‘We’re working very strongly on gender equality in the audio industry’

Red Bull Studios’ series of female-only workshops toured the UK in September. Colby Ramsey caught up with three of the guest speakers to find out more…

Red Bull Studios’ #NormalNotNovelty series of female-only workshops went on a tour of the UK this September with stops in Bristol, London, Leeds and Manchester. The sessions have featured a range of guest hosts and speakers, with the likes of Clara Amfo, DJ Storm and Madam X having taken part in the initiative.

Open to aspiring female music producers, DJs and sound engineers, the workshops – which have been running on a monthly basis in London since January – provide a space where experienced industry professionals can share knowledge, advice and practical tips.

#NormalNotNovelty aims to “break the stigma of life behind the recording studio glass”, encouraging women to get involved in the audio industry.

Just like the monthly London events, access to the tour sessions were free of charge, and saw them partner with music production colleges in each city. October, November and December will see the workshops return to the capital as usual.

The campaign is one of the most recent efforts to tackle gender inequality in the audio industry, alongside organisations such as SoundGirls, which works on a global scale and the Women’s Audio Mission, which is based in the US and aims to promote “the advancement of women in music production and the recording arts”.

“The recent London event went really well. It was the most people we’ve ever had sign up for one of these events,” said mastering engineer Katie Tavini, who taught the first engineering workshop at the beginning of the year and has hosted them since. “It’s got into a really nice flow and has become like a little family in that all the girls are supporting each other, which is amazing.”

“#NormalNotNovelty is great because it pretty much covers everything audio related, and really helps to widen people’s networks,” added Tavini. “Now some of the workshops have taken place, it seems everyone’s got a much more positive attitude to being in the industry. It’s really important to do this as a tour to reach people in different areas, as there’s lots of work to do.”

Tavini told AMI that Red Bull Studios’ head engineer and studio manager Brendon Harding shared his idea for #NormalNotNovelty with her last year, which stemmed from a thought that he does not want his two daughters to grow up in a world where they feel like they can’t do something because of their gender.

Before she was mastering, the only women Tavini would ever see in the studio were vocalists: “Since this event has happened, it’s opened up a lot of doors for people and has helped to boost their confidence a bit. I know that some of the girls are already collaborating on projects.”

We’re working very strongly on gender equality in the audio industry"

She also said that it has helped having a company like Red Bull involved with a project like this because “it already contributes so much to the music industry”.

“It definitely gives these workshops more weight and I think people take it more seriously,” she said.

“The engineering workshops have been really useful in teaching girls a practical skill, but I personally think it would be good to give girls more of an insight into different areas of the music industry like the legal or business side,” she added.

Vice chair of the AES British section committee Dr Mariana Lopez hosted a foley session at the Leeds engineering workshop, as her specialisation is in sound for film. The session included advice on how to set up microphones for different types of foley effects and strategies for recording them.

“We’re working very strongly on gender equality in the audio industry, aligning ourselves with the United Nations HeForShe campaign,” Lopez explained. “What I’ve noticed mostly is that you get a very positive response when you talk to people about this. It’s great that something concrete is happening but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Jade Avia, radio presenter and artist manager who can often be heard on Rinse FM’s podcasts, originally got involved with #NormalNotNovelty as a guest speaker and has ended up standing in for Madam X as host of the DJ workshops.

“I was just really overwhelmed with the format of the whole thing,” said Avia. “It inspires so much conversation and the guest/host roles are interchangeable, so there’s always something to talk about.

“I feel like every time I’ve come to a session, whether as a host or guest, it’s grown more and more. The vibe in there is really exciting – all ladies of all ages coming together to just have a chat and talk about finding success.

“As women, we also face a lot of scrutiny with age so it’s a great platform to discuss these struggles. Hands-on projects and events like this will hopefully become more commonplace in the future as they’re extremely important – it’s all about inclusion and empowerment.”