Women in Audio – A Celebration of International Women’s Day
Written by Eileen McDonald Sparks
There has never been a better time in history to be a woman or NGC person pursuing a career in music production, and it is our responsibility to ensure this environment will only continue to evolve into a more inclusive and supportive industry.
In light of the recent Grammy awards; the Outstanding Record Producers of NonClassical Music award has only ever been won by men. Hit machine Linda Perry was nominated this year, but the award was won by Pharrell Williams for his works. She said in an interview prior to the Grammys; “There’s no 13-year-olds going, “I want to be her!” Because they don’t see her, behind there, you know?”, which resonates heavily. How can we inspire the next generation if we do not elbow our way to the front?
A handful of strong engineers and producers doing just that include Record Label boss Emily Toner who speaks to us about an ethical music industry, Engineer Elizabeth Rosero who talks about breaking into radio and broadcast, Engineer/Producer Charlotte Rochecouste talks about cutting her teeth in Studios 301, Producer/Vocalist Rochelle Bartlett talks about the challenges of deciding your career ‘niche’ and Engineer Alex Mraz talks about constantly researching new gear and techniques. I have had the privilege of knowing this selection of elite producers and engineers who undoubtedly will be at the forefront of the music industry for years to come.
PRODUCER PROFILE – EMILY TONER
Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, Emily (known as ‘Emtones’) is a familiar face in the Melbourne and Byron Bay music scenes. After studying an Advanced Diploma in Music Industry at Abbey Road Institute in Melbourne, she graduated at the prestigious Abbey Road Studios in London in 2018 and has since thrown herself into a plethora of exciting projects. From working on her personal EP with other musical locals, to starting an all female peach surf-rock band ‘The Sandy Junes’, Emily has also began flexing her industry skills, producing Melbourne folk artist, Andy Sullivan’s first EP, due to be released in April. If that’s not enough, she is head-honcho for an exciting new label – Wye in the Sky Records, a “for-purpose Australian music label promoting local artists, while giving back to important social and environmental causes through live mindful music events.”
In her words: “I’ve always been driven by a desire to work in male-dominated areas…Before embarking on music, I established a career working for myself as a psychologist and wellbeing consultant in the corporate and business world – another male-dominated space. It’s been personally challenging at times. I’ve noticed that in general, as women we don’t back ourselves easily, and it is harder to achieve the level of success and impact that we are truly capable of. I have been lucky to have had support from strong female (and male) mentors, friends and a brilliant community, including my Abbey Road Institute family, and they have always encouraged me when I’ve started to question my (sometimes questionable!) life choices to work for myself and follow my passion. I really wouldn’t be here without them.” Emily and people like her will be responsible for moving current music publishing and distribution environment to the ethical and mindful practices we dream of in the future.
Contact Emily: email@example.com
PRODUCER PROFILE – CHARLOTTE ROCHECOUSTE
“I believe music is a gift to be shared to make people people feel something bigger than themselves.”
Unstoppable force Charlotte Rochecouste is currently working at Studios 301 in Sydney after graduating from Abbey Road Institute Melbourne in 2018. She works directly with Simon Cohen as assistant in his vocal chain, and vocal engineering with hiphop heavyweight L Fresh the Lion. She also collaborates with local Sydney artists as a writer, producer and engineer and is encouraging other young people in her field to create a strong and safe community. In their words; “[Music] brings me fulfilment, happiness and purpose. Moving from a singer-songwriter to the engineering and production side of music has been so liberating. I have more of a grasp on the whole process of how a record is made. I have more control and more creativity and am totally self sufficient. Sure it takes longer when you do it all yourself, but to me it so worth it.”
“I think community in the music industry is vital. It can be a very isolating career at times, where you’re working alone a lot. When you collaborate / get feedback and insight from other music industry professionals, it helps you to become better at what you do. Also there’s room for everyone, so not seeing [each other] as competition but more as a friend and companion. Everyone can learn from each other and its a great way to network so both parties can reach their goals.”
Contact Charlotte: firstname.lastname@example.org
ENGINEER/PRODUCER PROFILE – ELIZABETH ROSERO
“It has been particularly challenging to maintain a firm footing for regular work but with the small community I have established strong connections with, I’m optimistic I’ll be able to find my way.”
Elizabeth has begun flexing her skills in the industry mixing live jazz improvisation nights, which she describes as “extremely challenging and equally rewarding introduction into this industry I’m breaking into”.
Her dream is to be able to work in a Community radio production team – a corner of sound production with an incredibly supportive team of professionals who understand the value of cultivating an inclusive industry. She’s already solidified herself in iconic local radio station 3RRR as an Assistant Broadcast Engineer and is ready for more challenges.
