Empowering the Next Generation of Women in Audio

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Meet Liina of LNA Does Audio Stuff

Liina Turtonen is an independent music producer and educator. She also runs YouTube channel LNA Does Audio Stuff. She also co-owns an organization called Equalize Music Production, where they teach Ableton Live and production for women.

Liina got interested in audio seven years ago while traveling around Europe. She ended up in Glasgow where she says it changed her life “ at that point I wanted to be an actress but got sucked into the electronic music world and music production through my new Glaswegian friends. At that time I worked in a club and every night after work, when I couldn’t sleep, I started to make funny songs for my friends back in Finland with GarageBand and a £1 microphone from Poundland.”

She grew up around music, most of her family are musicians and she went to a music orientated school, as well as conservatoire since she was five playing violin and piano. She says during her teen years she says “ I started to hate all music as I never felt it was my way to express myself (although I have always written my own songs and never stopped). But finding this new way of making music in Glasgow gave me freedom from classical music and allowed me to play sound in my own terms. I got in to study Commercial Music in Ayr, where I was introduced to proper music studios and after that, I never looked back. I still live in the UK, did my masters in production and now work as a professional music producer.”

Liina plays violin, piano, and guitar, and also sings and writes her own songs. Her debut album, which she produced and everyone involved were women, was published in 2017 and since then she has released two singles and an EP. New EP should be coming out in 2020. She works under her artist name LNA.

Liina started her YouTube Channel LNA Does Audio Stuff in February of 2019. The channel has given her visibility where people can view her portfolio and see who she is. Liina says in the beginning “ it worked mostly as a portfolio when I was searching for work, but after a while, people started contacting me for production, teaching, and workshops because they saw my channel or someone shared it with them. The job opportunities I managed to gain were all in many different areas: festival workshops, panel discussions, sound design for a dance company, etc. I feel that I am still in early career but the network of people I have gained in past years is growing and giving me faith in the future.”

LNA Does Audio Stuff now has over two thousand subscribers and features tutorials, reviews, vlogs, and fun audio challenges. The channel also aims to give a platform to minorities in the audio industry and show diversity on social media, to inspire more girls and young women into technical industries. SoundGirls recommends checking out LNA Does Audio Stuff.

We talked Liina about her career path so far.

What is a typical day like?

I really don’t have a typical day as my work changes so much each day. I make myself a list of things I need to do in that week or day and work through that. Only things I have a strict schedule for Youtube videos (I post every single Sunday) and teaching. Most days I might have meetings in the morning and then I film, plan, edit or produce/mix the rest of the day. Yoga is part of my day as well because sitting by a computer all day would otherwise kill my back.

How do you stay organized and focused? 

I like making lists and time schedules/ deadlines for myself. If something is on the list I need to do it. Also deciding to post every Sunday was really good for me as it gives me a goal that I need to obey and even if I don’t feel like filming, as soon as I start doing it I feel much happier and proud of myself.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the freedom of doing what I want and the feeling of accomplishment when I hit the targets. The best thing is to get messages and feedback from people and especially girls and women, who have seen my videos and have started music production because of it. That is why I do it, and those messages encourage me to work harder and make more content.

What do you like least?

Editing. It is so painful to go through hours of film of you trying to articulate something to the camera. After the rough edit, the editing becomes more fun when I can put down effects and all funny clips that can make the video entertaining.

What is your favorite day off activity? 

I love planning and filming my videos. Usually, I plan my video first step by step. Then I get ready (yoga, shower, make up) and go to my studio to film. Mostly I film alone, but sometimes I have guests in the studio. At first, I was really tense in front of the camera but doing this over a year, every single week, it started to get easier and I really have fun now doing the clips.

What are your long-term goals?

I would love to grow my channel and make more interactive content to support women in music and get more girls and women into production. I have a documentary coming out this year (done together with Music Production for Women), where we follow the journey of a female singer-songwriter to learn to produce her owns songs. This is the content I want to concentrate more on, but also make more fun and inspirational films about music production. Other dreams include producing a song for a Drag Queen and owning my own women-led studio.

What if any obstacles or barriers have you faced? 

I would say my own confidence is the biggest barrier sometimes. I don’t like the moments when I feel that nothing is working and I am doubting the whole Youtube idea. I am so glad to have a partner to encourage me in those moments of doubt. In the beginning, I thought all the sexist and nasty comments under my videos would be a barrier for me, but now I think they are just ridiculously funny, and to be honest, I think they encourage me to make more and more content. Also, with more comments under a video, the better algorithm Youtube gives the video, so surely I should thank them for helping me to get more visibility.

