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Shira Yevin’s lifelong crusade against a male-dominated music industry began with a pink RV.
After attending the Vans Warped Tour in 2004 and seeing far too few women on the bill, the punk rocker decided to take matters into her own hands: She crashed the tour by parking a pink RV on the campus of Cal State Fullerton and performing on a makeshift stage with her band, Shiragirl. The impromptu show was such a hit that Warped Tour welcomed Yevin back to run an official “Shiragirl Stage,” where female-fronted bands—including artists like Joan Jett and Paramore—performed in the following years.
Now, Yevin is taking an entrepreneurial approach to carve out more space for women in music. She’s the founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based startup Gritty In Pink, which runs an online “marketplace network” that connects music industry professionals with female talent—from musicians and songwriters to engineers and producers. Having launched in beta earlier this year, the startup’s InPink platform lets employers search for talent by skill and demographic.
“Businesses now know they need to find diverse women to hire—but they have no idea where to go to find them,” Yevin told dot.LA.
Whether Gritty In Pink can help solve that imbalance remains to be seen—but what’s clear is that there’s still a huge gender disparity in the music industry that needs addressing. A recent University of Southern California-sponsored study found that there’s been little to no improvement over the last decade in the number of women credited as artists, songwriters or producers on popular songs.
“Women's contributions are often dismissed or devalued,” according to Katherine Pieper, program director at USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which conducted the study on women in music. “They're not given the opportunity to work on these songs, or when they are, their work is not being credited to them.”
The USC study examined credits for 1,000 songs that landed on the year-end Billboard Hot 100 chart over the last decade. Researchers found that just 23.3% of artists on the annual chart were women in 2021—a marginal improvement from 22.7% in 2012. The report’s authors blamed stereotypes around women and their abilities as well as the situations in which they must work, noting women in the music industry are often sexualized by their colleagues.
The music industry is not alone in these dynamics; the film industry has made little progress in addressing its own gender imbalance. Women made up only 25% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on top-grossing films in 2021, according to the latest study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. That’s an improvement of just 6 percentage points from 19% in 2015, and up only 8 percentage points from 17% in 1998.
“The findings of my research suggest that progress will be slow—evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary,” Martha Lauzen, the center’s director, told dot.LA.
But just as Gritty In Pink is trying to diversify the music industry’s ranks, so are there startups now looking to bring more women into film production. Launched in 2018, L.A.-based Crewvie is a platform connecting film projects with production workers and vendors, with a focus on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. Crewvie allows talent to create profiles that voluntarily self-identify their gender, race, sexual orientation or disabilities; productions can use Crewvie to hire such talent, track the composition of their crew and use demographic data to ensure they’re eligible for awards and tax incentives.
“We see Crewvie as a resource for women and other underserved people to be found,” co-founder and CEO Marcei Brown told dot.LA. “So there's no more excuses [like] ‘I can't find’—because they're all collected here in one place.”
From left, Crewvie founders Sandra Jimenez, Jeanette Volturno, Marcei Brown and Camille Alcasid.Photo provided by Crewvie
Film studio Endeavor Content recently struck a deal with Crewvie to deploy the startup’s software across all of its productions. YouTube productions use the platform as well, according to co-founder Jeanette Volturno. Crewvie charges rates ranging from $200 to $1,500 for individual projects, while rates for enterprise clients (such as film studios) depend on the number of people and projects expected to use it.
With less than 10 employees, Crewvie is currently looking to close a seed funding round, with eyes on a larger future funding round to expand the platform into other territories and languages. Crewvie is also considering an expansion into live events like theater productions, as well as a foray into the music industry, Volturno said.
Likewise, Gritty In Pink is still in its “baby stages,” Yevin said, having raised $100,000 from Irvine-based Sunstone Management and the Long Beach Accelerator, with plans for a $1 million pre-seed round. The startup can count singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, of “Come to My Window” fame, among its supporters; Etheridge recently joined Gritty In Pink as a strategic advisor and has a stake in the company.
It also has dreams of expanding beyond the music industry, Yevin noted. “Our big vision is actually to become the global destination to hire female freelancers in every industry,” she said.
Studio—a Los Angeles-based online learning platform that, like Masterclass, lets people learn creative skills from renowned professional artists and artisans—has announced a new $50 million funding round and a rebrand that has seen it ditch its old name, Monthly.
San Francisco-based Human Capital led the Series B round and was joined by investors including Forerunner Ventures, Greenoaks Capital and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo, as well as the likes of Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and LinkedIn chairman Jeff Weiner.
The startup was formerly known as Monthly due to the 30-day online courses it offers customers, who can learn about everything from baking to songwriting from accomplished instructors like Milk Bar chef Christina Tosi and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Charlie Puth.
While the company has changed its name, Studio will maintain its month-long course model as it continues to expand its offerings—with upcoming classes being taught by the likes of illusionist David Blaine, musical artist H.E.R. and Broadway actress and singer Idina Menzel.
Since launching in 2019, the startup says its courses have been taken by “hundreds of thousands” of students globally, who have produced and shared “over half a million creative works” on its platform.
“We're excited to continue investing in experiences that support people's creative sides, furthering our mission to make creative fulfillment attainable to everyone,” Studio co-founder and CEO Max Deutsch said in a statement.
Virtual avatar startup Genies has parlayed its designs on the metaverse into unicorn status.
On Tuesday, the Marina del Rey-based company announced a $150 million Series C funding round led by Silicon Valley private equity firm Silver Lake. The funding round, which also included existing investors BOND, NEA and Tamarack Global, values Genies at $1 billion, a spokesperson for the startup said.
Founded in 2017, Genies established itself by making avatars for celebrities, from Rihanna to Russell Westbrook, who have used the online lookalikes for social media and sponsorship opportunities. The company claims to have “99% celebrity avatar market share” after securing partnerships with Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group to make avatars for each music label’s entire roster of artists.
The startup wants to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” CEO Akash Nigam told dot.LA in February. Avatars—digital figures that represent a particular person—may be the way people interact with each other in the 3D virtual worlds of the metaverse, the much-hyped iteration of the internet where users may one day work, shop and socialize.
Genies CEO Akash Nigam.Courtesy of Genies
Genies has started to roll out avatar creator tools for consumers in beta, testing it with small groups of invite-only users. The company has also launched an NFT marketplace called The Warehouse, where creators can buy, sell and trade avatar creations, including wearable items. Genies gives creators “full ownership and commercialization rights” of their Genie avatar creations, according to the company, and collects a 5% transaction fee each time an avatar NFT is sold, a company spokesperson told dot.LA.
“We believe avatar ecosystems are going to shape Web3 the same way that mobile apps defined Web2,” Nigam said in a statement Tuesday. “In Web3, Gen Z avatar ecosystem builders are going to be the leaders of innovation and, through our creator tools, we strive to empower their wildest imaginations, ideas and experiences as avatar creations.”
Genies had raised around $100 million in funding prior to the new Silver Lake-led round. The company also recently received an investment from former Disney boss Bob Iger, who joined the company’s board last month.
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