wears the trousers magazine

WII #1: sally mclintock


women in industry #1: sally mclintock

Aloha and welcome to WII, our shiny new monthly feature fresh off the trouser press. For the last four years Wears The Trousers has made it our mission to support ladies of the stage – the music makers and story singers who create the magic that we scribe about with loving care – and now at last we’re expanding our repertoire to honour the women behind the music, the ladies who never grace the boards but are nevertheless essential to the music process in all its forms; the ladies who add their own unique talents to the mix before it reaches our ever-eager ears. Each month we’ll be introducing you to an amazing array of female talents, from music producers, record label CEOs, documentary makers and magazine editors to video directors, radio presenters, music historians and composers for film. The music industry is a vast one, and while women have often fallen into the minority category, they are definitely there – in increasing numbers – and we think you should meet them.

Our first ever WII is the indefatigable Sally Mclintock, manager of the UK DMC Championships. The DMC competition sees the best DJ talents from around the globe pitted against each other in friendly battle, and is easily the biggest annual event in the DJ community. Turntable manoeuvres, scratching skills and crowd-rousing feats are all mandatory, and for both the winners and the losers DMC is the kind of event that can take unknown talents and turn them into household names. With the UK finals taking place on Thursday this week, followed by the world championships at London’s Indig02 in September, battle season is most certainly on. Wears The Trousers spoke to Sally about her role as DMC Championships Manager, the power of matriarchal role models, and how she thrives as a woman in industry.

* * *

How long have you worked in the music industry and what inspired you to start?

DMC was started in 1983 by my aunt and uncle. My uncle was a DJ for Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg back in the ’60s and he decided to start this company that put out megamix CDs for commercial DJs and the public. They were one of the first companies to do this. My mum also worked for them. They were all based in Oldham near Manchester, and we moved there when I was three and set up DMC. My mum is the MD, my aunt and uncle own it, and cousins work with us too, so it’s a real family affair. I grew up with it. It was run at my aunt’s house, out of a little tiny shed at the side of the house. She’d look after me after school and so I was surrounded by it all. It was all very DIY. While I was having lunch, people would be bustling around sorting out the competition. I actually featured on a record DMC put out in ’86; I had to read out the ten commandments as a child would say them. There was a page on me in Smash Hits. I think my mum has clippings of it somewhere in the attic. I was so embarrassed by it when I was younger, but now I’m kind of proud. I was so interested in the whole thing that I started taking part in it. All the way through school, all the way through my A Levels, I would help out as much as I could. I knew it was what I wanted to do.

What was your first role, and what are your memories of it?

DMC were the company that started MixMag. It’s my cousin and my uncle’s thing. It was huge. So I finished my A Levels at 18, and went straight into the business. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I started off working in promotions for some of the record labels we had, and I loved it. I got to talk to really interesting people, but ultimately it wasn’t for me.

And you’ve now moved on to the role of Championships Manager?

Yes. Because I’d been so young when the competitions started in 1985, I’d never been allowed to go. But when I got to 17 I went and was absolutely fascinated by it. The music, the atmosphere, the showmanship on stage – I fell in love with all of it. I progressed from going to the events to eventually taking over and organising them! From 1998 to 2000 I became heavily involved, and now I run the whole thing.

What does your role entail?

DMC has a lot of ventures. One of those involves releasing compilation CDs called Back To Mine. They’re sort of chillout albums. We pick artists like Dave Seymour, Carl Cox and Tricky, and ask them to play or provide tracks that they would play after their club nights, at their own homes, and we release them. We run MixMag. We’re also the official merchandisers for Technics (industry frontrunners in music technology), and then there’s the actual DMC competition. This involves finding the best DJs from the 32 countries that take part in the competition. It means organising and running heats that travel up and down the country to find the best of the best. In the past it was just the heats. But to make the events more memorable, the audience like after-parties and guest appearances, so it has become a major event showcase involving live acts and hosts. I have to source and pick the promoters, the venues, the artists, and then I have to actually promote the event. I have to organise the flights and hotels for each artist and their crews. And all without a PA! After battle season it’s not so bad, but leading up it’s a seven day a week job. I’m lucky though because I really do love doing it. I can’t complain.

Do you feel your social status and gender has encouraged or discouraged your career path and choices?

Well, the North is not a particularly prosperous area. My family have worked hard and built something out of nothing, built the company from scratch. And that’s why the company is so important to us. I think my background encouraged me. I wasn’t sheltered, I wasn’t born with money, and that’s encouraged me to work hard. Because I’ve been around the music industry I’ve seen a lot. My parents looked after me and supported me, but it’s toughened me up. The good thing about Northern families is that they’re very supportive and close-knit. It’s benefited me. Not being sheltered has allowed me to meet people from all walks of life, and communicate with them without prejudice. I have to be versatile, because I could be talking to an international DJ or a streetwear brand CEO one minute and a corporate sponsor the next. DMC competitions are high-cost events, so we rely on sponsors. Luckily I’m a people person, but seeing my mother and my aunt running things taught me I could communicate in the business world of music and still maintain my integrity and be me.

What makes your job difficult?

The hours! And the sponsors. Finding sponsors is not always easy, especially with the credit crunch. No one wants to spend money on sponsoring right now, so it has been hard.

What makes your job rewarding?

