This is the fifth installment of my Culture, Society and Music blog for my Music and Audio Production degree coursework. This week I will discuss the male-female ratio of music producers. This blog also includes an accompanying playlist.
First off I am a female in the music industry. I have absolutely no concern over the “issue” that is often discussed in our classes- the male to female ratio of music producers in our class. Our class has 20 students, 4 of which are female. The two years behind us show a similar ratio. When I studied in BCFE there were 2 females in a class of 15. The year after us, there were 3 and the year before us there was 1. I’ve never felt out of place in male dominated studios or classrooms, in fact I’ve found men of sound engineering discipline to be very open and sensitive towards women in the music industry.
The ratio is interesting but I cannot fathom why there are so few females in music production education.
My own interest in production was piqued when I joined a rock band and started recording. Recording in various studios inspired me and I always thought that was something I could do. Though we were a female rock band we never actually met any females in the music industry. All record producers, sound engineers and record label reps were males. We never even noticed this. Any females we met were other musicians, makeup artists, stylists, photographers, stage managers or tv/radio personalities.
As an all female rock band we were always frowned upon at gigs. 4 girls in their early 20s with guitars and drums? We were usually met with sneers but after gigs we were always approached by men and women, expressing their delight of how we played and hold we held our own. I’ll never forget playing in Mountjoy Prison for a Christmas party in 2003 for the inmates. Before the gig one lad insisted on calling me “Avril” with my long blonde hair and black eye-shadow, I was highly offended but smiled politely. By the end of the show the 200 inmates had jumped out of their chairs and were rocking out with us, begging for more! I suppose we were a novelty, that always bothered me. I always wanted to be judged as a player, not as a female player.
The BBC published an article in 2012 about female music producers (5% of music producers are female according to their article), some of the names they included are:
- Cordell Jackson founded her own record label, Moon Records, in 1956, and produced early rock’n’roll singles
- Sylvia Robinson produced hip-hop classic Rapper’s Delight, for her own Sugarhill record label
- Susan Rogers was the engineer on Prince’s biggest albums, including Purple Rain and Sign O The Times. She also worked with Crosby, Stills and Nash and Barenaked Ladies
- Leanne Unger Produced and engineered seven albums for Leonard Cohen, and scores for TV shows such as The Wonder Years
- Sally “Louder” Browder emerged from the California punk scene to make records with Rocket From The Crypt and Dwight Yokam
- Trina Shoemaker, winner of three Grammys, best known for her work with Sheryl Crow, Queens Of The Stone Age and Emmylou Harris
- Ann Mincieli recording engineer and studio designer for Alicia Keys
I noticed Mandy Parnell (mastering engineer), Catherine Marks (mix engineer, producer, song-writer) are not in the list.
There seems to be a lot of female producers active in electronic music production. This is especially apparent on SoundCloud. Two I follow are DJ Colette (Colette Marino) and the Amazonica (Victoria Harrison), these ladies have years of successful music industry presence under their belts but there are tonnes of up and coming female producers posting content on SoundCloud.
I personally believe the in-balance between men and women as record producers and sound engineers will balance out in the future. It may take 20 years but it will happen, especially with so many music production educational courses being available, young women are being invited to the studio and the sound engineering booth with open arms.
(mastered by Mandy Parnell)
(mixed by Catherine Marks)
(engineered and mixed by Trina Shoemaker)
(created and produced by Colette Marino)
(created and produced by Victoria Harrison)