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‘Passion is key’: Mastering engineer Katie Tavini talks her mastering initiative for minority artists

"I've pledged to master one EP per month for BAME and LGBTQ+ artists," said Tavini

Photo by Dom Sigalas.

Modulation is mastering engineer and PSNEurope columnist Katie Tavini’s new initiative to improve the experiences of and opportunities for BAME and LGBTQ+ artists. The music industry can be cut-throat, with streaming providing negligible profits and competition fiercer than ever. And having to pay to get your music recorded, mixed, mastered and the like is yet another added expense to factor in.

Tavini has been working towards encouraging women into and within the audio profession for a while now, but it struck her that there was support needed in every minority group within the industry. With newfound inspiration, she swiftly proposed to master an EP/or five tracks for free every month for BAME and LGBTQ+ artists or bands. Talk about new year’s resolutions!

All she asks is you meet the following criteria:

  • You are a BAME or LGBTQ+ artist or part of a band
  • You are unsigned
  • You are not receiving any funding
  • You are working on either your first or second EP

Here, we chat with Tavini about her inspiration behind launching the project and what it will involve…

What will Modulation involve?

Basically, Modulation is my New Year’s resolution – I’ve pledged to master one EP per month for BAME and LGBTQ+ artists. Since I shared the project, the response has been overwhelming, and I am delighted to have fellow mastering engineer and AV expert Matthew Dempsey on board. This means that between us, we can help 24 artists release their music throughout 2020.

What are you looking for in the artists that apply? How will you select a winner? 

To be honest, passion is key. It’d be nice to have a really wide variety of artists apply, but the main thing I’m looking for when selecting is that they’re super passionate about the music they make and that they’re ready to show everyone how awesome they are. Lots of people have asked whether social media followers count to being selected and I can say 100 per cent absolutely not. If someone can convince me in the application form that they’re dedicated to their music then that’s all that counts really.

How do you think the initiative will impact these artists?

This is kinda hard to say since I’ve never really done anything like this before. When I was starting out as an engineer, and then as a mastering engineer, I found that so many doors were slammed in my face. It just took one person to hold that metaphorical door open for me to be taken seriously and combined with hard work, it has enabled me to make this my career. I really just want to help underrepresented groups get a little further in music, and to pay forward the help that has been given to me. So I’d really love to think that maybe this could help some artists and bands on their way to achieving their goals.

Do you think it will inspire more initiatives like this?

I really hope so. My thinking behind this project is that actually little changes can make a difference. In the grand scheme of projects that are out there, this is tiny, but it would be wonderful if other people decided to also do their own little thing.

Do you think BAME and LGBTQ+ artists face more obstacles in the music industry? And what can others do to combat these issues? 

I honestly don’t know, but when I look at the charts, festival lineups, awards nominations, etc. I don’t see much representation. And I think representation is really important – everyone needs role models to look up to. I really think that if everyone who’s working in music or audio gave just one opportunity to someone who’s not a CIS white male, there would be a noticeable shift.

Extra expenses to be able to make music in an industry that already makes it difficult to make money is a major problem. As well as taking part in initiatives like this, do you have any advice for artists struggling to make ends meet? 

There’s no shame in having a job that’s not music. To fund my own career, I’ve worked bar jobs and marketing jobs. It’s only recently that I no longer have a full-time job. There’s such a stigma around other work, and a lot of people think that if you’re not 100 per cent making a living off music or audio then you’re failing. But actually, other jobs can teach you skills that you can put into practice in your music work. Slow and steady wins the race.

And don’t feel like you have to spend loads of money on equipment – second-hand is cool, and if you’re not totally sure you need it then don’t buy it. There are also lots of podcasts on how to make money in music which are amazing resources. But I think the main thing is to be sensible about it. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re stressing about money because I guarantee everything will become more stressful as a result – even music-making.