Women in Music: Inspiring Stories from Three Generations

by Merel van Hengstum



Throughout the many years of MassiveMusic’s existence, we’ve come to love and appreciate all that the music industry has to offer. From simply listening to songs we love to helping brands achieve new heights (that’s us), music can be a source of expression and inspiration for so many people. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it’s always the most inclusive space.

Last year, we explored hurdles that hold women back from joining the musical universe that we love so much. This year, we wanted to do something a little different and give a voice to women from different backgrounds and generations.

To accomplish our goal, we partnered with LWD, the global non-profit initiative that works to empower women and non-binary creatives around the world. Together, we gave life to an inclusive night of music and discussion, where we learned the creative impact that working in music has had on womxn across a range of different careers. We called the event ‘A Side B Side’. Why that title, you ask? Easy. We wanted to focus on career transitions between and within the music industry, discovering transferable skills and offering resources.

As an added bonus, we chose to dedicate 32% of the revenue from the tickets to Project Fearless, a safe space for any girl in Amsterdam aged 9-14 to get hands-on, break stereotypes, find their voice and create an impact.

We invited three speakers from three generations to inspire us with stories from their unique career journeys, the impact of their work, and the lessons learned from their time in and out of the music industry. To give you as many insights as possible, we asked them a different question each.

CJ Thurlow

CJ Thurlow (full name Colette Jacinta Thurlow) was born in Ireland in 1983. She studied English Literature at King’s College London and fronted the rock band ‘2:54’ from 2010 to 2015. Since 2016, CJ was Executive Assistant to activist and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood until Vivienne’s death in December 2022.

MM > CJ, we’re beyond honoured to have you on our panel. With your extensive experience in many industries, we were wondering if you’ve also noticed a pattern – I know we’re generalising but usually men don’t think twice when it comes to applying for a job they’re not 100% qualified for. Unfortunately, women don’t take the risk as often. Is this something you’d suggest doing? And what other brave things can we do this year to move the needle?

CJ Thurlow > For sure. I always just say to myself, “What have I got to lose by asking? What’s the worst that’s going to happen?” They might say no. You might be embarrassed and disappointed for a while, but it’ll pass on. Just keep showing up and try again. I would often find the coolest thing I was into (a magazine, an artist, a gallery) and just write to them directly for an internship or a job. You have to take that step, even if you believe you’re not 100% qualified. You only lose by not asking and not giving yourself a chance.

Constanze Bilogan

Hailing from Berlin, Connie works as a Creative Lead at adidas. After studying History and Communications, she spent a year in Los Angeles working with Holocaust survivors, before pursuing a career in creativity. A musician from a very young age, Connie used to play synth, rock organ and bass keyboard in the Indie pop band HEKLA, was signed to a record label and had big dreams with her band – but life had different plans and directed her path to Amsterdam, where she built an award-winning career in the advertising and fashion industry.

MM > Connie, the list of instruments you play is truly impressive. While learning any skill, there’s sometimes a daunting amount of rules and technical skills to learn, but it’s often when they’re broken that true creativity can shine through. How have you done this in music?

Constanze > I started learning piano at the age of four with a very good, but very strict piano teacher. There was never much room for creativity or feelings – it was always about playing the right note and using the correct technique. This resulted in me being able to play any sheet music you put in front of me, but if you ask me to jam something on the spot, I will probably have a panic attack and hide somewhere.

I’ve now committed my life to breaking down this knowledge of technical skills and what I know is right, and doing the thing I know makes me feel something. For a long time, I didn’t know you could be paid for creativity. Until I moved to Los Angeles and started taking some pictures for bands as a side job and I found out that advertising was an actual job you could have. Now I’m combining my love for fashion, art, directing, design, writing and so much more – all in one job.

Phuong Boi Nguyen

Phuong Boi Nguyen is a Dutch-Vietnamese music producer, songwriter, sound engineer and musician. After finishing her studies in music production, Phuong moved to the vibrant city of Los Angeles for an internship with Warren Huart. Afterwards, she returned to the Netherlands and landed a job at MassiveMusic Amsterdam, where she now runs the MassiveCatalogue department as a Coordinator of Owned Music. Aside from her regular job, Phuong is also active in the music industry as the lead singer of her electro-pop band D A R K D A Y S and a spokesperson for women in the music/audio industry.

MM > A familiar face at last. Phuong, you work with women in the music industry on a daily basis. How should women in the creative industry (and other industries) support each other?

Phuong > I actually did my graduation research on this topic. The conclusion was that there should be more female role models. That way, seeing a woman in a certain position becomes normalised. It’s a great way to inspire younger generations to go into a certain field or career that they normally wouldn’t have thought of. Hereby a call to all women in an influential or unconventional role: make it known to the world. Show it off to people. Be that role model for other women.

Wait, there's more?

Of course there is. It wouldn’t be a MassiveMusic event without music performances.

Let’s meet the Dutch band Loupe, who provided us with warm bass lines and dreamy vocals after the event, and DJ LENI from LAWAAI Collective, who took care of the tunes in between sets and afterwards.


Amsterdam-based indie band Loupe thrives on stage with a strong live set full of eccentric guitar riffs and hooky vocal lines. Through colourful metaphors, singer Julia Korthouwer, also Producer at MassiveMusic, draws you into her world of experience.

MM > How do you think the music industry could improve when it comes to including and supporting women?

Loupe > We think it’s important to create an inclusive environment on the work floor, which in this case is the music industry. To accept everyone the way they are, respect each other and support each other in doing the things you like to do most.


LENI is one of the three co-founders of LAWAAI – an all-female DJ collective based in Amsterdam championing non-binary and femme-identifying humans behind the decks. She is always on the lookout for new sounds and cultivates a deep love for pushing boundaries. Her sets are pure vibes, exploring a variety of genres but will always throw in a few groovy Chicago or Detroit tracks.

MM > Music is the most universal language we know. How can we use music and language to promote equality?

LENI > As a female DJ, I proactively look for music that is produced by non-binary and femme-identifying producers to incorporate into my sets. I’m very selective with the tracks I play, so buying and playing their music contributes to their success and reach, which is a goal of mine. This sisterhood intention is also embodied in my latest initiative: LAWAAI Collective, a DJ collective based in Amsterdam which I’m a co-founder of. Our mission is to celebrate women in electronic music, raise awareness of the need for more diversity behind the decks and take action towards equality.

All good things...

…come to an end. What can we say? The night surely was a massive success and made us realise we need more panels around this topic and beyond. Women and non-binary people from all ages and professions got to mingle and discuss what it’s like to be female-identifying in a world where there is not always equal treatment.

It’s only together that we can continue to stand strong. We have the capacity to support, encourage and empower each other to make a difference. To end this review with a quote by CJ: “Strong communities are the foundation for a better world, not just for a better music industry.”

© Nicole Olwagen for main image, Loupe + LENI