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“Education is where it has to start”: Audient and Women in Music team up to support women in audio

Dr Harry Whalley and Andy Allen, the minds behind the new Audient – Women in Music scholarship initiative at UCA Farnham, give insight into what sparked the partnership, the prominent gender divide in the audio industry, and what they are doing to change it

Audient has partnered with organisation, Women in Music, to launch a scholarship for UCA Farnham’s female students who are enrolling on the BA/Bsc Music Composition and Technology course in 2019.

Women in Music’s goal is to help level the gender playing field across the music industry, by creating awareness, promoting opportunities and celebrating the diversity and heritage of women. Now, the organisation is teaming up with Audient to offer three scholarships of £5,000, providing women support during their degree with an aim to decrease the gender gap in audio. Winners will also benefit from industry mentoring, and a single prize-winner will receive equipment from Audient. In addition, all students on the course will have access to the newly installed Audient ASP8024 Heritage Edition desk at the university.

PSNEurope speaks to Dr Harry Whalley, the course leader, and the marketing director of Audient, Andy Allen, about the initiative and how it will help young women to thrive in their music and audio careers.

What inspired you to create this initiative?

Dr Harry Whalley: At the Music Composition and Technology course at UCA Farnham, we are passionate about enabling students to follow their individual passions, whilst also giving them the tools and knowledge to learn the deep skills required to become creative practitioners today. We embrace the true plurality of music composition, in terms of the tools, styles and people involved in the invention of new music. This requires a balance of the traditional and technological, the individual with the collaborative, but also a balanced, diverse student community. It is our intention to build such a community and this initiative includes not just the scholarship, but also a longer commitment through mentorship, guest lectures, collaborations and partnerships.

What can you tell us the gender gap in pro audio?

Dr Whalley: Women in Music estimates that the gender divide in music across all regions is split at 70/30, with a Canadian study citing that women represent as little as six per cent of recognised producers in the US and Canada. Of the 600 most popular songs from 2012 to 2017, only 12 per cent were written by women, according to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

How did Audient and Women in Music come to join forces? Are there other projects lined up?

Dr Whalley: It was born out of our mutual ambition to affect positive change in the music industry and in particular, music education.

Andy Allen: Audient has also been an advocate for Women’s Audio Mission: the only professional recording studio in the world built and run by women for a number of years now. They have a classic ASP8024 at the heart of their San Francisco studio and ten iD4 audio interfaces. Education is where it has to start and we saw an opportunity with UCA to have a positive effect. It’s important to celebrate female role models for young women to look up to, whilst supporting them to be the best they can be, and ultimately inspiring generations of women that come after them.

Why did you choose the University of Creative Arts and the Farnham campus?

Allen: When Harry contacted me, I was very keen to get Audient involved. Partly, as I grew up in Farnham and have a connection to the area, but also because supporting women in audio is something that I feel strongly about. The statistics speak for themselves.

How will you select the winners?

Dr Whalley: Applicants to the course will need to submit a portfolio of work which is judged by a panel on its quality and potential, this is also taken into consideration with a reference, statement and academic history.

Why do you recommend the course for aspiring audio professionals?

Dr Whalley: The ‘secret sauce’ of the MCT course is twofold. Firstly, it is taught in a campus that has pedigree in film, computer games, animation, TV production and acting and performance courses. This means that collaboration is deeply embedded into the course. Secondly, our lecturers are also practitioners, they include award-winning sound designers, regular performers on BBC Radio 3, and Ableton Artists.