While there are more and more women in Berlin’s electronic music scene, other genres are still lagging behind.
Aesthetics matter. In the age of social media, it’s not enough for artists to just put out good music, they have to think about how they present themselves too. With this in mind, videographer and photographer Katharina Tress doesn’t just provide an online space for emerging and well-established female acts, she also aims to help them up their game when it comes to their visual representation.
Why did you start Sirens on Stage?
I had the idea of gathering musicians together on one website during the festival season in 2017. Back then the discussion about the lack of diversity in some festival lineups was being discussed all over social media—some said that bookers weren’t even aware of the imbalance and others said that they were but that they weren’t doing a very thorough job. As I work more or less in the music business, I was thinking about what I could do to improve things. To me, it was very clear that one key element was the visibility of female bands. One recurring argument was that there were not enough good female/trans/non-binary bands, as if anyone stating that had all the numbers at hand. So I started this project to sort of disempower this argument and have people say: ‘Ah, I’ve never heard about this band.’
For now, your roster is Berlin-based. Are you thinking about expanding it?
It’s Berlin-based because I and the other members wanted to start small and avoid going for the obvious bands or musicians that are already out there. Instead, we wanted to take our time and dig a little deeper. It’s incredible what you find, and there are still so many great Berlin-based bands and solo musicians that are not on our website yet. Eventually, we want to expand and reach out to bands in other German cities and maybe even abroad.
What else are your endeavours, when you’re not investing time in Sirens on Stage?
I make my living working as a videographer. I mostly film and edit promotional videos for musicians and events, such as concert and tour videos, and album teasers. Sirens on Stage is a non-profit project I do on the side because I think it’s important.
Can you describe how you make decisions within Sirens on Stage—why do you choose certain artists, for example?
If we get requests we usually discuss them as a team. We are definitely open to all genres—that’s something which is very important to us. As Berlin is very focused on electronic music there is already a lot done for women in that genre—which is great—but we want to show there are women in all genres. Right now, most of the artists on our website are pop and indie, but that’s just because we started with bands we knew personally and then bands that we liked. It’s important to us is that there is a certain professionalism and quality behind the artists we choose. There are other websites that contain catalogs where artists can upload pictures and texts themselves and, as great as the intention is, I personally find it a bit counterproductive, to be honest. I think it’s important to filter, at least a little bit, to ensure the quality of the material uploaded.
“It’s hard if you have to take care of everything yourself and the only thing you actually want to do is make music.”
So, emerging artists who are serious about their stuff can often use a little help…
Yes, there are artists who don’t pay enough attention to their presentation, who either believe it is, or should be, all about their music, or they just don’t have people around them who can help out with design, photography, and video production. It’s crazy not to put extra effort into your visuals. We live in a society that is so flooded with information that there is so much competition for consumer’s attention. There are so many bands out there that it’s hard to keep track, which makes how you visualize your music and yourself as an artist so important. Ensuring a solid quality for the pictures, text, and videos that the artists present themselves in was a very important point to me from the start. In the future, I would love to assist artists even more with this because I understand that it’s hard if you have to take care of everything yourself and the only thing you actually want to do is make music.
Are you thinking about expanding Sirens into an offline format?
We are just getting started! So far we’ve concentrated more on research and the profiles on our website, but there is more to come. We will organize events and produce Video portraits of bands, for example. Time, money, and manpower are definitely obstacles. As I said before, it’s a project that we’re doing on the side. There’s no money involved, so everything is going really, really slow.
“It’s important to us is that there is a certain kind of professionalism and quality behind the artists we choose.”
As an avid concert goer, do you have any favorite venues in Berlin?
To be honest, the venue I visit the most is Kantine am Berghain. A friend of mine just
organized an evening there with three all-female acts from Eastern Europe, which
was great! Other than that, Monarch is pretty solid, Berghain, of course, Schokoladen, Silent Green (although, I admit I rarely go there because it’s far from Neukölln), and now Arcaoda. It’s not a venue of course, but I really like Torstrassen Festival, which takes place in small venues across the city and has an excellent lineup. It’s super charming and a great place to discover local artists.
Can you tell us a bit about the playlist? Why did you choose these songs?
The playlist is a mixture of artists on our website, songs we’ve already published in
our monthly playlists, and songs from bands we’d love to include in the future and have recently seen live. Chikiss, Lisa Morgenstern, Minni, Martha Rose, Strip Down and Catnapp are Berlin-based artists from different genres like classic, experimental, electronic, pop, and rap. I mixed these bands with a few from other German cities, like Blond from Chemnitz, as well as some international artists, because our monthly playlists are not limited to location.
Every year, even long-standing festivals manage to roll out almost all-male line-ups. Sirens on Stage is out to be a factor of change in that. When projects like this are a labor of love it still means, they take up a lot of time from everyone involved so it’s even more appreciated that Katharina Tress provided this playlist. Listen to more tunes in our Mixtapes section.
Text: Fabian Ebeling
Photography: Katharina Tress, André Groth, Julia Krämer, Yavuz Odabas