Contact Elizabeth: email@example.com
PRODUCER PROFILE – ROCHELLE BARTLETT
Incredible vocalist Rochelle Bartlett’s is the definition of self-made. She went from beginning her studies at Abbey Road Institute never having used a DAW before – to graduating and writing, performing and producing at studios around Melbourne, which included a creative partnership fellow alumni and producer Peter Allison-Nichol. Not surprisingly, her proactive nature and consistent drive have led her ultimate goals to include winning a Grammy, which could be history in the making.
“I think it’s been challenging even doing the course and having completed it [and] not knowing which avenue to take…For me, in particular, studying at ARI has given me a better understanding of the music industry as a whole, not just from an audio engineering perspective, but also being able to understand that it is challenging to commit to a full-time music career without making many sacrifices.”
Rochelle has the skills needed to succeed in realigning the values of the current industry and understands the importance of strong relationships and safe environments for musicians and producers alike.
“This course gave me confidence and provided me with the knowledge I needed to form better relationships with producers and even bandmates. I can now assist my peers when setting up a studio session or gig and pack down as well with the knowledge of how the equipment works.” – Rochelle Bartlett.
Contact Rochelle: firstname.lastname@example.org
PRODUCER PROFILE – ALEX MRAZ
If you haven’t already met or heard of Alex Mraz from the local scene, you’ll be lucky to book her as a live sound or mix engineer. Most engineers find themselves in a particular niche as they begin their career, usually dictated by their unique place in the world, and Alex is no exception; “I already had heaps of connections in [live sound] without realising it. I’d been regularly going out to gigs for years and was already pretty well-placed to start shadowing people and getting my hands dirty. I’m not complaining one bit about how it’s turned out. I’m mixing around town 2-3 nights a week and starting to get on festival crews. Recently, it’s been really nice to start forming ongoing relationships with artists who have asked me back because everyone’s been really happy with the sound.” Her increasingly busy schedule sees her shadowing FOH Engineer at Rod Laver Arena for household names like Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Shania Twain. Despite her impressive resume, she’s received unsolicited ‘advice’ from well-meaning but ignorant punters at many gigs, occasionally making her doubt her ability. Some make her wonder if she would’ve received the same advice if she was male. Fortunately, Alex remains unwaveringly positive;
“I genuinely think the scene is changing though, a lot of old attitudes and norms are dying….I’m seeing more and more women and non-binary people pushing faders, and it’s really important we encourage each other, share experiences and don’t tolerate crap.” – Alex Mraz, Audio Engineer
At no point has Alex taken her career or her community for granted – not only is she completely self-managed, she is actively researching gear and techniques and continuing her studies long after she graduated. “I choose to only surround myself with supportive and friendly people wherever I can…[and] I definitely learn something every single gig. Working in live music is such a privilege for me, as I know I had some of the most formative experiences in my life at gigs… and knowing that I’m helping facilitate those same experiences for other people is what gets me out of bed if I’m honest.”
Alex’s steadfast commitment to improving not only her skills but the industry itself means our future is in safe hands.
Contact Alex: email@example.com
“It would be disrespectful to everyone in the industry to expect special treatment because of one’s gender, but I feel we do need a level playing field…it shouldn’t be about whether you’re male or female in the industry we all love: it should be about your work ethic and your ability.” – Rosina Ncube, Engineer
Though the careers of those featured in this piece vary greatly, they are unified by their vision to create a more supportive community for the current and future generations. Our impact will not go unnoticed and the hands we reach out to our fellow community members will be important cornerstones in creating an inclusive industry of the future.
If you are currently working in the music industry – I implore you – put out a helping hand for those trying to work beside you. Mentor students and graduates, invite them to the gigs you’re mixing, events you’re managing, or studio sessions you’re engineering or producing, and spend a few extra hours searching for a less-established support band, or finding that perfect tech for your tour. Because the first steps are the hardest ones.
Are you pushing your career in Audio, or want to support someone who is? Here are some communities and resources you can turn to if you need help!
The EQL Directory is a global database of professionals that seeks to amplify the careers and achievements of women working behind the scenes in music and audio. Registering yourself on this database is a career must. makeiteql.com
SoundGirls provides support, career development, and tools to help those working in the field advance in their career. SoundGirls.org
WIMN has created a hub to connect women in all facets of the music industry. You are not alone! thewimn.com
Support Act get artists and music workers back on their feet when they have hit a rough patch and just need a breathing space. supportact.org.au
As part of an on-going commitment to foster greater gender diversity in the production sphere of the music industry, Abbey Road Institute is proud to partner with Studios 301 and APRA AMCOS to offer a scholarship to women and gender non-conforming persons wishing to undertake formal education and enter the industry on their own terms.
Applicants should demonstrate their commitment and passion to music and illustrate how their personal goals and objectives will contribute to this broader agenda.