The music industry has plenty of superstars, but there is a gap in what you don’t see: women in behind-the-scenes roles.
Women have long seen this gap, and new research by the University of Southern California Annenberg is putting it into numbers. There are new efforts underway to address the gap.
“Hellooo!” said 13-year-old Brookelyn Nichols of Chandler, Arizona.
She spoke in a closed recording booth.
“There is no echo whatsoever,” she smiled.
This Nashville-based Omnisound Studios is where Miranda Lambert has recorded country hits. It’s where mixing took place for Jewel’s 12-million selling “Pieces of You” album. For 8th-grader Nichols, there’s a lot to learn, like the mechanics of everything in the studio.
“I’m only 13, and I get to do all this?” she said.
What brings her here is a new effort toward change in the music industry.
A new study by the University of Southern California Annenberg looks at Billboard’s 100 most popular songs for each year from 2012 to 2020. The biggest differences in gender are behind-the-scenes roles. The study found 87.4% of the songwriters for those hits are men compared to 12.6% of the songwriters being women. When you look at how many of the hits were written only by women, the study said that takes the number down to less than 1%.
The study also said looking at those 900 big hits, men outnumber women as music producers by 38 to 1.
“It’s true historically, in audio production and engineering,” said singer-songwriter Mark Thress.
“As an industry, we’re working hard to change that,” added singer-songwriter Sheridan Gates.
Young women from all over the country, like Nichols, are here for a weekend experience put on by Gates and Thress.
It’s called New Roots, and the goal of the weekend and weekends to come is to give young women a well-rounded education in all areas of the music business. They get recording time and hands-on experience in a major studio. They get lessons in songwriting. They get question-and-answer sessions with music executives.
“The hope is that by immersing them, their eyes will open to the possibility of where they could land,” said Gates.
“As women, to have the resources and verbiage and connections to do those things is extremely important,” said Thress.
Outside Omnisound Studios, there are parking spaces reserved for producers and engineers. Gates and Thress said those titles could one day belong to any of these young women.
“We’re focused on helping these younger female artists feel empowered,” said Gates.
For information on future learning experiences held by New Roots, visit their site at newrootsnash.com.