To kick off our Salute Community exposé series of people we love and respect as influencers and emerging music industry creatives, we recently met up with Kaiya Milan.
Kaiya is CEO of music management firm and label OFF BALANCE based in London working with the talented independent artists AFRONAUT ZU and LEVELLE LONDON.
In addition to artist management, Kaiya Milan also runs female creative collective The Sorority House, which aims to connect, celebrate and inform women and construct a shared sisterhood mentality. The Sorority House runs weekly Sorority Circles for female creatives in order to generate power banks of success, build upon ideas and share experiences. They also run monthly Female Boss Friday events which aim to act as networking hubs for women in the creative industries. And if that wasn’t enough, Goddess Fest is London’s first music festival with an all-female lineup, which Kaiya arranges under The Sorority House brand.
- SALUTE: So Kaiya, let’s take it back, how did you get into music and working in the industry?
Just before heading into my final year at university, I ended up meeting a group of people, I didn’t know who they were at the time, but they turned out to be Kojey Radical’s musicians. I then went to Kojey’s first headline show in 2014 and completely fell in love with Orphgang and their whole brotherhood. The rest is history basically. Shortly after, I began assisting with day to day tasks for producer KZ who had just signed to BMG as well as commuting daily from London to Coventry. I started to realise that I was meeting a lot of people, but not very many women in the music industry and I really felt that I wanted to do something to change that. I then decided to put on Women In Music Conference to open up the conversation and celebrate women in the industry doing amazing things. This event sold out instantly, and I decided that the next step was to create a support system for these women, which is when I started my collective ‘Women In Music’, which is now called ‘The Sorority House’. That was just me trying to advance stuff for women in the music industry. So that’s actually how it all kicked off, it wasn’t just on an artist management agenda or anything. Before I officially began managing artist Kojey Radical, I was really just looking to elevate women and stop us being overlooked within the industry.
I then began managing Afronaut Zu just as he finished up his last world tour as the lead singer for Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons. We spent about 9 months working on his own original sound and putting together his first project called ‘Melanalia’ due to be released in January 2018. Since working together over the last two years Afronaut Zu is now touring with Rudimental and will be putting out his first single before the year is out. A year after, I started working with my newest artist Levelle London who’s talent is unmatched. The energy was so right at the time for both of us, and it just made sense to work with each other to continue to build on his talent. Since working with each other Levelle has now created a huge catalogue of music, which you’ll start to see being released in 2018, as well of lots of other exciting partnerships which we have been working really hard to finalise. Levelle London is definitely one to watch – I am definitely biased, but just remember I said it first – haha!
- SALUTE: In terms of your appreciation for music, did you grow up in a musical home?
Yeah, actually my Dad is a jazz musician and my mother is also a lover of music so I grew up in a VERY musical household. I actually play a few instruments as well, and I always rejected the idea that I would actually want to get into the industry, but hey, it happened anyway! I was pretty much like ‘well let’s just see how it goes’, you know? And I’m still here now.
- SALUTE: Still here, still strong! Over the last couple of years you’ve been asked to speak about diversity and the current state of play in the music industry for women given your work with the Sorority House, what has that been like for you?
It’s been really beneficial for me because I’m not really a public speaker like that. Being able to talk about things that I am passionate about has been really helpful.
I am passionate about connecting and benefiting women in the industry. There’s often a real separation of the ’sisterhood’ mentality and I’ve noticed so much in the last couple of years that people like the whole idea of the ’sisterhood’ thing, it’s a cool thing to say. But not a lot of people see the real benefit in it because the truth is that the structure of the industry, inside the businesses, being aligned with women doesn’t really help you. The industry is not currently controlled by women. But my feeling is that when we come together, collectively we are stronger, more powerful and that we can have an impact on anything we want to affect. I feel like once there is a real force behind women to elevate, with the support of everyone including men coming together – that is when things will truly change.
That’s what I call the Sorority House, a collective force of women in the industry.
We have a bi-annual festival with Goddess Fest which is an all female line up. We had our first one last year and it was so successful. We’ve also got monthly events and a weekly sorority circle too which we run. We just try to do different things you know, things that are out of the box. So we are doing a warm-up alongside Relentless Studios for IWD to get everyone ready for the return of Goddess Fest 2018. Ultimately, we are just starting with small things that can provide a platform for women in the creative industries, and build something for women so that change can happen.
