image (sound design, film, digital art). I love the relationship between sound and movement. It’s easy to get lost for hours once I get stuck in.

NRTH LASS: What was it that kept you based in Leeds for all these years? Were you ever tempted/encouraged to relocate?

Angela: Leeds ticks a lot of boxes. I came here to study and met lots of people doing exciting things. There’s a lot going on. It’s not an expensive place to live. I found a supportive community and I’ve been well nurtured by it. I lived in Newcastle for a bit and I’d like to go back there in the future. London doesn’t appeal much to me as a place to live. I’m a northern lass.

NRTH LASS: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Angela: Spending an evening trawling through Gumtree ads and finding the people who became my mentors, best friends and first proper band. I’d recently learned what a pickup was, acquired the cheapest one I could find on eBay, blue-tacked it to my viola and turned up to meet these strangers. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t get laughed out of the room. I learned almost everything about playing in a band from them. They even equipped me with my first ever pedal. Before them, I never knew what a pedal was. Imagine that.

“Performing live is about being in the moment, playing my instrument. In the studio, it’s about crafting and creating.”

NRTH LASS: How do you balance your personal life with your career? Do you ever feel that you’ve had to sacrifice one for the other?

Angela: If music wasn’t my job it would still be a huge part of my life. Music is very personal to me and through music I’ve made close friends, learned valuable life lessons, travelled the world, experienced adventures and misadventures. It’s not a conventional life, but convention doesn’t excite me. I’ve been told that to sacrifice is to give up something for a greater something else, and if that is the case, it’s not the worst position to be in.

NRTH LASS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Or any piece of advice you wish you’d received? 

Angela: I’ve had a lot of good advice and yet I can’t recall a single piece right now. All I can say is: surround yourself with good people. They will provide you with all the advice you will need.  

NRTH LASS: Finally, and most importantly … where can I get the best noodles and dumplings in Leeds? 

Angela: Haha! So you’ve spotted I’m a noodle enthusiast. Well, I’m a big fan of Bánh and Mee for Vietnamese, Noodle House for Hong Kong and Malaysian, and Noodlesta is a recent opening for Northern Chinese hand-pulled noodles. Couple of OK dim sum spots too but I’ve not found a place for proper good dumplings yet. Let me know if you find one.