When you mention the name Georgina Reed there are really only two reactions applicable….. You either know her as the first and most respected female DJ in Sydney’s Soul scene, with a career spanning over two decades as a radio and club DJ! If you haven’t heard about her, well there’s no better time to learn than the present.
Steering the helm of a club and radio DJ career that has shaped the lives of so many to follow in her footsteps, Ms Reed remains true to herself and her music in every way. Her club sets were always pure bliss to the ears of the seasoned music lover and to the novice like myself at the time I first witnessed this phenomenal woman behind the decks, it was love at first sight! Her confidence was and still is infectious and her technique effortless as she mixed her vinyl seamlessly. To an impressionable 19-year old future female DJ, she kicked open the door and truly became one of my greatest inspirations in this industry.
Her love and promotion of the soul, funk, reggae and Latin music genres saw Georgina become a formidable force in our soul/jazz community, with her knowledge and passion for music taking on a greater role than just spinning a record in a club. Her smooth voice soon took precedence on the airways on various radio stations in Sydney with her legion of loyal and enamoured listeners and fans following her like the Pied Piper of the soul circuit.
It’s been a few years now since the fiery DJ has stepped behind the decks at a club, times and music have changed and more often than not, not for the better dare it be said. Not concerned with the technological irritations of computer generated djing or drowning to the sounds of auto-tuned tracks, Georgina finds herself seated happily behind the Sydney radio panel presenting her beloved music program fused with the sounds of the music that helped shape her into the tastemaker she has become woman in the soul community in her beloved city. Representing her successful music company Mix Biz and still playing selected gigs around town, life for Sydney’s Soul Sister DJ Georgina Reed is just how she likes it as she lives by the saying “It’s a pleasure playing music for people who find music a pleasure!”
Such an honour finally getting to interview a woman who has been a true inspiration to me in my own radio / club DJ career – how has life been treating you?
I’ve had an interesting and rewarding career as a club DJ and radio broadcaster. I started DJing in 1982 (when I was 33) which is ‘old’ for most DJ’s, but it didn’t bother me because of my love of music and my interest in the people who were interested in music. My life has seen some huge highs and some just as huge lows, but never dull and always with something new happening. (I could tell you hundreds of stories, but you’ll have to wait for the book)!!
You have been a staple in the Sydney Soul / R&B scene for many years, djing in Sydney and nationwide, presenting a variety of radio shows and keeping your finger on the ever changing pulse of the soul industry. How would you best describe your journey G and the path you have had for woman like myself to walk?
My DJ journey was challenging. I had to do my homework and be prepared to work gigs playing music I didn’t particularly like, because being a DJ is like being a musician… you can’t always play what you want, and one still has to eat and pay rent, so you have to take on those not-so-cool jobs in order to pay the bills!
Once I had made a name for myself, things became a little easier, but there is no continuity of employment for a DJ, so you have to be prepared to be very flexible and versatile.
Being a woman wasn’t detrimental to my career, although there were a couple of jobs I didn’t get because I was a woman. There were probably more jobs I didn’t get because of my age. Most hip young thangs don’t want a middle aged woman playing for them, even if you are the most qualified to do the job!!
What do you think are a woman’s greatest strengths when it comes to working in this music industry and especially as a DJ, in what is still viewed as quite a masculine arena?
Women tend to have less of an ego than men, so they usually do the job because they love it, rather than for fame or to score with the opposite sex. With the advent of reality TV & talent shows, in more recent times I suspect more women see DJing as a means to become ‘famous’ rather than for the love of the job, which is a shame because you really need to like music and the whole performance, in order to do it well. In fact, you have to be damn good in a number of areas in order to have longevity in the industry, such as i) the skill (mastery) of the craft, ii) music content (what goes with what), iii) continuity & flow, and above all – iv) the ability to program music, i.e. to put together many hours of music that flows well, tells a story or creates particular levels of energy at any given time.
Interestingly, in my first DJ job, the company I worked for had a policy of employing only women as DJ’s, so I was grateful for their sexism!
My employer said “Women are less likely to be distracted from their DJ tasks whilst working; more likely to do what is requested and less likely to drink or smoke on the job. They also dress better than men, and are more likely to deal with the customers better”.
I don’t think it’s just about ‘strengths’, but more about attitude. Some male DJ’s have an ego the size of the Harbour Bridge, and tend to play only what they like, rather than what the audience or venue requires. Women (as with many male-dominated jobs) generally have to be better than their male counterparts to secure a DJ job.
The one great advantage most women have is they are generally more attractive than men. Looking good does not make you a good DJ, but most venues would prefer to have a fine looking DJ than an ugly one! In the media-portrayed shallow world of entertainment, if you are not visually-challenged, you probably have a better chance at getting a job in the spotlight – male OR female!
I missed out on a job once because another female DJ turned up in a very short skirt and brief top, exposing her cleavage. Along with her long blonde hair and pouty lips, the venue owner (a male) was so mesmerised by her appearance he didn’t even bother to find out if she could actually DJ. There were 6 people going for the gig (4 guys and 2 girls) but the owner realised that “sex sells”, so the sexy girl got the gig. Most times, venues don’t care if you can do the job; they are more concerned about how you look and how little they can pay you. This applies to both males & females.
Once you are established in your field, it is much easier to find work, based on your experience and credentials, but as with female TV newsreaders, it is a finite field and age will eventually become a barrier for women DJs.
What, in your opinion, has been the biggest change you have experienced in the Australian urban music industry from your beginnings to now?
