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HE.SHE.THEY. - The BRAVE Space, Inclusivity And Making Change In The Music Industry

April 16, 2024 by Team Downtown

HE. SHE. THEY. (wide)

Ahead of the 2024 edition of IMS, where Downtown & FUGA will partner with acclaimed organization HE. SHE. THEY. we speak to founders, Steven Braines and Sophia Kearney about The Brave Space, the future of HE. SHE. THEY. and the wider industry.

For those who are new to HE.SHE.THEY. please introduce yourselves and tell us the history of the organization.

Sophia Kearney:
Co-founder of HE.SHE.THEY. which is as Steven mentions below. We’ve been running for 6 years now - 2 of those in a pandemic and HE.SHE.THEY. was born out of our frustration with the mainstream of electronic music events and festivals. We wanted to throw parties we wanted to go to that felt really inclusive both behind the decks, as part of the performers and on the dancefloor.

Steven Braines:
I’m a co-founder of HE.SHE.THEY. which is a record label, event series, and fashion label. We are all about bringing inclusivity and diversity to the electronic music community and beyond. We’re a party for ALL genders, ALL races, and ALL Sexualities. Over the years, I’ve managed artists like Maya Jane Coles, Tricky, Tale of US, KDA, Magda, Catz n’Dogz and more and currently SYREETA, Emily Nash and Wax Wings.

Describe the continuing ethos of HE.SHE.THEY. and how that is represented both in the club and the label.

HST: From our line-ups that range from house heads like Honey Dijon and Kerri Chandler through to techno with Dax J, Sara Landry, and LSDXOXO, as well as our label with Cakes Da Killa, Anja Schneider, Dana Montana, and even a trans-inclusive remix album for Alanis Morrisette everything we do have diversity, inclusion and talent in it’s DNA. It is the same with the way our clothing is ethically sourced and how our dancers come in every shape and size, too. We want everyone to feel seen and welcome. 

You’re six years into the journey now; how have things changed for HE.SHE.THEY., and have you seen any change in the wider industry?

HST: Yeah, it’s crazy. Six years, with two of them being a pandemic with no events, it’s wild to think we’ve been to 15 countries and 50 cities now, from LA to Mumbai to Newcastle. 3 I think the biggest change is that people are talking about inclusion way more than when we started. People didn’t really know terms like non-binary, and it’s an everyday word pretty much. I think there is an appetite to change with the times, you would think music would lead to change, but sometimes we’ve found it sadly lacking. I think we’re proof that the ‘go woke go broke’ adage is a lie. We love it when we do an event in a club and then the club welcomes more diverse programming after. That’s the goal really to help build a community and ecosystem far bigger than ourselves. 

How can businesses, artists, and executives in the music industry ensure that allyship is more than words?

HST: They can open their ears and also actively learn. We had to continue to learn. People need to be unafraid to make a mistake and instead reframe it as a learning experience. Also, support people of colour, queer people, trans people, and women in jobs such as A&R, CEO, Bookers etc where they are often underrepresented. That would create a much healthier ecosystem. 

This is the first time that The BRAVE Space will feature at IMS; what are you hoping for its first year, and how do you see it evolving over time?

HST: We want The Brave Space to be somewhere different people, especially those who might feel disenfranchised from the industry and are underrepresented in particular to have a little haven where they can chat openly about things. Network more easily things like that. Conferences are great, I’ve actually NEVER missed an IMS, but it can trigger social anxiety so having these spaces we hope helps. Plus we’ve got so many cool things planned from there being a nap room where you can literally take a nap to a ball pit, networking events and some amazing talks.

We’re really looking forward to our panel about Imposter Syndrome with you lot ;) I think it’s rife everywhere and the music industry is so much about bravado and there is no real rule book most of the time, we want to talk about it to make sure people realise they are not alone and that they do actually “got this” <3

What does the future hold for HE.SHE.THEY.?

HST: Next year, I think you’ll hopefully see a little more expansion into fashion and we did originally start as a fashion brand that threw cool parties. We’ve got some great ideas, we feel, so let’s see. We’re also doing more festivals, signing more artists, going to new cities and counties. It’s an absolute roller coaster, and we’re making it up as we go along (there’s that imposter syndrome again :p) but we kinda are. We’re open to everything and where it can go is as limitless as our imagination, we pinch ourselves with what we’ve already achieved out of sheer determination to make things better for the next generation on and off the dancefloor. 

Watch the teaser for The BRAVE Space at IMS 2024 here. Then, between 23 and 26 April, meet the Downtown and HE. SHE. THEY teams in Ibiza.