Women in The Studio
charts the journey of women on both sides of the industry fence finding their ‘voice’ and the confidence ‘to use it at the right time’ (Wenham in Garvey 2015). It also charts the growth of support surrounding the ensuing conversation.
Within the independent business sector that support comes from its trade body AIM and women-centred organisations such as SheSaidSo and LetsBeTheChange; within the creative sector they are buoyed up by projects funded by PRS for Music and by the work of artist associations such as The Featured Artist Coalition. They are also supported by women on the ground growing communities, promoting each other’s work and working on projects together. The work of Women Produce Music is a notable example where not only is women’s practice in music production championed, but so too is women’s academic research in the field through the gender-facing panels they organise and through the female producers they invite to discuss their work as keynote speakers at the annual Art of Record Production Conference.
The visibility these and many other organisations are providing, in conjunction with supportive media representation, means that the frameworks underpinning the narrative of patriarchal control within both the creative and business sectors of the industry are slowly being weakened. They are also being challenged by the tangible growth of emerging female artists of all ages who are not just creating their own music but controlling their own sound. In turn, they are steering their own careers and simultaneously disrupting the gendered gatekeeping within music marketing, reflective of both old and new industry practices.
Undoubtedly, the gatekeepers guarding the gendered gateways to ‘old industry’ arenas of validation are alive and kicking and those rites of passage remain lined with ghouls judging any artist identifying as female by their faces and their bodies above all else and woe betide her if her body is not young - and exposed. But different doorways to different pathways leading to different stages are being constructed. And the confidence behind their construction stems directly from the ability to create and produce our own music and consequently our own careers entirely independently and to make our own mistakes in our own time in the creative privacy of our own studios.
However, such creative confidence is out of reach for many and bold boundary breaking on the peripheries does not mean that we have entered an egalitarian sonic state free of the demons of sexism, racism and classism that continue to underpin all aspects of society, not just those associated with the music industry. As a woman of Irish working-class origin, I am only too fully aware that there are many who do not have the confidence to even consider creating anything from their talents and whose voices, both literally and figuratively, never get heard. It is the absence of those voices that, repeatedly throughout the book, I try to draw attention to and subsequently to stress that gender, as important as it is, is not the only issue.