1, 2, Tres, Cuatro: The Name Game
What's in a name? Plenty if you're a WIMP or WEENIE!
Two of the smartest, coolest, hippest, hardest-working women I know in Austin music are WIMPS. If the proverbial tornado whisked away Nancy Coplin and Rose Reyes, the city's music infrastructure would wobble dangerously. Both are co-founders of Women in Music Professional Society.
Rose is director of music marketing for the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, having worked her way through years of assistant and secretarial work fueled by the love of Austin's rich musical and cultural underpinnings. She serves on the board of the Texas Music Hall of Fame and has in the past sat on boards for Cine Las Americas, the Live Music Task Force, the Austin Music Commission, and the city's Hispanic Quality of Life Task Force, in addition to chairing the Corporate Battle of the Bands for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and volunteering for the SIMS Foundation. She also pens a blog with Amanda Garcia and Annie Ray called Twenty Questions for Austin, TX (www.20questions4atx.blogspot.com).
Oh yeah – Rose does the mom thing, too. Her daughter Noël Marie Pitts is the newest addition to the Chronicle's promotions department.
Nancy likes to pooh-pooh that she's just a grandmother who loves music, but in positions ranging from Austin music commissioner to her present job as Music in Public Places coordinator at the airport, she's proven herself to possess bulldog tenacity. Here's a woman who flew out to oil rigs to pitch products when she worked for an industrial chemical company in New Orleans, worked as office manager and head booker for Columbia Pictures, and was the first female branch saleswoman for Universal Pictures.
"I had been thinking about a group for women in music, as I was one of the founding board members of the Women's Chamber of Commerce," Nancy recalls. "One day, Rose Reyes and I met for lunch. We decided it would be very cool to have a monthly networking lunch for all women in the music biz. We sent out a few emails, and ta-da! Our first official Women in Music Professional Society was started August 2007. We had 19 attend. We have had as many as 92 attend. It has helped so many women 'do business' in the music business."
I tip any of my myriad hats to Nancy and Rose; I attended an early meeting, but I haven't been on the WIMPS bandwagon. Won't be, can't be – because of the name. I don't want to belong to a club where I have to explain what a wimp is and why WIMPS is a joke, ha-ha, because we're not really wimps; we're women oh so confident enough to call ourselves something silly after working so hard to achieve success. Doesn't work for me.
"Get a sense of humor, Margaret!" Nancy will razz.
Hey, I bandied sex toys about onstage with Dino Lee and married Rollo Banks!
"I love to look at everything with a humorous bent," declares Nancy. "It makes the world a better place."
I agree and spiritually support WIMPS, and they know it. In fact, Carla DeSantis Black's Musicians for Equal Opportunities for Women, or MEOW, and WIMPS are throwing a high tea together at South by Southwest on Friday, March 16.
Sisterhood is powerful. It's as true now as it was when first-wave feminists used it as a rallying cry in the late Sixties. If the music business offered little support to its female artists then, it offered even less to the women attracted to the nonperformance aspects of it. Women are more likely to "tend and befriend," and WIMPS is modern proof. Look at the heart of almost every benefit and fundraiser and you'll find a core of women at work.
"Would you join an organization for men in music called WEENIE?" I asked a friend at random, musician/writer/artist Jesse Sublett.
"No," he snickered.
See? Can you imagine the brouhaha if there were a music organization for men only? There was one once. It was called the major label, and I think it's fair to say part of the reason the record industry committed hara-kiri is because it was geared toward male sexual politics. The sort of good-old-boy-ism that Madonna would tweak by dropping popcorn into her cleavage during executive meetings, the kind that drove Inger Lorre of the Nymphs in drug- and drink-induced rage to express her anger over the band's contract by urinating on the desk of its Geffen Reccords A&R man.
The music business isn't just soul-killing for women. As many – if not more – men with equally tender talents are cast aside when they don't live up to their promise. Last winter, I couldn't get enough of One Eskimo singing "Kandi," but nothing it's produced since has engaged me as much as that brilliant hybrid of indie pop and sampled soul. This is dangerous territory for me because it makes me ask questions like "Why men don't get photographed as foolishly as Lil' Kim insists on being?"
Forget the ridiculous poodle puffs. Just try to follow her right arm from shoulder to elbow and then ask yourself, "What hath Photoshop wrought?" Like the press release I got a couple of days ago with the headline reading "Neon Hitch can 'F*ck U Betta'." Really?
We're not expecting Bob Dylan-like depth, but examining the names of songs like that and in the pursuit of hyper-photo-perfection, I find myself wondering, "What would Zoe think?"
Zoe Cordes Selbin began blogging for us recently in a music business column published on Fridays called "Internal Affairs," but she's had my attention for some years because ... well, because she reminds me of myself at her age, when your lifeblood pumps with the beat of the scene.
I've had this running joke with Zoe, now 18, that she's going to be the first President of the People's Republic of Austin. Over the past several years, she and my former intern/Sphynx bandleader Aaron Miller have directed me without fail to the best music young Austin is making, from Mother Falcon to the Sour Notes. A couple of years ago at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, I copied down all the cool bands she reeled off from her schedule when we ran into each other. When anyone asked me who I was seeing, I read off Zoe's list.
I'll bet that if the topic of changing the name were on the table, WIMPS would vote not to change it because "Hey, we've gotten this far, and who needs Margaret?" But it's not me who needs its sterling experience and wisewoman advice. It's the Zoes of Austin and her world beyond. And those heirs to the business need not be saddled with a joke name. Believe me, by the time they come to the table, they'll need more than a laugh. They'll have gotten all the jokes about being female in the business. And these young women need the support of the sisterhood.
WIMPS, I challenge you! Call yourselves WAM, or Women in Austin Music, and I am so there. I would be part of WIRE, or Women in Rock, Etc., in a second. I participated in MEOW because that name is purrr-fectly fine by me.
Or why not become the Eberly Sisters, named for Angelina Eberly, the heroine of the Texas Archive War? I went to a Driskill luncheon last week in her honor, a fundraiser for the Austin History Center, and really got to thinking about her. What would have happened if Angelina hadn't heard ol' Sam Houston's Texas Rangers making off with the Republic's archives that December night in 1842? By running down to the street and firing off the six-pound cannon, she woke the citizens in time to chase the Rangers into Williamson County and return the archives to Austin.
Whew. The Archive War preserved Austin as the capital of Texas, thanks to Eberly. By the way, Dec. 31, 1842, became the first of Austin's huge New Year's Eve celebrations, and Angelina Eberly was responsible for it.
Viva la Eberly Sisters!