You’d think that with the larger-than-life presence of artists such as Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry (for example) the music industry would be teeming with a number of women in powerful positions behind the scenes in terms of writers, producers and even at record labels. Sadly, the music industry is far from equal when it comes to the important creative positions behind the sound desk.
According to industry figures, women make up less than 5% of producers and engineers, and that becomes a huge problem for bigger issues such as power dynamics, and career trajectory.
“There isn’t much room for social growth for women in the industry, going hand in hand with an equally limiting professional growth trajectory wherein men traditionally work with, answer to, and promote other men,” writes Kat George on Medium.com.
“The imbalanced gender dichotomy can be intimidating for women, especially when it gives men carte blanche to act unprofessionally,” she added alluding perhaps to high-profile cases such as the Dr. Luke-Kesha sexual assault incident.
The lack of women in producing roles is seen quite clearly at the Grammy Awards, where only 6 women have been nominated in the ‘Producer of the Year’ category since its inception in 1974 – Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Paula Cole, Sheryl Crow, Lauryn Hill and Lauren Christy. This needs to change, and with the knowledge that men continue promoting men, there has to be a female pipeline happening to break that dismal 5% mark.
New York-based rapper Dai Burger wants to be part of changing the status quo in the music industry, and has launched an initiative to help girls learn the basics of music production. In an interview with VICE’s Broadly platform, she talked about her ‘Where My Girls’ program which consists of a series of studio sessions for girls aged 10-18 at Brewery Recording Studio in Brooklyn, where she recorded her album Soft Serve, according to the article.
Dai tells Broadly’s Leila Ettachfini that she was motivated to do this after seeing such a lack of women in key positions, and wanted to empower young women to get interested in technical roles as well as learning how to build a brand. Hailing from Queens, Dai says there are plenty of dance schools of almost any discipline, but nothing in the way of music production. This is her way of creating new opportunities for girls.
“I’m a female rapper, and being a female rapper doesn’t come easy. It comes with having a point to prove, and you have to be better than good—you have to be great. Practice makes perfect. So I wish I would have started younger. I wish there was a program like this when I was young that could have gotten me on the track I’m on now because I had to figure it all out on my own. That’s part of the struggle, but I don’t want it to be that way. I said, I’m gonna help out if I can. The brewery is part of my team and we work together so we just came up with this idea to help young girls,” she said.
The session that Broadly reporter Leila witnessed had the girls in attendance end the day having created a song called ‘This is a Girl’s World’ where each of them wrote and recorded the lyrics, and also learned about the various aspects of the studio and recording booth.
“We’re showing them the business side, staying on time, and the technical side, how to work the equalizer. You have to make sure these things are balanced. There is a process and if you take the time to learn it, it’ll work. We want to give them the tools. They’re young and ready to build. We gotta build them from now,” said Dai.
While she wants to promote equality in the producing world, Dai also points out that women bring something different to the table.
“We bring across a different perspective and different sounds. I love female producers and I wish there were more. And hopefully we can make some girls realize that maybe that’s what they want to do,” she said.
Dai believes girls are “overlooked and undernourished” in the music industry in general, with certain expectations preventing them from stepping out and being authentic and different from the sterotypes.
“It’s harder for girls in anything musical, unless you’re singing or doing something that’s expected. When you’re trying to deliver a different message or show your uniqueness, some people they get a little scared or don’t want to go near that. But it’s like well you’re going to have to because we’re doing it, nothing can stop us, we’re gonna speak our minds. I’m big on people speaking their minds. It’s like, if you have something to say, if there’s a feeling you want to get across, let’s get it out. Let it out, write it out, sing it out, rap it out, and make it happen. This is a space for girls to do that,” she said, adding how the girls in her program who start out shy end up coming out of their shell with the right encouragement.
Dai Burger isn’t the only woman in the industry who wants to see more women stepping up into areas where they are not heavily represented. Florida-based artist and producer Tiffany Miranda, who has worked with names such as Dr. Dre and Rick Ross, also started an initiative similar to ‘Where my Girls’ as a way to encourage girls to get interested in behind-the-scenes music industry careers.
Her program is called ‘Girls Make Beatz’ and teaches 8-17 year-olds to develop skills in audio engineering and music production. Tiffany says she branched out from being an artist to also acquiring producing skills when she realized she would be able to have more control over her career aesthetically as well as sonically. This is another huge reason we need to see more women producers in the music industry, because there is a wider impact in terms of audiences and culture.
“When you think about culture at large, culture is driven by music, a lot of the time. If that is the main component of culture, and music production is a main component of music, and women are not present in that very initial component that is so important, then what are we really doing?…Music is such a vehicle to have an impact on culture,” Tiffany said.
We couldn’t agree more, and we hope to see more women in the music industry step up to the mic and bring other females, especially younger generations, into the fold to change the male-dominated status quo. If you want to get familiar with Dai Burger, watch the music video for her single ‘Where My Girls’ (off the ‘Soft Serve’ album) below: