[Main visual] Louise Paley
Brand Stories

Louise Paley

Founder of Women In Jazz, Artist management expert

It takes inspiration; Louise Paley on gender-balancing the jazz scene

Written by Tina Edwards

With her PACE label, Women In Jazz organisation and artist management expertise, Louise Paley is changing the game for female musicians.

Since co-founding Women In Jazz five years ago, Louise Paley’s impact on musician’s careers - particularly female jazz musicians - has been seismic. With her cousin and co-founder Nina Fine, she’s been creating mentorship opportunities, hosting masterclasses, and partnering with prestigious UK festivals to deliver live opportunities for female jazz musicians. Add to that the launch of her new label PACE and management of two critically acclaimed artists - including Yamaha drummer Jas Kayser - and well, you’ve got an unstoppable force. “It's always been a huge passion of mine; helping artists get to the next stage of their careers and bringing their music to a global audience”, says Louise.

“Music was a big part of my family growing up. Dad used to play Nina [Simone] and Herbie Hancock on his record player; there wasn’t a room in the house where music wasn’t on - and my parents quite cleverly situated the piano in between the living room and the kitchen, so you had to walk past it to get anything to eat”. That clever positioning led to Louise becoming a talented pianist. She joined a big band at fifteen years old and went on to study composition at university, coming out with a first-class honours degree. But it was what Louise applied herself to after her studies, that really began to sculpt her career.

“An organisation that I worked for after I graduated specialised in developing talent from a jazz perspective. One thing I noticed was that there were no women; I never understood it - the women were just as good [musicians] as the guys. I thought, that's such a shame, because they're doing these courses, but they're not actually going on to pursue jazz as a career. I started Women In Jazz as a platform to learn more about the stories of these artists. Education was at the forefront; the way that we started the business was to provide artists with tools and resources to help them get from A to B”.

The opportunities that Louise and Nina continue to foster are broad and varied, from hosting DJ workshops, specialist masterclasses and even roundtables with music lawyers. When the pandemic hit, they were unable to host their usual live events, but they adapted, starting with recording their Soho Radio shows at home. “We thought, “how are we going to keep this business going?”. We moved digitally really quickly and thought about innovative, creative ideas as to how we were going to continue building our brand. That's when we teamed up with a production company and we built a documentary series featuring Brit-award winning artist Celeste and drummer Jas Kayser. That was a fun challenge”.

A stark statistic sits on the homepage of the Women In Jazz website; only 5% of jazz instrumentalists are female. Louise is acutely aware that education - whether that means understanding the legalities of a publishing offer or how to best position yourself to your audience - can make all the difference, especially with so few female jazz elders to learn from. “Looking up to people who inspire you? Lots of artists I work with haven’t had that. With no visibility there, it can be a more daunting experience, to go into something which is male dominated”, explains Louise.

“[Jazz] can feel like quite an intimidating world, especially being part of jazz jams - but finding your peers and getting excited about things that really inspire you is the way forward; it always starts with inspiration. For example with Jas, her mentor was Terri Lyne Carrington, who is probably one of the best drummers of all time, and it just so happens that she’s a woman. Loads of people in our community look to Jas as an inspiration”. And it’s understandable as to why; Jas is an alumni of the prestigious Berklee College of Music and has even performed a drum duet with Lenny Kravitz. “What’s really exciting is seeing all these women now at the forefront of the music industry”, says Louise, “ - and not because they’re women but because they are the top talent of today.

What needs to change if that 5% is to rise? “There's no kind of special ingredient. I think every artist has different needs - whether they need a label or whether they need an amazing manager; at the heart of it, it’s about building a supportive network”, says Louise. “It's really important to focus on the positives and to keep championing artists, because the more you celebrate, the more you champion, and the more you provide opportunities for individuals, then the more they’re going to thrive in those meaningful communities and inspire the next generation”.

Author: Tina Edwards

Tina Edwards is a London based music journalist, broadcaster and DJ. She focuses on Jazz and club culture and her words have appeared in publications including The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Forecast (Monocle), Downbeat, Composer and many more. She hosts her own radio shows for British Airways and J-wave 81.3fm in Tokyo, and in 2022 she presented the BBC documentary Jazz UK: Spitting Fire.

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