How have you dealt with them? 

Keep on working. I give myself the time to rest and be sad sometimes, but the next day I start working again. Also giving myself deadlines make me work harder and realising that feeling like a failure sometimes is ok, as it makes me work harder, and then success feels much nicer.

The advice you have for other women and young women who wish to enter the field? 

Every idea is a good idea. You might not succeed with all the ideas, but if you don’t try you won’t know. Don’t sit and wait for the opportunities to come to you, but create your own opportunities. Then when someone gives you an opportunity, you will be ready to show what you got. Also, don’t ask for validation from people (especially your family) if you believe in your idea/dream then go and do it. As you are in charge of your own success. These are the things I have learned recently and when I started applying these ideas to my life, things actually started to happen in my career.

Must have skills? 

It’s a bit cheesy, but I think the best skill is to believe in your own skills. But if talking about audio, then I would say: become a master in using the audio manipulation features in your DAW, so that you could make a whole song just by using one sample. This skill will take you far.

Favorite gear? 

Absolutely Ableton Push 2. On my channel, I have so many videos on it and when you watch then you will know why it is my favourite. It’s just so powerful and great for everything.

Anything else you want to add or contribute

Here is a list of female and gender minority-run audio YouTube Channels, feel free to add anyone you might know.

To showcase how many amazing women and gender minority people there are running audio YouTube channels, I have created a list of all the ones I know and I’ll update it when I discover new ones: https://lnamusic.com/2020/04/15/female-audio-youtubers-you-need-to-follow/

Please let me know if you know anyone who was not on the list!

Find More Profiles on The Five Percent

Profiles of Women in Audio

Silence as Sound

The Power of Silence in Music Creation

In a world occupied by sound, it can often be challenging to find a moment of silence in everyday life. In the realm of sound design, however, silence can be a very powerful tool.

The use of silence in film isn’t a new technique, but it is indeed one that makes a bold statement. For example, films like Saving Private Ryan and 2001: A Space Odyssey make great use of silence as a compositional tool. More recently Star Wars: The Last Jedi used the technique to emphasize a colossal explosion of a dreadnaught ship.

So why is silence so powerful?

Well, I believe it comes from the premise that silence is supposed to be uncomfortable. The phrase ‘awkward silence’ for example is used frequently to describe situations when the conversation runs out, or you’ve just run out of phone battery and need to look up at other people in a crowded train – to name a few examples. We are almost programmed to believe that silence is something to feel uncomfortable about.

In the context of cinema, silence makes the audience hyper-aware of their surroundings. Especially if the entire film up until that point was beautifully orchestrated and every second was underscored by lush sound design and Foley work. To hear silence is almost unnatural.

To quote Mary Shelley “nothing is more painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change,” and silence is almost always used as a dramatic modification to the score. If done correctly, the use of silence can be an excellent way of eliciting an emotional response from an audience. Whether that be to shock, anger or to create a break in the sonic narrative, silence can be a straightforward yet powerful tool to add to any sound designers’ project.

If you’re interested in film scoring or just even want to jazz up the track that you’re working on, perhaps find inspiration in silence. I have tried it a few times when I have been struggling with ideas. On one particular occasion, I added a bit of silence to a track that was getting too repetitive, and I think it worked. The sudden silence definitely makes you re-engage with what you were listening to in the first place.

If silence is a bit too absurd to add to a track though, you could always try the less is more approach. By stripping away some of the unnecessary tracks in your session, you could be left with a sound that differs just enough so that it offers something new to the listener.

Overall I think adding silence to a project is often overlooked. It’s a great creative tool to use and is also extremely simple to incorporate into any project. Even if you don’t always like the outcome of adding in silence, the main benefit is that it makes you re-engage with what you’re listening to and often adds a different texture and layer to your project.

 

 

The Double Glazed Glass Ceiling

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, NON-CLASSICAL

The Producer of the Year, Non-Classical category was established by the Recording Academy in 1974 to honor those who “present consistently outstanding creativity in the area of record production.” Non-Classical is the Academy’s designation for popular music.

