Women in Music Technology
by Robert Flis / July 28, 2021
The Sincop8ed Noize Foundation is proud to present its latest Rockalypse Music Workshop. Our guest speaker this month was Marcela Rada, a Sound Engineer with years of experience recording, editing, mixing and mastering audio for independent artists. Marcela has worked across various music genres, including experience with symphony orchestras, film scoring sessions and ensembles. She holds a Bachelor of Music with a major in Digital Audio Arts from the University of Lethbridge and a Master’s Degree from Berklee College of Music with an emphasis on Music Production, Technology and Innovation. Her Master’s thesis focused on immersive audio and its application to 360 videos for virtual reality and social media platforms. Her experience as a college professor and lecturer has motivated her to become a mentor for those who seek one-on-one instruction in recording and mixing techniques. Marcela joined us to discuss the role of women in music technology and to shed some light on how to navigate this challenging and competitive side of the music industry.
Roles in Music Tech: What’s My Role?
Music technology is a diverse field that spans many disciplines, some of which include music producer, sound designer, recording engineer, mixing engineer, mastering engineer and live sound engineer. If you are at a point where you’re not sure where you would fit into the world of music tech, Marcela suggests starting by trying to identify what your strengths, skills and interests are. As someone who has always had an appreciation of music through playing, listening and learning about it, Marcela realized early on that she wanted to be on the tech side of music production. From there she delved into sound recording and began learning the ins and outs of that discipline. Marcela recommends reaching out to people in various fields if you’re not sure which path is for you and getting informed about what skills are required in order to match them up with your own interests. She also emphasizes that there’s nothing wrong with trying out different things until you find the one that works for you. “Out of this entire list of roles, I have tried out all of them,” Marcela admits. “Doing that, I realized that I enjoy the studio environment more than the live sound environment, and for that reason I focused on studio recording and mixing.”
A good way to get a better grasp of the different roles that exist within music tech and how to define them is by looking up the credits that people get for their work within a music project. For example, the Grammys have specific definitions for roles like producer, co-producer, vocal producer, etc. The Grammys define a producer as the following:
The producer is the primary person(s) contracted by and accountable to the content owner for the task of delivering the recording as a finished product. The producer directs, and has overall creative and technical oversight during the recording project, including the individual recording sessions that are a part of the project.
Duties of the producer(s) can include:
1. Oversees the recording sessions of a project to realize the goals of both the artist and content owner
2. Makes creative, technical and aesthetic decisions in the creation of the musical content for a project that realize the goals of both the artist and the content owner.
3. Oversees performances and chooses the final takes or versions used in the final product.
4. Participates in song selection.
5. Works with and oversees the selection of musicians, engineers, singers, arrangers, studios etc.
6. In collaboration with the artist, assigns credits to performers and technical personnel, and is responsible for supplying accurate crediting information to the record label, media company or content owner as official documentation.
7. Oversees other staffing needs, keeps budgets and schedules, adheres to deadlines, supervises mixing, mastering and overall quality control.
Having a proper understanding of each role and what they entail will make, actually getting there, much easier to accomplish.
Why Take On A Role In Music Tech?
Marcela is a member of She Knows Tech, an organization which aims to close the industry’s gender gap through highlighting and celebrating women in music tech. The organization aims to “provide a platform for women to give and receive training in music tech, so as to dispel the notion that there are not enough female professionals in music production and technology.” You can find out more about She Knows Tech’s initiatives by visiting their website.
How To Gain Experience
Marcela chose a very academic path to get her career started. She first completed the Music Industry Arts program at Algonquin College in Ottawa, and then went on to the University of Lethbridge to complete a Bachelor’s in Music with a major in Digital Audio Arts. Marcela then attended Berkley College of Music and obtained a Master’s degree in Music Production, Technology and Innovation. As someone who loves school and thrives in an academic environment, this was the route Marcela believed would be most effective in helping her achieve her goals in music tech - and her journey in education is not over. Marcela became an educator at Algonquin College herself and will also be teaching full time at the University of Lethbridge this fall. Aside from being her method of choice for educating herself, school has provided Marcela with several opportunities to network and collaborate with others in the industry.
Although the academic path worked well for Marcela, there are also a number of other ways to gain knowledge and experience in the field. There are numerous courses and mentorships out there. Another route might be finding a mentor or internship so you can get direct experience from someone working in the industry. This may be a more challenging option depending on who you know, how active you are in the industry and where you are located but could potentially be very rewarding as it could provide a direct first step into the industry. Finally, it has never been easier to teach yourself skills like recording, mixing or producing, especially with the abundance of free information that can be found online.
Marcela adds that you need to evaluate where you’re willing to go and how badly you want to chase your dream. If opportunities are not available in your town, province or country, you may need to consider moving to pursue your goals, which is something she has done many times in her career. “It’s about taking risks and not being afraid of change,” she says.
Organizations That Support Women In Music Tech
There are numerous organizations that support women in music technology and provide opportunities for training, mentorship and career development. A few of them include She Knows Tech, SoundGirls, She Said So and We Are Moving The Needle. A comprehensive list of resources for women in the music industry can be found on the Grammys website.
Having competed and been successful in a largely male dominated field has given Marcela a wealth of knowledge about what it takes to make it as a woman in the music industry, and she shared some priceless advice for women dreaming to be in her position.
“Number one is not being afraid of change. Go out there and reach out to people, connect with them, network, and open doors for yourself. It’s not always easy, it’s hard to get your foot in the door and we need to create these opportunities for ourselves.
Have goals. Set goals in your mind and focus on achieving them. Whether your goal is to attend school and get that degree, or make a move to find an opportunity at a particular venue or studio. Network and work on your interpersonal skills - something that’s crucial for being successful in the music industry. Have confidence in yourself and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That matters a lot because once people see that you’re confident in what you know and what you want to learn, you will earn their respect and build stronger connections. And finally, don’t burn bridges. It’s important to establish and maintain good relationships with people you work with. It seems like it’s a huge industry but at the end of the day everybody knows everyone.”
Like any field, music technology comes with its own unique set of challenges and obstacles to overcome. For women looking to break into the industry, it is not an easy path. Thankfully, there are more resources than ever available for women looking for training, experience and support as they set out on their career path, and people like Marcela who are willing to go the extra mile to help mentor and guide them along the way.
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