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Sounding Board: listening to our community

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Like many organisations and individuals, at YSWN we’ve found 2020 to be very different from what we imagined. To adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve already modified our current projects, moving activities online, shifting the focus of others and postponing some elements until 2021.

To plan our next steps we wanted to hear from members of our network – whether professionals working in audio, music technology students or those following an interest in sound. As the people who have recently lost gigs, contracts and income or who were missing the opportunities to meet, skill-share and collaborate, their experiences would be central in shaping our course of action.

Screenshot of Zoom conversation between YSWN memberscommunity

One of the Sounding Board conversations with members of the YSWN community

Sounding Board: YSWN Community Conversations took place online on 23 June and 25 June. Facilitated by YSWN co-directors Jo Kennedy and Irine Røsnes, members told us what challenges the pandemic had presented for their work and creative lives, shared thoughts on what would benefit their careers and practices, and suggested ways that YSWN may be able to offer support.

Challenges: These were both financial and creative, ranging from cancelled gigs and ‘slipping through the net’ of government support schemes, to being unable to record in studios and collaborate with other musicians.

While the opportunity to perform and deliver work online was welcome, some found the options bewildering and the practicalities off-putting. Lack of physical access to suitable equipment and competing time demands due to caring responsibilities were also a barrier.

Needs: Members expressed interest in further developing their technology skills, as well as sharing existing expertise through mentoring schemes. Additional advice on topics such as working in post-Brexit Europe was requested, as well as more general support across the community to aid wellbeing. Some members echoed YSWN’s ambition to see more women and minority genders represented in technology roles to challenge the male-dominated status quo.

How YSWN could help: Informal support methods including online opportunities to talk about sound and technology, reflect on artistic practice or share skills would be welcomed. alongside more formal initiatives such as the paid work offered to YSWN’s pool of freelance Associates.

With free software licences donated by Ableton already on offer, members welcomed the idea of expanding access to include other manufacturers’ products. Finally, the idea of hosting online artist talks or a YSWN podcast was greeted positively as an outlet for sharing knowledge and inspiration and showcasing the work of the YSWN community.

What next? We’ll be using what we learned from Sounding Board to inform our planning and funding applications. While this year more than any has shown us that nothing is certain, we hope to bring you news of the outcomes in coming months – watch this space to see what comes next.