267 individual Grammy nominations have been made since the category’s inception. Several producers have been selected more than once. 7 of these 267 nominations were presented to women. That means less than 3% of those considered for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical has been female.

To date, none have taken home the trophy.

Let’s take a look at the handful of women who’ve blazed the trail thus far.

Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation 1814 (1990)

Miss Jackson was the first woman to receive a nomination in the category, with longtime collaborators Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam.

Expanding on the narrative of power established by her 1986 commercial breakthrough, Control, Janet bucked expectations even further and released a slick, socially-conscious concept album in the unlikely vein of Marin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”

Rhythm Nation 1814 was nominated for 9 Grammys and spawned seven Billboard Top 5 singles, breaking the record previously set by her famous older brother. Five of those singles made it to #1. The groundbreaking 30-minute “telemusical” released as a video companion to the record earned Janet a Grammy for Best Music Video – Long Form.

Mariah Carey – Emotions (1991)

Co-produced with Walter Afanasieff, Emotions marks the second occasion upon which a woman was up for the award, in 1991.

Upon signing with Columbia Records, 19-year-old Mariah—who co-produced the demos that got her picked up by Tommy Motolla—was obliged to take a backseat to established producers for her chart-topping debut, Mariah Carey. Hers is a classic case study in the perils of being a young woman in the record business; though she’s accomplished plenty in her own right, one wonders what she might have achieved if she’d been granted better access and support early on in her career instead of finding herself trapped in what she refers to as “the golden cage.”

After her first album’s success, Mariah sought to take more of a producer’s role on Emotions. She is credited as a vocal arranger, producer, and mixer.

Paula Cole – This Fire (1998)

Though she’s technically the third nominee, Paula Cole was the first woman to be nominated as a sole producer, in 1998.

Cole was a frontrunner on the wave of 1990s women fighting for a stronger foothold in the music business. A self-proclaimed “dark horse,” the Berklee College of music alumna received backlash for her appearance at the award ceremony for sporting unapologetically hairy armpits and flipping the bird during her performance of “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?”

This Fire was nominated for seven awards, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year. She took home the award for “Best New Artist.”

Sheryl Crow – The Globe Sessions (1999)

The fourth nominee had already made an indelible mark as a singer, songwriter, and musician when she received the Producer nod in 1999.

Sheryl Crow caught her big break on backup vocals with Michael Jackson in 1987. Her first album, produced by Hugh Padgham, was scrapped for being “too slick.” However, those songs found homes with some major artists: Tina Turner, Celine Dion, and Wynonna Judd. She established her rootsy-yet-pop-sensible sound with the official 1994 debut, Tuesday Night Music Club.

On The Globe Sessions, the storied songstress took the driver’s seat; producing all tracks except for a cover of Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (produced by Rick Rubin).

Crow was the first nominated female producer to have a woman on the album’s audio engineering team—Trina Shoemaker, who took home the first female win that year for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1999)

1999 was a landmark year for women at the Grammys, and Miseducation was the career-defining album of fifth nominee, Lauryn Hill. She was recognized alongside Sheryl Crow, marking the first time two women were simultaneously up for the award.

Stepping into the spotlight as one-third of hip-hop legends Fugees, the outspoken young singer-rapper captivated listeners with an updated rendition of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” The group disbanded in 1997 amid interpersonal issues and power struggles. Hill was determined to distance herself from her male contemporaries and establish her own creative space.

Though her legacy has suffered quite a bit of controversy, Ms. Hill’s contributions to hip-hop are lasting. She was the first female artist to be nominated for ten Grammys in a single year. She hit yet another first when she took home five trophies that night—unfortunately, none of them were for Producer of the Year.

Lauren Christy – (2004)

Lauren Christy, another singer-songwriter who found her true calling off the beaten path, was nominated in 2004 for her work with writing and production team The Matrix, which included records made with Hillary Duff and Liz Phair.

Before establishing herself as a behind-the-scenes hitmaker, Christy was an award-winning solo artist. Her contributions to Avril Lavigne’s breakthrough debut, Let Go, earned her seven Grammy nominations and cemented her place in pop history.

A prolific songwriter, she’s most recently cut records with Bebe Rexha, Dua Lipa, and The Struts. Additional credits include David Bowie, Jason Mraz, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Shakira, Chris Brown, and Korn.

