I’ve been a part of shesaid.so (SSSO), a community of women who work in music since 2014. We get together every month in Shoreditch House, London, for lightning talks, workshops or roundtable discussions. The group has expanded quickly and as a result, I’ve launched the Belgian division of the group recently.
As part of the SSSO London committee I was involved more closely in setting up these monthly events and the topic for our October event was “Going It Alone.” I was happy to also have been invited as one of the speakers because I can really relate to the topic. In my life, I’ve done a lot of things alone. I’m not saying I never had any support, because it’s quite the opposite. It’s just that I’ve always had this aching inside me, this urge to find my purpose. And I was looking for likeminded souls, my tribe, but it took me some time to really figure that one out. So for a long time, I found that to be hard, a struggle even, but I’ve always had a tendency to keep ahead and right now, I can truly say I’m so proud of myself. Proud of all the things I’ve overcome and reached by myself.
My story in music starts in 1999. I was the singer of a rock band and eventually moved on to a hip hop band 2 years later. I left that band when I was 20 and had started university in the meantime. My study in Eastern Languages was another way of finding my purpose in life. I thought, if I discover what philosophy resonates with me, I might find my way. Instead, I discovered dubstep and grime and my first producer boyfriend at 23. We started an independent bass label called Stainage Records as an outlet for Belgian artists.
My role in the label was mainly PR and being a spokeswoman on national radio. It was there that one of the radio personalities, who was hosting a jungle and drum’n’bass show at the time, told me firmly I should get into radio. However, I felt way to insecure for that.
I was comfortable staying behind the scenes and finding my own ways of using my voice, without stepping outside of my comfort zone. I started to blog a little on Myspace (remember those days?) and learned a few tricks from organizing label parties. Back then, it never really felt like I was making a difference or inspiring others. I was felt lucky to be surrounded by inspiring people. Little did I know, that what you see outside of you, is a reflection of what’s within. But that’s a lesson I learned much later in life.
I broke up with my boyfriend and as a result, my label, and literally went on hiatus for two years. It was time for some soul searching. I moved to Italy and I was confronted with a lot of barriers. I needed to dig deep to find myself, and my voice. so I volunteered as a writer and a reporter for a couple of UN projects. I figured this was going to give me the “experience” I needed to find “that” job.
I moved back to Belgium to take a job at the Belgian Chinese Chamber of Commerce. After all, I had studied Eastern Languages so it kinda made sense. I got fired a year later and panicked. I finally found something that kind of sort of made sense and now it backfired. I found a new job at the marketing department of the Port of Antwerp and I quickly managed to work my way into China-related projects and social media management. However, as quickly as I had managed to work my way into those projects, just as quickly did I get bored.
In the meantime that radio bug started to tickle so I got into radio as a volunteer after hours. I volunteered as a senior editor of an urban music and lifestyle platform and my humble involvement in We Play House Recordings exposed me to artist managers and bookers in different countries. And all the things that went wrong, imo. It frustrated me and I knew I could be good at that. There was my second trigger. My need to know myself had expanded to my need to know what other people needed, and play into that.
However, throughout all of this I heard many people say that I was impulsive, didn’t know what I wanted, had to grow up like everybody else, stick to one thing to really be good at it instead of being involved in so many different things, etc.
But those same people also told me I had a special effect on others. I made people want to open up and their confidence, make them feel motivated and move forward.
What I didn’t understand at the time is that those people, with their mixed messages, where actually constantly doubting themselves and projecting those doubts on to me. They had chosen me as that external factor that is to blame for the inner struggles us human beings deal with on a daily basis. The typical attitudes of the human ego.
I started to doubt myself immensely, I was doing so much all at the same time, because I wanted to find an outlet for my creativity. But I started to believe I wasn’t aiming my energy right. I decided to go to a life coach to ground myself. Literally put my feet back on the ground. The best advice he ever gave me was “Everyone does what he/she can according to they’re own capacities at that time”. It was then and there I finally felt like myself. I realized that, deep within, I had been fighting against myself. I was too hard on myself. I always believed deep down I could add to people’s lives. I wanted to help others find their purpose, give them a voice and stand next to them until they could find their own way.
I started to work on my business plan. I wrote down how I wanted to combine all of these elements – music, media and mindfulness – into an activity that could sustain me, fuel me and keep me inspired.
And so it happened that this time last year I resigned from my 9-5 job in marketing to start up my artist management and media agency called The Unicorn Mothership. The Unicorn, because I often felt like I was the only member of my tribe, a thing that didn’t seem to exist, and the Mothership, because I want to guide people on their journey, whatever that may be, and have them feel safe while doing it.
Eline Van Audenaerde is the founder of The Unicorn Mothership and Chairwoman of SSSO Belgium. As an artist manager, radio host and digital media professional I like to spice up all my endeavors with the right amount of mindfulness.