A lot of people ask me, “How do we get more women working in recording studios?” The answer is simple: Go get them! And the earlier, the better.
Working in a studio can be daunting. Producing, engineering, mixing, mastering — none of these things comes naturally. You have to learn them, and it’s not always clear how. That’s why just 2% of the producers of last year’s top 100 songs were women, and only six were women of color, according to USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. We need to illuminate the path, and we need to do it from both an educational and practical perspective.
Some progress is being made. According to the just-released TuneCore and MIDiA Research report “Be the Change: Women Making Music,” over half of respondents said they have seen increased opportunities for women to become producers and industry leaders over the past year. However, 17% said they’ve seen no improvements. That’s why we need to educate women on the studio jobs available to them — from mixing engineers and recording engineers to producers, songwriters, session musicians, gear techs, and administrative assistants. These roles can serve as a springboard to leadership roles for women in the studio world, creating equity and ensuring women’s concerns are heard and addressed.
What’s Your Major?
On the educational side, it’s important to teach women not only how to be a producer or an engineer but also what specific classes and majors they need to take to get that training. The music industry is huge with many different aspects to it, and a music business program isn’t necessarily going to give you the technical skills you need to record an artist or create a beat. We need to let young women know that audio engineering majors, certificates, and courses are available to them — you just need to know what they’re called and where to sign up.
For those interested, 4U Recording’s home states of Tennessee and Georgia offer a variety of programs in the field, including a Bachelor of Science in Audio Production at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), a Bachelor of Science or Arts in Audio Engineering Technology at Belmont University, a Bachelor of Arts in Audio Production at the Art Institute of Atlanta, an Audio Bachelor of Applied Science at the SAE Institute, and Live Sound and Studio Engineering programs at The Black Bird Academy. Other possibilities include Berklee College of Music’s Bachelor of Music in Music Production and Engineering, Full Sail University’s Bachelor of Science in Audio Production, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Bachelor & Master of Fine Arts in Sound, the Los Angeles Recording School’s Bachelor of Science in Audio Production, Media Tech Dallas’ Associate of Applied Science Degree in Recording Arts, the University of Washington’s Certificate in Audio Production Techniques, and the Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music’s Certificate in Audio Engineering.
Respect the Hustle
However, going to college isn’t an option for everyone. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a studio job — it just takes a little hustle. Personally, I didn’t know what a compressor was when I first got to 4U Recording, but I hung out around enough people who did that I eventually figured it out. That’s the key — getting young women in the door in a studio environment. Many people who are interested in producing or engineering assume they need to find a job as a producer or engineer right from the jump, and don’t even bother looking at studio positions until they feel like their skills are up to snuff. That leads many women down a wormhole of self-doubt that ultimately takes them somewhere else entirely.
We can correct that by letting women know about other jobs in the studio they can do without being a master technician. Every studio has administrative needs, and these positions are a great way to get started. Once you’re in the studio space, you can sit in on sessions, talk to the producers and engineers who work there, and learn by doing. At 4U Recording, we also bring many young women into the mix as interns and encourage them to get as involved as they’d like. We’ve even had a few join us full-time once their internships were up. The key thing is that while learning to be a producer or engineer can be a little technical, it’s not so complicated you can’t learn it on the job. But if you don’t even know there are jobs available or are too intimidated to apply for one, there’s no way for you to do that.
Speaking of intimidation, those who are a little iffy on jumping directly into the often male-dominated studio environment might want to check out woman-owned or -run studios like 4U Recording in Memphis and Atlanta; the Memphis Slim Collaboratory in Memphis; Neato Mastering and Crybaby Audio in Nashville; Women’s Audio Mission in San Francisco; Nitrosonic Studios in Lexington, KY; Gramercy Post, The Lodge Mastering, Funkadelic Studios, and Jungle City Studios in New York; and Denk Studios in North Carolina. No one understands women like other women, and these are all great spots to work and learn. The point is, let’s make sure women know about the opportunities they have.
Finally, to the women and women of color like me who are in the studio business, it’s time to get out there! Visibility is important to get young women started on their path to the studio, so go speak at high schools and colleges, sit in the booth at job fairs, get involved in community organizations, and sign up to be a mentor. Something as simple as seeing a woman onstage at a concert setting up equipment, or assembling their own DJ booth and doing a set, can have a lasting impact on someone who previously didn’t even think of those things as a possibility. So don’t sit back and expect women to find their way to the studio. Go get them!
Crystal Carpenter is Studio Manager of 4U Recording, a state-of-the-art recording studio that is part of the Made in Memphis Entertainment (MIME) family of companies. She joined the studio in February 2019 and has already built a strong client base, hosting the Recording Academy Writers’ Retreat in March 2019 and establishing relationships with major labels such as Interscope Records, Atlantic Records, and Columbia Records. In less than a year, she earned the studio its first Gold plaque for rapper Moneybagg Yo’s Time Served album, as well as a Platinum plaque for his single “All Dat (feat. Megan Thee Stallion).” 4U Recording also recorded portions of NLE Choppa’s Top Shotta album, which debuted in the Top 10 of the overall Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. Carpenter also DJs under the name DJ Crystal Mercedes, and has performed for Chilli of seminal pop group TLC and on the TV series Single Ladies.