Championing Diversity in DJ Culture with Future Female Sounds
Championing Diversity in DJ Culture with Future Female SoundsMarch 30, 2023
We speak to Tia Korpe, the founder of Future Female Sounds, to learn more about the non-profit’s new online DJ Academy and the story behind its expansive global community of female and gender-expansive DJs.
The mission and philosophy of Future Female Sounds is simple: this excellent non-profit organization, set up in 2017, was set up with the specific aim of making DJ culture more accessible to women and gender-expansive people globally: it’s as simple and sincere as that, with FFS supporting and guiding those creatives along their journey. That means that there are not only educated instructors but also the endgame is that the DJs graduate and step out into a bigger, brighter world. A quick scan of their socials will see this ethos being celebrated daily. Safe, inspired, uplifted and transformed are the words and the adjectives used by FFS to describe the feeling they aim to reach with their workshops and overall work around the world.
And when we say world, FFS are now firmly established in Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen and Cairo. Tia Korpe is the MD and founder of Future Female Sounds, and she runs the daily operations of FFS in 4 countries, leads the team and is in charge of solidifying partnerships, strategic development and also the overall growth of the organization. She also runs the booking agency FFS Booking. So if you’re curious about what else they have in store, keep reading below and prepare to go global, because for FFS that’s precisely what makes them so increasingly widespread and unique.
Future Female Sounds were one of the three co-recipients of The Beatport Group’s $100,000 Gender Parity Initiative back in 2022. Learn more here.
Tia, what prompted FFS to set up the organization back in 2017?
I founded FFS after nearly two decades of working in the music and cultural field, and having managed and booked DJs for many years, I had noticed the great interest of many women and gender-expansive people wanting to learn how to DJ, but expressing how difficult it was to find a space where that was supported. I had just come back to Copenhagen from teaching DJ Workshops in refugee camps for boys and girls,, and noticed how much the girls were holding back even if I (as a woman) was teaching and mentoring them, and that completely changed once it was just me and them in the room. Shortly after I started working as the Equality Consultant at Scandinavia’s biggest music festival, Roskilde Festival and created a campaign to highlight the lack of female and non-binary headliners and artists on stage, and whilst I was observing the different stages I noticed a total lack of female/nb DJs, even as warm-ups or backing major artists. It made me realize that it’s not only a question of a safer space issue, but a systemic widespread issue of representation and possibilities. A few months later we held our very first pop-up DJ workshop with around 10 participants, and a week later we had a waiting list of over 100 people wanting to take the workshop, and the demand has only grown since…
What do you feel is important in the way you are different from other non-profits?
I think what makes FFS unique is that our community is global. Over 7.000 female and gender-expansive DJs — from the ones just taking their first baby steps, to headliner internationally revered DJs — I think we have managed to create a truly digital and physical community who are supportive of each other, and that the entire organization’s DNA is built on democratizing accessibility to DJ culture to a much wider group. We have non-binary DJs from Saudi Arabia to female DJs in Colombia, across the whole SWANA region and the Nordics, and the possibilities and reach that we have been able to give our community would normally be unthinkable for small nonprofits. Further, I think that our approach to the intersection of social change and DJ culture is different than other NGOs in the sense that we have a mission statement tied to our activities, but our activities can also be in collaboration with commercial partners. As we work in the music industry, we need to have feet in both camps for maximum impact.
Tell us about the Online DJ Academy and what you hope to achieve with it.
FFS Online DJ Academy is a big dream of mine coming true, and something I have worked on for over two years. The fact that we can now make all this knowledge we have generated over the past five years accessible to a global audience is exactly what FFS intends to do; “Making DJ Culture accessible to women and gender minorities globally.”
As for our global south members, we know that accessibility is the number one barrier to the industry. This is why we have created an online course which can be taken without owning any equipment, just using software to learn the basics of mixing, and from hereon hopefully fueling the fire and interest which will prepare our students to actually move from home mixing to an event. Everyone has to start somewhere, so we also hope to demystify some narratives around what being a DJ actually is, and show that there is indeed space for you too.
After having trained thousands of female and gender minority DJs over the past five years, what are some of the steps you’ve taken recently to refine your successful DJ curriculum?
We consider ourselves a constantly growing and refining organization, which means we are also always learning and challenging our knowledge by collaborating with new DJs, collectives and brands. Having run a physical DJ Academy for a year and a half at our HQ in Copenhagen, we have a lot of experience with creating and adapting our curriculum for current needs. This means that our online DJ academy goes beyond mixing techniques, but also focuses on curating mood and sound – from the standard DJM900 to Xone to controllers — serving a wide range of needs. The entire course is created and taught by female and gender minority DJs so we also have a big focus on navigating the industry and a lot of great insights into things like how to organize your own parties, how to brand and monetize yourself as a DJ, ergonomics, setting up a rider and booking/management contracts and much more — it’s basically like a digital DJ manual for beginners, emerging and established DJs.
Is it important to be a global entity? What are the important anchor points of Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris and Cairo?
For us, it’s very important to be present in as many places as possible. As a non-profit organization with a very limited budget however, unfortunately we can’t be everywhere — so we have created ‘chapters’ of Future Female Sounds in various cities to support local communities and engage local DJs as well to grow the activities. We run all operations our of our HQ in Copenhagen and have local teams in Berlin, Paris and Cairo — this means we can collaborate with a number of both local and international partners, creating maximum impact for as many emerging DJ talent as possible.
Tell us about your Local Domination events and the Final Domination showcase that you are currently gearing up for.
The Local Domination series has been an event running over the past year and a half as part of graduation event for FFS DJ ACADEMY Denmark students. The events are in partnership with Soundboks and the Danish headphone brand AIAIAI who host our students in-store, and we invite the public to come discover new talent, as well as livestream it on Mixcloud. As we now have 36 new DJ talents coming out of our Academy, the students are co-arranging a ‘Final Domination’ party with a line-up of over 15 DJs, running from Hip Hop and Amapiano to Acid House and Techno… we always teach and preach gender-fluidity and this party will truly show the beautiful and diverse range of DJs!
How often do you run workshops? We saw one in Paris recently with a local radio station!
We run DJ Workshops for beginners and intermediate DJs in Berlin and Paris every three months, as well as pop-up DJ Workshops and master classes in Copenhagen and Cairo. We also run activations with brands to reach audiences that don’t already know about us.
Finally, how would you describe the community that you’ve built around FFS?
Our community is diverse, talented, curious, motivated, and helpful. It feels like every single active person in our community is actually genuine about not only learning as much as they can — but also contributing to the community, and that creates a very special atmosphere, both digitally and physically!