Linda Perry – (2019)

Like the other women on this list, Linda Perry got started on her path to Producer of the Year as an artist. She scored an international hit with the song “What’s Up?” by her band 4 Non Blondes in 1992 and has since parlayed that success into a highly regarded songwriting and production career, making records with some of music’s top artists.

The seventh nominee, Perry stands out as the first to really step into the role of Producer. She runs a professional recording studio and is credited as an engineer on multiple projects. She founded two labels, a publishing company, and an artist development organization (We Are Hear). Her catalog—featuring such artists as Pink, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Joan Jett, and Dolly Parton—imparts a pointed engagement with and championship of women.

After 14 years of no representation in the category, the 53-year-old super producer stands a chance to finally shatter the glass ceiling for an increasingly upsurgent tide of female music producers.

Will the Recording Academy “step up” and award a woman with the Grammy for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical?

We’ll have to wait and see.

* For purposes of this article, we’re focusing on the primary branch of the Grammys, established by National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences in 1957. Linda Briceño was the first female producer to take home a Latin Grammy, in 2018.


Ainjel Emme is a musician, songwriter, and producer. She has spent the past 20 years immersed in the study and practice of record production, shadowing world-class audio engineers, working in professional studios, and making records via her Los Angeles-based production house, Block of Joy.

Read Ainjel’s Blog

 

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What I Know Now

As a non-male* songwriter, performer, and producer, I am always grappling with the concept of ability and credibility. In press on artists that I admire and follow, I see unconscious sexism. Figures like Grimes base their entire brand and music around “doing it all” themselves, while powerhouses like Kendrick Lamar call their producer-artist relationships “collaborations” in spite of the fact that Lamar is decidedly unfamiliar with music technology, i.e., while he never touches a computer making a record.

Where is the line? When can non-male take ownership of what they have created? When can a non-male artist become a figure like Kendrick Lamar without being criticized for not doing everything, from writing to engineering to playing to producing to performing? It makes me angry. It makes me feel like I have a lot of teaching and showing to do. In an effort to do that, I have given some thought to what I know that I didn’t know before I was producing. Here are some of the most important things I have learned thus far that I would like to pass on to anyone who is just starting or needs a pick me up.

Your ears have to practice too

When I first started recording and producing myself, I thought that what I was making was sounding pretty good. I was always reading up on engineering and different production techniques. I even went against the wishes of my pride and would show other producers my sessions so they could give me feedback. Since I was aware of how to make something sound pretty good, I thought that I was already doing it. But there is no substitute for time and practice. Your ears will get better at their job the more that you use them. Engage with the sounds and arrangements you are working with. Ask other producers how they are hearing something. Get a perspective. Make decisions. Play. Wear earplugs for loud shows! You will find that your ears get better with practice.

Vocal production is extremely critical.

This point is related to the first one in some ways. I think that when I first started, I was so enamored with my voice just being recorded and effected that I didn’t think about all the ways to produce it even further. Eventually, I will do a whole post about vocal production, but beyond your chain (mic, preamp, compressor, etc.) being as good as your budget can afford, there is the physicality of vocal production as well. You have to ask yourself, what kind of record are we making? What kind of performance are we aiming to capture here from this vocalist? What are they capable of? Now how can I get that to come out of them and into the mic? Are they excited or turned off by the idea of being in a vocal booth?

Once the performance is done, then you get to work comping—the best bits of each take in a composite—though there are exceptions. Beyond the main vocal comp, you can also make use of doubles, harmonies, ad libs to create the perfect vocal for your record. The possibilities are endless. But it’s your job to make the decisions about how to get the best vocal audio into your DAW so you can continue to make it into an incredible record.

Silverlake kitchen studio – one of my many makeshift home studios

The more you make stuff, the more stuff you will make.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you haven’t experienced this firsthand, it may seem like an oxymoron. But it’s not. Trust me.

Working in groups can make you better, but isn’t the end all be all.

If you have the opportunity to write with other writers/producers, especially if they are more experienced than you, take it. If you don’t have that opportunity, seek it out. You will learn something, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. Sometimes co-writing sessions can be tedious. Sometimes they feel like all you are learning is what you don’t like. But that’s very good to know! On the flip side, sometimes you make great new friends that blossom into much bigger relationships.

