Over the last few years, it seems women have dominated the music industry, from Adele to Lady Gaga, via Rihanna, who apparently can’t leave the house without recording a hit single.
But the story is not being replicated on the other side of the sound desk.
While George Martin or Pharrell Williams are household names, only three women have ever been nominated for best producer at the Brits or the Grammys. None of them went home with the prize.
Recording artist Regina Spektor, promoting her album Far in 2009, admitted to the BBC she had “never even seen the names” of female producers on her record company shortlist.
“It didn’t enter my mind to to look for one,” she said.
“I should put out a call and say, ‘Where are you?'”
She must not have found any – because when her follow-up album What We Saw From The Cheap Seats came out this year, she was the sole woman with a production credit.
“It is a sad case,” says Steve Levine, chairman of the UK’s Music Producer’s Guild. “I’ve only ever worked with one female studio engineer.”
“Oddly enough, there are a lot of quite powerful, high position females in record companies – my wife included – but less in the technical arena.”
They do exist, however. Trina Shoemaker is one of them.
“The light bulb went off as a child,” she says. “I would put albums on and I would just study their jackets.
“I didn’t actually care about the musicians, I cared about how it happened. Why did it come out of the speakers like that? Why does the needle go into that groove and make music come out of those cones? And who does that?”
Inspired by The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and her headphones, she left home at 18, skipping college to go to LA. She worked as a record company receptionist and a maid in a recording studio for seven years before finally getting a job operating tape machines in New Orleans.
“My family didn’t know what I was doing,” she says. “They thought I was repairing stereos!”
Eventually, Shoemaker became an apprentice to Daniel Lanois, who helped shape the sound of U2 and Brian Eno, and, in 1998, was the first woman to win a Grammy for sound engineering.
These days, Shoemaker is in constant demand as a producer. So why isn’t her story more common?
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