It’s a strange sounding statistic, but even though women make up around 40%-50% of sound engineering and music production students, they account for only about 5% of people working in the popular music sector, either behind the scenes or in live sound. When was the last time you saw a woman operating a sound desk at a gig, or hired a female producer to work on an album? If your answer is rarely or even never, hopefully that’s about to change with the latest crop of students to take on the Diploma of Music at TAFE Queensland’s Coomera campus.
There are currently seven female students in the music group at Coomera, and we chatted to two of the recent graduates, Cara Parker and Melinca Rossouw, to find out a bit more about them and their working plans are now they’re done.
Cara, a lifelong musician from a musical family, took on the Diploma of Music majoring in Sound Production, and recently won the Quincy Jones award through TAFE Queensland for her work. She’s wanted to work in production since she was seven years old, but didn’t have the confidence.
“To be frank, it was a pretty traditional upbringing where men did those roles and the girls performed,” she says. “I started spending time with Reg Grundy in the studios when I was a kid and it was always the men doing the technical stuff.”
Without any local female role models to lead the way (“I don’t have access to Tool’s producer Sylvia Massy”, she chuckles), it took a few attempts for Cara to get on the right track.
“I started this course a couple of times already and had to pull out,” she remembers. “There weren’t any other females staying in the course and there wasn’t anyone to turn to.”
The lure of the role proved too strong, however, and she persevered.
“I bought my own home rig about ten years ago and started writing and recording, and just fell in love with it.”
Now, as we’ve already outlined, many women reach the point of graduation and then seemingly disappear. I ask Cara for her thoughts on this bizarre statistic.
“I think it’s mainly for self-producing,” she muses. “A lot of female producers also go into classical and those sorts of fields, radio, not so much the actual producer role.
“There’s a bit of a tradition about the producer, they’re revered in a way – he’s the big guy at the desk. It’s an outdated image we have.”
Melinca actually went into the Diploma of Music to supplement her film studies, but ended up falling in love with – and majoring in – Live Sound.
“I’m very confident now, but I guess in the early stages I did feel like I needed to prove myself a little more maybe than the guys,” she recalls.
“I mean all the guys (in the course) have been great, they notice that we’re hardworking and stuff, once you’re in then and you’re proving yourself they just let you do your work and follow your lead.”
She wants to encourage any women out there who may be interested in working as a live sound engineer or producer, to “go for it.”
“If it’s something you’re interested in, or even if you just want to be musicians, or more creative, because you learn both sides, just do it,” she says.
“Women have so much to offer the industry,” she says. “I hope the girls coming through behind us have been inspired by us, and it sets something off.”
We hope so too.
Cara and Melinca will be combining their talents shortly, to work with Gold Coast musicians on their recorded and live sound. Cara already has some singles set for release in late December and early January, both her own and for artist Sylvie White under her brand Redmoon Music. She’s also in discussions about sorting her own studio next year. You can follow her @redmoonmusicaustralia and redmoonmusicaustralia.com.