We’re also keen to do an event out in LA next year with some of our partner companies over there. We’re not trying to be in competition with other people who are doing similar work. We’re all working towards the same goals so it’s even better if we can come together – it’s all about sisterhood.
- SALUTE: What has the response been like from people to your work with Goddess Fest?
I’ve had a really good response you know, and from men too. At Goddess Fest 2016 it was pretty much 50/50.It was just an amazing feeling for me to host a Women’s festival and to see men turning up. It was quite overwhelming to me to know that everybody was supporting what we are doing.
There’s some hesitation though still, where any association focused on women’s empowerment makes you a feminist and people don’t want to work with you. But that’s just another barrier to overcome.
- SALUTE: Do you identify as a feminist?
I’m just me, if I say I’m a feminist I align myself with a whole bunch of other things that I’m probably not about, so I’m just me!
Being female is different to being male, no one is less or more, we are just different. So for me, as women, acknowledging that we are powerful beyond measure, even society’s measure of your power is so important.
I just support women, I think we are powerful creatures and we can come together as a force. I’m just doing what I want to do. I’m just trying to make it happen.
For me the Goddess Fest is just a way of describing women as I see them – powerful beings. Being a Goddess means so much and it’s a mindstate, it’s something that we need to embrace that we are positive about and proud to be a part of. Goddess Fest is a celebration of that and welcomes everybody who shares that mindset, regardless of whether they have musical talent themselves.
I was supposed to go to a university in Atlanta, and that didn’t happen but I was really interested in that Sorority culture because that whole sisterhood ethos is appealing. I don’t have siblings so being a part of a sisterhood is really important and beautiful to me – so I really wanted to introduce women to that culture which promotes sisterhood amongst females. We don’t have that in the UK and I missed out on that whilst at university. So when I was coming up with a name for what I was trying to do ‘Sorority’ seemed to make sense because it’s like sisterhood even though we are not blood-related, still it’s probably the closest thing which unifies us.
- SALUTE: What are you busy with to close out this year? Any plugs for 2018?
So we launched Off Balance – my label and management company in January 2017 with our first official #OffBalanceLive event. We had all of the artists from Off Balance perform. It was at Birthdays in Dalston and it sold out in just over 2 weeks.
We had artists and groups such as Ms Banks, OrphGang, Frank Ekwa and Taliwoah perform alongside my artists Afronaut Zu & Levelle London – So that was really cool. Then I went to LA for a couple of months and did an Off Balance Collab out there too. Coming up in February 2018 will be our second edition of #OffBalanceLive, as well as an amazing headline show on January 31st which we’ll be putting on for LA based artists Iman Omari & Ill Camille, who will be supported by Emmavie and Off Balance artist Afronaut Zu. 2018 should be an exciting year for both my artists, myself and Off Balance, so stay tuned!
I’m the one sitting on my laptop at 3am doing what needs to get done. I don’t have a backer. I don’t see this as a camp – it’s a family. Off Balance isn’t going to be just another cool thing where we all wear the same T-Shirts and hashtag ‘Squad’ on social media – this is something different and real.
Let me not say too much, but we are working on some great things which we want everyone to be a part of in some way, shape or form.
I like to see the people that I’m working with even when we’re not working, that’s what family is about. We really have spent a long time getting to know each other and building real, genuine relationships – so when it comes time to work, it’s effortless. And of course I’m on tour with my artists too, so we get to experience what being around each other is REALLY like haha. These are people I really care about and their success is so important to me. These are genuine relationships for me you know? It’s not just for Instagram or Snapchat, it’s like – we’re actually really connected and down to build together.
The next release from the Off Balance family will be Martians by Afronaut Zu featuring Levelle London. This will mark the first-ever official release from Afronaut Zu which is extremely exciting for us, so it’s really full steam ahead for 2018. We have our own studio in Shoreditch which we use as our creative hub, we have a great space that we’ve really made our own and get to run our own sessions. We can do what we want and create exactly how we want without limitation – and the people that come down create such great energy! Off Balance hasn’t closed up shop for 2017 yet though, we still have Levelle London’s final show of 2017 which we are co-hosting with LDNRBS on the 3rd December at Camden Assembly, and we are also hosting OrphGang member Jay 8lue’s headline show on the 10th too!
So yeah, stay tuned – we’re coming!
Follow Kaiya and Off Balance Group @