The biggest change, by far, has been the systematic dumbing down and constant decline of the music itself. The industry was quite accessible in the beginning, but has become very insular. What I’ve noticed is the original R’n’B of the 90’s was quite melodic with good lyrics and hook lines. As hip hop and rap became more and more predominant the lyrics and melody content suffered. The music is now so homogenous, you can barely tell one song from the next.
There are a few bright young things on the scene that do make a difference, people like “Dirty Loops” who take famous pop singers songs and rearrange them with a big dollop of funk and groove, so they become palatable again.
I have, in my music collection, a beloved signed copy of the very first compilation you put together and I listen to it every now again and even play some tracks during my own DJ sets. How successful was that compilation for you and where there follow up volumes?
I always wanted to put music compilations together, but could never break into that industry, so I decided to do one myself. It was called “Soul Sister’s Old Skool Classics”. I found an independent company in Melbourne who produced compilations and persuaded them to release mine.
It took a year to get correct licensing permission for the tracks and I had to submit a lot more than appeared on the album, because I couldn’t get permission for some of the tracks. I spent a lot of my own money promoting the CD in Sydney, and doing launch events to support the release. Unfortunately the Melbourne Company did not do any of the promised promotion, nor did I see any of the royalties that were due to me. Soon after, they went into liquidation which meant that Volume 2 was never produced. The company also told me all copies of my CD were seized and destroyed by the liquidators, so I could not get access to the warehouse stock, even though I offered to buy it from them. Sometime later I found out this story was fabricated. The company had gone into liquidation, but after that they set up a ‘gift’ shop in Melbourne and were blatantly selling my CD (amongst others). I went to Melbourne and confronted them, but as I didn’t have the power or finances to sue them, I could do nothing. This taught me a great deal about who to trust and who to deal with in the music industry.
You have remained a constant fixture on Sydney radio over the years – can you let us know where you presenting now and what keeps you in the radio field?
I’ve been broadcasting since 1989. In 1991 I began at 2NSB in Chatswood, which is now known as Northside FM99.3. I continue to present a 2 hour program of soul, funk, jazz, blues, groove, Latin & world music every Sunday afternoon from 2-4pm called “Soulscope”, along with my partner, Peter March.
Because I no longer DJ in clubs, being able to broadcast music is my greatest connection to what’s happening in the music industry. I love doing interviews with local and international artists, and playing their music. There is always something new being released and as it’s impossible to keep up with everything, I just play what I like best. Thankfully my audience tells me they appreciate what I do. Because we stream live on the internet (www.fm993.com.au) we also have an audience across the world that can tune in and post comments on our “Soulscope Program Playlist” Facebook page. Every week I post a playlist of the music which allows listeners to source any of the songs/artists, if they miss my back announce.
What are your thoughts on the Australian urban music scene and how instrumental were you / are you still in the industry?
I was never involved in a big way with the urban music scene, preferring to specialise in more of the soul & funk genres, which in more recent years has included jazz, blues and Latin music.
Your favourite track/artist you still play during a DJ set today that still works in your dj/radio sets?
Because I no longer DJ in clubs, preferring to do corporate or festivals when I do DJ work, I can’t imagine what favourite I would play… I have far too many favourite tracks and artists to be able choose one from so many brilliant choices!
What you know now that you wished you knew then when you first enter the DJ world and why?
I wish I’d known how to network. I wish I hadn’t been afraid to talk to other DJ’s and ‘borrow’ their ideas! I wish I’d been more pro-active in promoting myself. I wish I hadn’t been afraid to tell people I was good at what I did. I wish I’d had the support of a partner, like I have now!!
If I’d done all these things, perhaps I may have actually made a good living from my chosen career. I’ve always been able to pay my way but at times it was a struggle.
Today, because of the internet and social media, being able to promote yourself and your gigs is extremely easy compared with when we only had land-line telephones to network (1 call at a time), and street print media in which to advertise. Obviously every Tom, Dick & Harry are now using the same avenues to get their information out there, but at least those avenues ARE available!
Your advice to any budding female DJ’s wanting to step behind the decks?
Find someone you admire (male or female) and then ask them to mentor you.
Do NOT steal their job once they have taught you everything they know.
Choose a style of music that you LOVE, rather than what is popular. Research and learn all about the artists who produce and play that style, then immerse yourself in the music. Practice to improve your DJ skills, then get more mentors to teach you. There’s always something new that you can learn, no matter how old you are!
Your thoughts on how the DJ domain is changing technologically? Serato versus cd/vinyl djing?
Serato? Don’t know what that is (am I really old, or was this a typo?) Having begun with vinyl, for me it will always be the most creative way to actually DJ in a live situation. I did move to using CD’s though, due to their convenience and the ability to take so much more music to a gig. I sometimes missed the ‘hands-on’ feel of DJing with vinyl. When working in radio, using the most efficient method is the best way, whether that be with a computer (via a DJ program) or from an iPod or whatever. Currently I still use CD’s and sometimes vinyl when I’m on radio, only because I’m still in the process of uploading all my music into my computer. Once that is completed, I will use my laptop to present my radio shows because it’s much quicker to prepare a program with the drop in’s, ID’s, promo’s etc.
Your motto or mission statement in life?
”It’s always a pleasure to play music for people who find music a pleasure”.
Another (tongue in cheek one): “Old DJs don’t die, they just spin out”!
For more information on DJ Georgina Reed visit: www.mixbiz.com