Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov Of Empowering Non-Profit Arts Collective #WomxnCrush Talks New Virtual Live Music Tour & More

The music industry, like many other industries, is dominated by men. Whether producing, writing, or performing, women have made and continue to make up only a fraction of the chart topping, Grammy-nominated faction of music. It seems that the majority of conversations about sexism revolve around the already established music industry and few address the barriers to entry. And, while so many of us are unaware of this vast gender disparity, #WomxnCrush isn’t going to let it slide. 

#WomxnCrush, founded by New York City native Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov, is a non-profit arts organization that seeks to amplify and give opportunity to womxn songwriters. Through a network of volunteers spanning across the entire country, they have hosted showcases, workshops, and many more opportunities in various U.S. cities for womxn seeking to break into the music industry. And it doesn’t end there: the profits from these events are sent directly back into the cause– benefiting womxn-centered arts organizations in their respective communities. 

#WomxnCrush is a force to be reckoned with — one that not even COVID-19 could slow down. In light of the pandemic, they has adapted to the virtual lifestyle, hosting virtual “tours” around the country. These tours are made up of local artists, dedicating their time to supporting local womxn owned venues and supporting artists just like them. 

Showcases and tours aren’t the only opportunities that #WomxnCrush provides. Every month, aspiring artists are invited to submit their songs to accomplished songwriters for feedback. With the help of those already established in the industry, they provide an invaluable opportunity for those who are just trying to break in. As the old adage goes, give a womxn an audience, and she’ll sing for a day. Teach a womxn to write, and she’ll sell out stadiums.  

On the media side of things, #WomxnCrush operates a blog, called The Crush, providing press and outlets for up and coming artists in their network. Many of their blog posts center around new artists, songs, and albums– but also serve as forums for womxn to discuss the struggles they’ve faced in the industry because of their gender. The #WomxnCrush blog provides an outlet for womxn to bring light to the realities of it all. The Crush is also peppered with tips and tricks for aspiring artists — from growing your brand to dealing with pushy producers.

#WomxnCrush is about as comprehensive as it gets. It’s hard to believe that one organization can provide exposure, education, guidance, press, and community all in one, but they do just that. With a growing nationwide network, don’t be surprised when you hear the next top 40 artist shoutout #WomxnCrush as the place where it all began.

We had the chance to chat with founder Kervabon-Stoyanov about all of this and more.

So I was hoping you could talk about #WomxnCrush and how it came to be.

Hi! Thank you so much for having me – of course! #WomxnCrush Music started three years ago truly out of searching for a way to find like-minded womxn songwriters to collaborate and share resources with when I had just moved from my hometown of NYC to Portland, Oregon. I didn’t really know anyone in the music scene and, after my favorite local open mic shut down, I began to curate a monthly showcase for womxn songwriters at another venue. Soon enough, the initiative grew and grew and within three months I was booking out the rest of the year and we were getting media and industry attention. At that point, I realized that this need I felt for a true community was felt by many others! Within a year, I had recruited 30 volunteers across 16 North American cities to help host ongoing showcases, workshops and networking events to connect, educate and inspire our community or rising womxn songwriters. 

Can you talk about the nationwide virtual tour you’ll be putting on and what folks can expect?

After COVID-19 hit, we (as everyone else) were forced to move our programming virtually and we began to host weekly IG Live showcases and educational webinars with some big partners like CDBaby and Songtrust. While the engagement was great and our community was giving good feedback, I started to think that the local chapter feel we had become known for had gotten lost in our quick pivot. The team and I really wanted to find a way to help connect the local communities and support the venues that are in need. This is what sparked the idea of our first ever virtual tour. 

We just launched the first week in August in the Bay Area. Every two weeks we’ll be virtually visiting a different city and hosting a showcase and industry panel while we are there. All proceeds from the showcases are donated to local womxn-owned music venues and we are partnering with sponsors to be able to support our artists. It has been an incredibly exciting journey and we’ve received so much support from the industry. While it’s a huge undertaking for an all-volunteer team, it’s important work. The Bay Area has been a huge success so far and I look forward to seeing how the rest of the tour rolls out. 

What are the monthly Song Sessions all about that y’all host?

The Song Sessions are a monthly series where we invite our community to submit songs for live critiquing by industry experts and established songwriters. I am very excited about this because it’s not often that songwriters have such close-up and personal time with music supervisors and songwriters that have already had Top 40 hits. We’re creating these opportunities (with AMAZING support from the industry) and it’s been awesome to be a part of the sessions. 

What is the main mission of #WomxnCrush?

The main mission of #WomxnCrush Music is to create opportunities for rising womxn songwriters through community. Whether it be through our social media or our programming, we aim to be a resource for these womxn songwriters at any stage in their career. 

What have been some pinnacle moments in the tenure of #WomxnCrush?

Honestly? Right now! Like many startup organizations, we have been through a variety of phases in the last three years. Being forced to move everything virtual has forced us to connect with our community in a whole new way, build incredible partnerships and grow our volunteer team. We have always been a resourceful bunch, but I am incredibly grateful for and proud of my team that has helped #WCM push through this pandemic. 

What do you hope to have achieved as an organization five years from now?

The goal is that within the next few years (sooner rather than later), we’ll be able to acquire enough funding to hire a small full-time role and grow our programs internationally. With the state of the world right now and how it affects the live music industry, it’s a bit hard to say exactly what that growth will look like. I will say this though, while our programming and structure may change, our mission will always be to create opportunities for rising womxn songwriters. 

How have you pivoted your efforts in the wake of the pandemic?

The virtual tour and the Song Sessions are the main programs we are pushing out right now, but we’ve also put a lot more effort into #TheCrush, our blog! Our team of writers is growing exponentially, and we’ve been able to cover so many more artist releases, music news, and so much more! 

Do you have the wheels in motions for what might be next for #WomxnCrush after the nationwide virtual tour?

We’re hoping to collect some feedback from our community very soon so that we can alter our programming and began to plan for next year. As a community-focused organization, we want to help provide what they need. The world is changing and changing quickly – so stay tuned! 

What are the pros and cons of running a non-profit arts organization?

Nonprofit work is very emotionally-rewarding work – however it is indeed NON-PROFIT and because of that it isn’t for everyone. I have always been a very mission-driven person who wants to help people – and if you’re that kind of person, you will love running an organization. The biggest pro for me has been seeing the impact of the organization. Seeing connections being made that can help our community grow their careers, friendships blossoming between our volunteers – it’s been a magical experience. 

I don’t see it as a con per say, however I will not lie to you and tell you it’s all been easy! I started this organization with zero experience and have had to learn a lot very quickly in the last three years and work endless hours on top of full-time jobs. However, I’ve seen our hard work pay off, while not in funding (yet), but definitely in the daily gratitude we receive from our community. 

What advice might you give to young female songwriters looking to navigate their own musical path?

Write from the heart, build genuine relationships with your followers, and be open to feedback. 

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