Since I was a little girl, about seven or eight years old, I’ve always been fascinated with the production aspect of music. The short, crisp sound of a hi-hat, the vibrations that a bass line gives off, the undeniable depth that Just Blaze brings to his beats, that one layer of the song many people don’t pay attention to. That’s what captured my heart.
In the last several years, we’ve witnessed history being made by women in music, like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Adele, to name a few. Unfortunately, that female domination isn’t seen on the other side of the sound desk. We have Pharrell Williams and Diplo, both of whom have won Grammys throughout their respected careers. But during the past 58 years in Grammy history, only a handful of women have been nominated for behind-the-scenes work like engineering or producing. Only three women have won the award for “Producer of The Year, Classical” category.
Though we appreciate what men have done in the music industry, it’s pretty upsetting to know that women represent just 5 percent of producers and engineers. It’s clear to see that this industry is very male-dominated, just like any other field. Because of that, I shied away from the profession because I didn’t feel welcome, and didn’t want to compete with men.
In this game, women are expected to be the commercial object that generates money. This mentality creates a barrier on career progression, from sexism and unequal pay, to the pressure of making physical appearance the central focus. The music industry still remains conservative with its embedded formula of having a diva, dancer, down-to-earth fashionista crooning about bad boys being replicated every single year. We play it safe and we’re not creating room for new ideals that reflect a society we aspire to live in.
In a 2012 interview with BBC, chairman of the UK Music Producer’s Guild Steve Levine told the publication that even though women don’t receive as much support and motivation as men, he believes we could bring a new dimension to music: “If I have an observation, it’s that a lot of the female engineers have a greater allegiance to the sort of passion a singer-songwriter has, and that comes out in their work. They’re much more sensitive to the delicacies of sound balancing. I think that’s quite an important role.“
The more society rewards male producers for their work (as we should, when it’s well deserved), the more we are keeping this “boys’ club” alive. This prolongs the cycle of having the boys come out on top at all times, which only expands their influence.
We need to stop telling ourselves, and our young girls, that audio technology is only a “man’s thing.” We need to shed more light on the very talented cluster of female engineers and producers we do have in the industry, like WondaGurl, Marcella Araica, Tokimonsta, Missy Elliot, and Grimes. Perhaps this will help encourage more young girls and women to pursue this type of work — and what better time to get in the game than now?
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty