To celebrate Universal Production Music’s sequel to their all-female album 100% Her, we catch up with artists from last year to find out how the opportunity developed their careers
Supported by global non-profit, She Is The Music, the project follows on from the success of last year’s debut album and aims to increase the number of women working in production music and help close the gender gap in this space. In this interview, we catch up with Bryn Bliska, Kloyd Music and Marilyn Deang - three of the brilliant artists featured on last year’s album - to find out what they loved about being a part of this female-driven initiative and how their careers have developed since the opportunity.
LBB> What was it like to win a spot on the first ever 100% Her album back in 2020?
Kloyd Music> I remember seeing the email from Aine which said my track would be featured and I couldn’t believe it - someone actually thought my music deserved to be sat amongst these super talented female producers. I felt really proud of myself.
Bryn Bliska> It was a surprise and an honor to be included in the first round of this amazing project!
Marilyn Deang> It was surreal and felt really gratifying to know that my production has improved to the level of recognition by the UMG team. I tried to go in with zero expectations and it took me by surprise, but also gave me a sense of “okay, I'm doing the right things for my career”.
LBB> What has been one of the most memorable or proudest moments for you since appearing on the album?
Byrn> I had the opportunity to play piano with Karol G at the Latin Grammys in November as part of an amazing all-female band. That was an incredibly special experience.
Kloyd> Shortly after the release of 100% Her, I was offered an opportunity from Universal Production Music to produce a 6-track EP under my artist alias ‘Kloyd’. It was a pretty daunting task at first as I’d never written a body of work like that for release. They gave me the space, support and platform to experiment with styles / genres and to that I’ll be forever grateful for. Plus, it got a spin on BBC Radio 1 and Amazing Radio, so that’s pretty cool!
Marilyn> 2020 has been a whirlwind for everyone considering the global state of health. We went into lockdown shortly after the album released in March 2020, but it gave me more time to devote to creating more music. After 100% Her, I was really proud of the EP I released called Shinkansen and I really think 100% Her gave me the motivation to release something personal for myself.
LBB> How has being a part of the album developed your career?
Marilyn> It opened up a network of other female-identifying musicians. There are a handful of super talented women on the album and most of us have stayed in touch via social media, cheering each other on.
Bryn> I've had the opportunity to create more works for Universal Production Music and beyond. Especially in a year without much live music, this has been a wonderful area to grow into. Creating more music intended for sync has also informed my broader production work in a lot of helpful ways!
Kloyd> It gave me the confidence to start putting myself out there. I struggle with self-confidence and self-belief which has held me back for a long time I think. That’s still a work in progress but it’s certainly encouraged me to keep going.
LBB> Did the experience help you connect with other female musicians that you hadn’t come across before?
Bryn> One of the highlights of making the first 100% Her album was certainly connecting with all of the other super talented producers involved! It's been a joy to follow their work online this past year and support each other remotely from across the globe.
Marilyn> Yes, of course! Even outside of the other artists on the album, I've been contacted by someone who made this year's shortlist for advice and I think that's a wonderful thing! We definitely need more open lines of communication and I can't stress enough how important it is for all of us to connect on an authentic level. So it's been amazing to see people reach out online because of my work with 100% Her.
Kloyd> Yeah absolutely! I didn’t know many female producers prior to the album release. We all linked online and for the first time I had this mini network of other women to chat to about making music. I started to feel a lot less alone in what I was doing.
LBB> Why do you think there is such a lack of female composers/producers in the industry and how do you feel that this affects the industry?
Kloyd> I think there are plenty of us out there but I believe women need to work much harder to be heard or taken seriously (coming from a production point of view). We have to navigate the unconscious bias stereotypes in the industry all the time which definitely contributes towards imposter syndrome. I hear of countless cases where the female engineer has been mistaken for the receptionist or worse the ‘tea girl’. I’ve experienced this judgement first hand - I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been asked if I’m a vocalist when I say I work in music! These stereotypes coupled with a long evidential history of “the music industry is a man’s world” - well, it can be very overwhelming and discouraging to attempt entering it and tough to stay in it. As a result, the industry lacks a broad range of creative talent - it becomes repetitive.
Bryn> The lack of gender diversity in the creative and technical arms of the industry ultimately breeds a lack of diversity in the art that's available to the culture. I look forward to the continued expansion of who has a voice and who is heard across the industry, and I feel we must all pursue constantly and passionately.
Marilyn> I think it all boils down to privilege and access. Unfortunately in the past, women were put in a box when it came to roles in music and the production/composition side was primarily a boy's club. Now that technology has democratised access to music technology, women are starting to teach themselves how to produce via source materials online etc, so you are seeing an increase in that number, however, many aren't recognised on a larger scale and I think that needs to change.
There are so many talented female producers/composers that just haven't had access to larger communities or been given larger platforms. It's a domino effect really. I think more major labels/organisations/established artists in music sort of have to devote specific resources to uplifting female-identifying composers/producers in order to combat that system that isn't necessarily very inclusive of us. She Is The Music and She Said So do an amazing job at doing that, but it has to be implemented on a wider scale in order to fully see systemic change.
LBB> Did you have many female music role models when you were growing up? If not, how did that make you feel?
Kloyd> No, not really! I think of starting out back in my days at uni and I knew plenty of female musicians but I didn’t actively know of many female electronic producers working in the industry which I guess made me feel a bit isolated, especially being on a course which was around 80% male! It was only Delia Derbyshire I knew of so I spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos of her in the Radiophonic workshop - she was hugely inspiring.
Marilyn> When I started producing at 19, there were very few electronic music producers that identified as female. It was definitely discouraging. A lot of the sources I learned from online were led by men and even today, most online tutorials are male-dominated. That is an issue because it perpetuates this false narrative that producing is not meant for women or only meant for "some" women, which is awful. I'm thankful for major artists like Tokimonsta, Rezz, and Grimes who were really the first major electronic music producers coming up in their careers when I first started getting more into it. They were up-and-coming back then, but now they've really established themselves to a high level.
Bryn> Gratefully, my first long-term music and piano teacher was a wonderful woman who really nurtured my creativity. Throughout my development, I definitely struggled to find an abundance of female role models in production and composition but was deeply inspired by those I did find, like Bjork and Imogen Heap.
LBB> Have you seen much positive change in the industry over the past year and how do you hope to see it develop?
Marilyn> The positivity really comes from the community. More women are starting to stick together and lift each other up. Most people realise inequity is an issue in the music industry and I have seen particular organisations do their part in helping combat it, but it's the type of problem that needs a large number of people to implement in order for there to be real change. Everyone plays a part so that's the trickiest part. Half of the population is more vested in this issue than the other and I hope we see that change as time moves forward.
Byrn> It's been heartening to see more intersectional discussions of gender equity across many areas of the industry over the last couple of years, as well as to see more celebration of women out there killing it - Emily Lazar, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Nova Wav to name a few.
Kloyd> Absolutely. PRS, BBC, Universal, She Said So, ReBalance - these are all organisations who have been working hard at championing gender equality in the industry and providing women a platform to be heard. I’ve seen so many female producers smashing it in the industry this last year! It’s hugely encouraging to anyone starting out right now. I’m hopeful it will inspire more women to take a leap with their music careers and see that it is actually an option to them, which in turn will help the industry become more balanced over time.
LBB> What exciting projects are you working on next?
Bryn> Right now, I'm producing music for several independent artists that I'm really excited about. I also have a solo project that will be seeing the light of day this year! Finally, my sample label nu.wav (distributed by Splice) has some releases coming up that I'm stoked to share.
Marilyn> I'm working on tightening my mixes and really studying up on mastering. The volume levels people are at nowadays have really made loudness competitive, so I'm learning to balance dynamics/clarity with the loudness war in mind. I'll be releasing a few singles this year and trying to grow my sound with every single release. Hopefully collaborate with other female artists as well!
Kloyd> I’m working on new music for release this year under ‘Kloyd’ and a few collabs are in the pipeline which I’m looking forward to!
LBB> What words of encouragement or advice can you give to other women looking to get into the industry?
Kloyd> Feel the fear and do it anyway! Oh and join 2% Rising - a talented network of women working in music - this group will empower you to keep going and it’s loaded with professional industry advice.
Bryn> Community is everything! There are a number of amazing online communities, such as shesaid.so, Women's Audio Mission, She Shreds, and SoundGirls, which can provide a lot of knowledge and support (even during the pandemic). Don't be shy about asking for advice and wisdom!
Marilyn> Just continue to create work that makes you happy or fulfills you. Don't forget who you really are and don't sacrifice any part of yourself to get ahead if it doesn't sit well with you. All we can really do is live a life we won't regret, so trust your gut and keep trying. Rejection is natural and only means you're getting closer to where you need to be. But if you really want to be successful, then you will be if you never give up and treat others and yourself with respect.