Linda Perry, Alisha Ballard team up to promote launch of EqualizeHer at SXSW

Sage Dunlap, Life and Arts reporter

Following its March 15 launch at SXSW, EqualizeHer — an organization aiming to combat gender inequality in the music industry-sponsored a series of events at the festival to raise awareness for the organization and empower female artists. 

“We have been planning for a month and a half for (South by Southwest), but we just started running,” EqualizeHer’s co-founder Linda Perry said. “We’re going to move, and we’re hoping people join us.”

Bonded by a shared love for music, singer and producer Linda Perry joined forces with philanthropist Alisha Ballard to empower young female artists to explore careers in the music industry, including behind-the-scenes roles as producers or sound engineers. On March 15 and 16, their new organization, EqualizeHer, sponsored panels and artist showcases at Lustre Pearl to present SXSW audiences with young female artists and producers, such as bands Pom Pom Squad and Bad Waitress and mastering engineer Piper Payne. 

Additionally, EqualizeHer partnered with Notes for Notes, an organization that provides young musicians with free musical equipment and recording opportunities, and Black Fret, which provides funding to local Austin musicians, to organize showcases for young female artists in Austin.

“We wanted to put girls on stage to get experience and hunger,” Perry said. “Something happens to you when you perform in front of people, so we wanted to give them that opportunity to shine, to be heard and seen.”

Ballard said hearing about Perry’s experiences working with young female musicians motivated her to take action.

“Female artists come into (Perry’s) studio and feel safe,” Ballard said. “They talk about how they’ve had some really damaging and harmful experiences at the hands of a male producer or a male person that was guiding their career. There has to be safety — a place where girls can … be creative and feel peaceful when recording. If we can prevent someone from trauma, and she gets to go and live her dream and be in music, then that’s a win for me.”

The organization’s SXSW events encouraged attendees to join the EqualizeHer Pledge — a call to action to offer women more opportunities in the music industry. However, Perry said she does not believe a pledge alone captures the immense amount of work needed to rectify the gender inequality issues in the music industry.

“We have to make commitments,” Perry said. “We have to find solutions … as a community. Alicia and I are going to talk to other organizations, like She Is The Music, Moving the Needle, SoundGirls and Women’s Audio Mission, to find out how they need help.”

Perry and Ballard said they are optimistic about the future of EqualizeHer, and SXSW is just the beginning for the organization.

“As a musician, artist, producer, parent and someone who’s very prominent in the music business, how can I not get involved?” Perry said. “It’s about the future of music and getting this balanced out, so we’re not having these conversations.”