Co-writes are big in the music business right now. It’s an easy way for publishers, labels, and managers to make their clients feel like they are doing something for them, with minimal commitment and cost. At a certain point, it can start to feel like if you don’t do it a lot, then you’re doing something wrong. But that’s just the status quo that the big businesses created to have more control over their creative people. At the end of the day, YOU are the creator of the music, and it’s up to YOU to figure out how YOU make the best music YOU can make. If that means lots of co-writes and co-productions, then that’s awesome! If that means producing your friend’s bands out of your bedroom studio, alone, then that’s awesome! If that means making beats all day long in your friend’s studio that they let you use, then awesome! Your talent is your business, and you need to constantly be thinking about the things that affect your talent and business.

You are strongly affected by the company you keep.

This statement is made so often I think we have stopped listening. But try listening to yourself say this out loud: You are strongly affected by the company you keep. If you are not genuinely challenged—creatively and professionally and personally—by the people around you, then go somewhere else.

I was surrounded by lifelong friends and some great musicians when I lived in New York City a few years ago. But when I wanted to take my music to the next level, I felt like there was nowhere for me to go. My immediate circle was too comfortable for me to feel like I could take chances, and as a result, I wasn’t meeting new people or trying new things. Eventually, I met ONE professional songwriter, and I decided to move to Los Angeles when they moved out there. I left all of my closest friends and collaborators on the east coast and hoped for the best out west. I almost immediately found myself surrounded by people who were similar to me, but 10, 20, 30 years into their careers. I had found the challenge I had been missing. This new perspective motivated me to try new things and start putting together my skillset in ways I’d never imagined. I also started to take better care of my mind and body, another essential habit to have.

Everything happens for a reason.

No matter where you are on your path, there are always going to be ups and downs. Always. And sometimes your path can feel especially winding and long. But if you keep your heart and your mind open, you will see that everything happens for a reason. Every dumb day job, every bad partnership, every mistake, every ditch you dig for yourself, every delay—there is something to be learned and built upon from each of these, and that is a beautiful thing. You will never stop having ups and downs. Ever. Get used to it. Learn from it. Build on it. See the beauty in it.

Don’t stop doing what got you started in the first place.

Unless you are extremely lucky, are going to be points in your career where you are limited on time and resources. During these times you might find yourself compromising and eliminating things that you maybe shouldn’t. For me, those things were producing and guitar playing.

When I first moved to Los Angeles to pursue music professionally, at some point along the way I stopped producing and playing guitar. Mostly it was because the settings I was in just didn’t call for it. I’d go into a session with a producer and another writer, and I would be the person to write and sing the demo. I had a day job as well, so with everything going on I wasn’t playing or producing much when I got home at night. I felt like maybe I was never really going to be that good anyway, and this negativity toward things I had previously loved made me feel very disconnected from myself. At the same time, I was gaining writing and singing chops. By putting down my guitar and taking a break from the computer, I was definitely opening my mind up to new techniques and genres that I had not previously delved into.

But boy did it feel good to pick them back up again!

Beatz By Girlz – some students in a Beats by Girlz class I subbed last year

I encourage you to find a way to keep in touch with yourself and the things that inspire you, no matter what seems to get in the way.

In conclusion: as my good friend Rob Caldwell always says to his guitar students when they ask him how much they should practice: you get good at what you do.

So let’s go and do it.

*I use the term “non-male” to include anyone that does not identify as male.  Gender is a social construct, and supported by science, and backed up in legal rulings. I believe sexism frequently oppresses people who identify as non-male, especially in tech-oriented industries.

 Gender Laws Are at Odds With Science

What’s the Difference Between Sex and Gender?

Too Queer for Your Binary: Everything You Need to Know and More About Non-Binary Identities


Catharine Wood – Producer, Engineer and Owner of Planetwood Productions

CATHARINE WOOD is a Los Angeles-based composer/producer with a recording studio in Eagle Rock. With a background in audio post-production for commercials, Catharine engineered on the first iPhone commercial among hundreds of national and international campaigns. As a mix and mastering engineer, she has engineered on over 500 commercially released songs – including her own custom compositions which have aired on NBC, ABC, BBC, ESPN and more – both nationally and abroad. She is a GRAMMY® Voting Member and Producers & Engineers Wing member. Catharine currently holds a position on the LA Recording Schools Recording Arts Program Advisory Committee, is a Board Member of the California Copyright Conference and is the former Director of Southern California for the West Coast Songwriters organization. Her company, Planetwood Studios, LLC, specializes in producing singer-songwriters and providing engineering, production and composition services to the TV and Film industries. (more…)