In this series, mica – music austria and Austrian Music Export have collected the experiences and perspectives of women in the music business. No matter the categories, quotas or breakdown, the goal is 100% of us working together in the struggle for feminism. In this interview, Viennese pianist, singer and promoter SARA FILIPOVA talks about her experiences in the music business.
Which people/institutions/funding programs have helped you on your way in the music business?
Sara Filipova: I have received a lot of support from my immediate environment, from friends, colleagues, promoters and teachers. In general, people who booked me, recommended me, believed in me or helped me in all kinds of ways and shared their knowledge and experiences with me, and people I could talk to about the hurdles and the business. It would take a long time to name them all, but I definitely want to mention Ö1 at this point, because that station has always brought my music to the public. Their broadcasts are so important for me and for the scene, beyond the mainstream, and they’re always in danger of being cut or canceled. Also mica – music austria has advised me well on some tricky issues.
“Over time I realized that not all the doors that open are necessarily my doors, and not all supposed ‘experts’ are necessarily experts for me.”
How and where did you get your experience in the music business? What were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Sara Filipova: When I moved to Vienna to study voice, I initially tried to gain as much experience in all kinds of bands, genres and fields as I could. Over time I realized that not all the doors that open are necessarily my doors, and not all supposed “experts” are necessarily experts for me. The learning curve was big, also regarding the things I don’t want and some aspects and pitfalls of the music business I got to know before I focused completely on my music. To be able to help myself a bit better in the business area, I attended a music management course and some workshops.
One of the biggest challenges for me was, and still is, not to lose sight of why I make music in the first place and what made me choose this path, besides all the things that run through my head and can be hurdles in and of themselves – like finances, opinions, booking, marketing, and so on.
Did you have role models around you to look up to?
Sara Filipova: I have always had role models in my environment, but they are not limited to the music sector. In general, they’re people who followed their own path and didn’t let themselves be diverted, even if it was unconventional for their situation. Also people who support others in their projects and people who offer alternative perspectives.
What role models do women in the music business have right now?
Sara Filipova: For me there are quite a few, and I have the feeling that more and more women from the music business are becoming publicly more visible. The question is difficult for me to answer, because role models can be so different and are so strongly related to individual goals.
“The exchange with colleagues and people with more experience than I have in some areas has personally helped me a lot.”
What can you pass on to others?
Sara Filipova: That’s actually a question that I keep asking myself in one form or another. I hope that the very decision to make music and to be visible with it inspires, just as I was inspired by other musicians to choose this path. The exchange with colleagues and people with more experience than I have in some areas has helped me a lot personally – I don’t want to deprive others of that. The concert series “0816 Acoustic”, which I created in collaboration with Loop Wien, is also an attempt on my part to make the diverse scene we have in Austria more visible and to create a place where people can exchange ideas.
“When I was younger, I always had some jitters about turning 30.”
What role does age play for you?
Sara Filipova: When I was younger, I always had some jitters about turning 30: the common myth was that you have to have made it by then, especially as a woman – otherwise it’s too late and you don’t stand a chance. The areas where age actually plays a bigger role at the moment are with funding programs, scholarships, university positions, etc.; with many of those things, there is an age limit. If you’re over it, then you can’t take advantage of the programs, financial aid, etc.
What would you like to see in terms of a more diverse music scene?
Sara Filipova: I would like to see the media landscape, concert programs, the charts and the line-ups become increasingly diverse in the long run, the pigeonholes get broken open – and not just on the Women’s Day or other “special occasions”.
What questions do you get asked that a man would never be asked?
Sara Filipova: I have been lucky with interview questions so far and have only extremely rarely been asked questions that a man would never be asked.
Translated from the German original by Arianna Alfreds.