I love seeing the events that I’ve organised from scratch succeed. Enjoying the atmosphere and having recognition for a job well done makes it rewarding. Little things like seeing the DJs perform. A lot of them use the DMC platform to go on to big careers: A-Trak was Kanye West’s DJ; the Scratch Perverts, who are now household names; Mixmaster Mike from the Beastie Boys. It’s nice to know you’re helping people. This year is the 25th anniversary and I’ve been emailing all the past world champions for a quote on their memories on the competition, and just seeing the impact you’ve had on someone’s career is so heartwarming; that’s the ultimate reward really.

What are the perks?

Guestlist spots are good [laughs]. The more I take on work-wise, the more rewards I get. My uncle sent me to the US for the finals last year and that was fun. I’m completely in love with New York as a city, and it’s the home of hip hop. I got to hang out with Christy who runs the US DMC championships, and I got to go to the infamous park jams. Just seeing their way of life was amazing.

How has your gender affected your career in this industry?

I’ve been lucky because DMC was already an established, family organisation, so I didn’t have to put up with any prejudice. It’s also run by my mother and aunt, who are really strong, Northern women. They guided me, and I never felt like I couldn’t achieve what I wanted because I was looking at two women who had got where they wanted to be. What may have been an issue was my age. I was 19 when I started working in the competitions, so being young and a woman, people would assume the men were in charge rather than me. They’d ask the engineers for directions rather than me. It was upsetting. I think they thought I was little PA or something.

Is that still a problem?

I don’t get it anymore. Because I’ve had so many years having to deal with it I’ve learnt to put them in their place. It’s easy now.

What are your ultimate goals or have you reached them already? Sounds like you love your work.

Well, we’ve been going 25 years and I would love to keep the competition going. But the digital age is here and we have to grow with the times.

I would have thought the whole ‘live’ aspect of the competition is what makes it what it is. Why would that be affected by the digital growth?

It makes the competition harder because it means lots of equipment changeovers. It’s a transitional period. DMC has always used vinyl records, but now people want to use digital technology.

I see. I thought you meant turning the competition into a digital event rather then a live one.

No, no. We do film the competition, and we’re starting DMC TV this week which will involve streaming every single DMC set ever played, something we’ve never done before. But the competition will always be live. As far as the equipment is concerned, it’s been a pressing issue for a few years. We’re asked a lot if we’ll allow Serato.

What’s Serato?

It means all your tracks are in MP3 on a laptop, so you don’t use records.

And do you allow that?

No. But we might. You still have to manipulate the vinyl to mix, but you don’t have to change them over because the music is fed straight from the laptop. It saves time because you don’t have to swap records over while mixing, but it’s not as visible as the showmanship you get with vinyl. And there’s always a risk that the laptop could crash etc. But we have to change with the times, so we might add a new category to the competition.

But going back to the original question about goals, I feel I’m getting to a point and age where I want to expand what I do. DMC is something I’ll always adore, and always run, but I’d like to spread my wings. I’m not sure what I’d like to do next and I’m evaluating it all. I’m a good organiser – I often end up organising my friend’s birthdays and weddings – so maybe do something along those lines. But I’ve also been asked by a number of artists to manage them, which interest me. I know the music industry, specifically the hip hop industry, inside out, so it seems like a natural progression.

Are there any individuals who have inspired you career wise; I would guess that your family…

Yep [laughs]. My mum, my aunt and my uncle. 100%.

Has your career at DMC allowed you to cross paths with any of your idols?

I’m so fickle, my idols change daily. DMC used to do awards and they featured James Brown, Public Enemy and Janet Jackson, but I was too young to attend those. I meet pretty famous people, but when you work with them on a daily basis they’re not really idols.

What would you be doing if this role had never come to be?

I’ve always loved children. I would probably work with children.

That’s a million miles away from what you do now…

When I did my A Levels, we were sent on a course where we taught kids for two weeks in the summer and I loved it. It was mainly netball and sports, but it was so rewarding. So yes, either working with kids or organising events.

What are your essential survival techniques?

Sleep! [giggles] You can’t work if you don’t have a clear head. Also, never act on impulse. It’s quite easy to be annoyed by people in this industry. They can be rude, patronising and uncooperative, but if you respond angrily, you achieve nothing. It’s best to sleep on it, and wait till you have a clearer head before replying. If my aunt can see me getting worked up, she’ll always say [imitates a firm but friendly matriarchal tone] “Don’t reply to that email name; wait until tomorrow”. You really need to keep composed when you’re under pressure. What you want to say and what you should say are mostly quite different. Also, make sure you have a clear cut-off point for work. You need to do things for yourself that don’t involve work. Actually, I’m giving advice I really should be taking myself [laughs].

What advice would you give to any other young women following in your steps and hoping to make it in the music industry?

Don’t let anything ever deflate you. You get knocked backed so many times. Because I’ve had strong women as role models, I’ve persevered. But if I hadn’t had that background and that inspiration, I’m not sure I would have been able to stick to my guns. Always persevere.

* * *

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

Find out more at www.dmcdjchamps.com


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[…] and with it we welcome the second of our new WII features. For those who may have missed our debut column, WII is a celebration of the ladies who, in a dazzling variety of aspects, keep the busy, versatile […]

Pingback by wii #2: louise dodgson « wears the trousers magazine

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