It is often said that the audio industry is male-dominated, and according to soundgirls.org ‘Women working in professional audio make up just 5% of all audio engineers.'
Here at JMC Academy however, we are proud that approximately 25% of our Audio Engineering students are female.
We believe in the power of women and ultimately, the power of a good education and hard work. That’s why we spoke to world renowned Sylvia Massy who chatted to us about being a female in the industry. Sylvia has been producing, engineering and mixing popular music for decades, working with artists including Tool, System of a Down, Johnny Cash and Prince. She’s received over 25 gold and platinum records including awards for her work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sevendust and Tom Petty.
When asked how difficult is it for women to get jobs in the Audio Industry, Sylvia discussed that from her experience, it hasn’t appeared any more difficult for women than for men. Audio engineer at Love Hz Studios and JMC Academy tutor Kylie Whitney, agrees, arguing that when advising what women can do to help their chances of making it in the industry, she would give women the same advice as men. “Work hard! If you love it, you’ll want to do the hard work. Network, make contacts, record everything you can, practice your skills and never stop learning!”
Sylvia believes that “It takes absolute determination and concentration, 14-hour workdays, compromised personal and social relationships, little financial reward to start, and postponement of family building. Most women want to find careers that allow them better social connections. But don't get me wrong, I have THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD.”
The idea of working in a professional sound studio, recording bands and mixing and editing audio recordings appears to increasingly appeal to a large number of women throughout the country. So what qualities make for a good audio engineer, male or female? According to Kylie, “A good audio engineer or producer must be creative and technical at the same time, which is often the appeal of the job, we get to do both! There’s an element of psychology too when working with artists, you have to make them comfortable in the studio otherwise you won’t get a good performance out of them. If the artist doesn’t trust you with their emotion, it won’t be a believable record, no matter how much gear or skill you have.” It could be argued that a woman's often empathetic nature can help them succeed in the industry for this reason.
Sylvia believes she became so successful in the field due to her love of all types of music. “I can figure out how to connect things, in other words, I understand signal flow. I can set up a simple drum kit and play a basic beat. I have ideas and can communicate my ideas to musicians, understanding melody. Even if I cannot play guitar or piano, I can hum my ideas to musicians. I understand song arrangement and can memorize the structure of a song with one listen (this is a big one.)”
So finally, we asked Sylvia what advice she would give to women looking to work in the Audio Industry. “Record as much music as possible. Get permission to record shows. Compare your mixes to the commercial music you love. Keep working on those recordings and mixes until they compete with commercial releases. You can do it! The more you record, the more opportunity will come your way. Build that discography.
If you move to a city to work in a commercial recording studio, plan on sticking around for two years. It will take that long for you to make enough solid connections for people to start trusting you with their projects. You will likely be starting from the bottom whenever you move to a new area, no matter what type of discography you have, but accept that. Know when it is okay to have opinions, be careful not to crowd the primary people in a session you are attending. However, you might step to the front of the line if you find a band that wants to record in a big studio (and they have the budget.) If you can bring the project to a big studio, the studio may actually train you to run the equipment. Then you are flying on your own. This however does not work for your own projects as well, so meet and gain the trust and respect of as many musicians as you can.
And finally, keep focused!!!"
To learn more about studying Audio Engineering and Sound Production, click here.