Gender in Music Production

Ava Welling

I think most would agree that it would be particularly odd for the average reader to choose a book based on the idea they would dislike it, yet I found myself reading Gender in Music Production based upon the desire to hate the book in its entirety. I thought it to be very strange that a book about gender in production could be edited only by men. This being that the issue with the music technology industry is in fact that it is almost entirely occupied by men. I was eager to hear what “gender in music production” meant to these men, being that what it means to me is generally much different from that of a man’s perspective; however, I was pleasantly surprised in regards to its content. Russ Hepworth-Sawyer, Jay Hodgson, Liesl King, and Mark Marringtons’ Gender in Music Production not only provides a platform for women in the industry, but completely surrenders to the perspective of women and their experiences. Filled with various anecdotes, interview excerpts, and a substantial amount of history in regards to women in production, Gender in Music Production manages to bring a much needed awareness to the issue of gender inequality within the music technology field through the lens of women themselves and gives long overdue recognition to the contributions women have made to the industry. Additionally, the book offers insight on the changes that need to be made in order to successfully combat these inequalities, while highlighting that the responsibility to make this change happen should not and is not solely on the shoulders of the women.

The book starts with a much different tone than what is seen later. The beginning is the statistical and historical portion of the book. It is dense and a bit slow, similar to a scientific novel; whereas, the later parts are more open and relaxed. It is almost deceiving how different the style of the beginning of the book is, but once passed the long lists and facts, the book becomes much more tangible and engaging. I think that the anecdotes, interviews, and experiences are much more moving and effective than any of the facts at the start of the book. It gives the book depth emotionally and gives readers a chance to connect on a personal level with what is being said. Compiling every excerpt of women with different job music technology titles into one book made me feel as though the editors were underlining how gender does not affect a select aspect of the industry, but all departments. Pulling stories and interviews from DJ’s, “Hey Boy, hey girl, superstar DJ, here we go…”, live audio producers, like Betty Cantor-Jackson, and singer, composer, and sound producers, like Aynee Osborn Jouron-Roche, the book does a great job of making it clear that gender inequality does in fact exist in all aspects of music technology. Because of this, it does not feel like anything is left out. I am not sure I can say anything was really left out, considering the book is more of an opportunity for women to speak freely without feeling pressured to speak out about a specific subject matter. In part with this, there wasn’t anything I would say was not convincing, because there wasn’t anything trying to be proven, which in fact is why I liked the book so much.

In the later sections of the book, I found myself heavily resonating with the recurring concept that knowledge is power. Assuming that someone is more knowledgeable than you automatically surrenders all the power to that person. Of course, this raises the question as to whether women have the same access to knowledge that their male counterparts have access to. Do women really have the ability to take power from their male colleagues? Do women in the field have the same opportunity as men at receiving this knowledge? The book discusses how a learning environment entirely occupied by women is a plausible solution to this disproportion of power. This would offer female students a safe space to learn without feeling less than or less able than their male educator and male peers. The artist who mentions this solution states that power can be taken and this is how women can begin taking the power back. I personally feel that this is a subject that needs to be addressed and I absolutely agree with what the book is claiming. Even in my own experiences, I only have had one female educator for a music technology course. There’s definitely a pressure immediately placed on women to perform at a higher level than her male counterparts in order to earn even the slightest amount of respect. Because women are forced to work twice as hard in order to prove that they deserve their spot just as much as their male peers, they automatically have to deal with an additional obstacle that their male counterparts do not have to face when attempting to learn, which the book accurately points out many times with interviews. I too have felt this myself, where my male peers will not accept my abilities regarding gear or my willingness to learn. I know what it feels like to show the slightest bit of apprehension and know that it represents something entirely different to my male peers. I would 100% agree that creating a space full of women, taught by women, would absolutely allow women to blossom equally to men as producers, DJs, engineers, and every other profession in the music technology world.

Furthermore, the interview with Aynee Osborn Joujon-Roche stuck out to me the most in the sense that the interview did not appear to be focused on discussing male horror-stories, or how hard it has been to be successful in the industry because of the men. Rather, the interview was not slighted, but open for Joujon-Roche to talk about her story of her choosing. The interviewer did not seem to be trying to pull out a story about her hardships regarding gender, her hardships had already been recognized before she even mentioned them. The interviewer instead asked questions that provoked analysis of the issues within the industry and what Joujon-Roche thought would be an effective way to introduce change. The floor is completely hers in the interview, and there seemed to be mutual respect between her and the interviewer. It was a nice change of pace, considering this is not usually the case in regards to the industry or in moments where women speak up about the mistreatment they receive. Additionally, I feel that it is most important to make all women feel as though they do not have to prove what scrutiny they have faced due to their gender in order to have a voice or platform to speak up about what needs to change. I think in this interview specifically, it stood out to me that Joujon-Roche did not have to prove why she would like to see some things change within the industry, rather she was just given the chance to speak because it is established that women rarely get a chance to. I really enjoyed this because I feel as though the book stays authentic to each woman’s story and I found a lot of what they said to be applicable to life.

Gender in Music Production does not attempt to prove that there are issues with gender in the industry, but instead the book analyzes these inequalities and presents solutions that might be effective in counteracting these imbalances. Divided into four parts, the book manages to cover a brief history of women in music technology, excerpts from stories and interviews, anecdotes, and a few suggestions for reconstruction. The book gives women in the industry a platform, which is always needed. If change is going to happen, more and more platforms need to be built for these women to share their stories. With this, their words need not to be not only listened to, but truly heard. The book brings attention to the issues in the field, following with suggestions for change. I would suspect that Gender in Music Production attracts women not only involved in music technology, but women in general. The theme of gender inequality plagues its way throughout multiple industries; thus, it would not be unordinary for any woman to resonate with the concepts embedded in the book; however, I suppose it is important that this is read by men as well. The book led me to believe that the responsibility of change is not and should not be placed solely on the shoulders of the women. I used to believe women should and could be the only source of the change, but I realize now this is not a realistic or effective way to go about change. We women require the help of everyone that is a part of the system. Before we begin to rebuild the industry, I believe all people in the music technology industry should read Gender in Music Production in order to understand what changes need to be implemented so that we can truly make change possible.


Hepworth-Sawyer, Russ, Hodgson, Jay, King, Liesel, Marrington, Mark. Gender in Music Production. Routledge, April 22, 2020. Routledge. New York. 302 Pages.