With the collective attitude of the zeitgeist shifting away from the problematic past of the industry, there’s never been a better time to be a woman pursuing a career in music production. However, there’s still a long way to go, and as musicians, producers, and engineers, it’s our responsibility to ensure this environment will only continue to evolve into a more inclusive and supportive industry.
As an initiative of the famous studios used to create iconic records by The Beatles, Amy Winehouse and Frank Ocean, Abbey Road Institute is leading the way in the fight for a diverse music industry – one that fairly reflects the society we live in. By placing an emphasis upon shaping the next generation of audio engineers in Australia and abroad, Abbey Road Institute works tirelessly to promote their female and non-binary students to the forefront of the music industry. To highlight their role in the industry and celebrate International Women’s Day, Abbey Road Institute spoke with a number of their female students about their experiences at the ARI, how they maneuver in a male dominated industry and what can be done to make the music industry a more inclusive space for everybody.
Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Emily Toner is a familiar face in the Melbourne and Byron Bay music scenes. After studying an Advanced Diploma in Music Industry at Abbey Road Institute in Melbourne, she graduated from the prestigious Abbey Road Studios in London in 2018 and has since thrown herself into a plethora of exciting projects. As well as working on her personal EP with other musical locals and starting the all female surf-rock band The Sandy Junes, Emily has been flexing her industry skills, producing the first EP of Melbourne folk artist Andy Sullivan. Toner has even recently minted her own record label, with the ethos behind Wye In The Sky Records being to promote local artists while giving back to important social and environmental causes through thought-provoking live music events.
“I’ve always been driven by a desire to work in male-dominated areas,” Toner says, elaborating on the experiences of her previous profession within the medial industry. “Before embarking on music, I established a career working for myself as a psychologist and wellbeing consultant in the corporate and business world – another male-dominated space. It’s been personally challenging at times. I’ve noticed that in general, as women we don’t back ourselves easily, and it is harder to achieve the level of success and impact that we are truly capable of.”
“I have been lucky to have had support from strong female (and male) mentors, friends and a brilliant community, including my Abbey Road Institute family, and they have always encouraged me when I’ve started to question my life choices to work for myself and follow my passion. I really wouldn’t be here without them.”
Another example of alumni from Abbey Road Institute, Charlotte Rochecouste is currently carving her lane in another male-heavy space within the music industry: hip-hop. After graduating from Abbey Road Institute Melbourne in 2018, Rochecouste managed to find employment at Sydney’s revered Studios 301, working directly with industry powerhouse Simon Cohen as an assistant in his vocal chain as well as a vocal engineer for Australian hip-hop stalwart L Fresh The Lion.
“I think community in the music industry is vital,” Rochecouste says. “It can be a very isolating career at times, where you’re working alone a lot. When you collaborate and get feedback and insight from other music industry professionals, it helps you to become better at what you do. Also there’s room for everyone, so not seeing each other as competition but more as a friend and companion. Everyone can learn from each other and its a great way to network so both parties can reach their goals.”
As well as establishing herself as an essential part of the team at Studios 301, Rochecouste also works as a songwriter, producer and engineer within Sydney’s local scene, and is extremely encouraging towards other young people striving towards a strong, balanced and safe community.
“Music brings me fulfillment, happiness and purpose. Moving from just being a singer-songwriter to the engineering and production side of music has been so liberating, as I have more of a grasp on the whole process of how a record is made,” explains Rochecouste. “I feel I have more control and more creativity and am totally self sufficient. Sure it takes longer when you do it all yourself, but to me it is so worth it.”
Vocalist Rochelle Bartlett also acts as another Abbey Road Institute success story, who totally embodies the notion of being self-made. Having embarked on her studies at Abbey Road Institute without ever having used a DAW before, she now sees regular work as a songwriter, session musician and producer in a range of studios around Melbourne, and enjoys a successful creative partnership with fellow producer and ARI alumni Peter Allison-Nicholl.
“I think it’s been challenging even doing the course and having completed it and not knowing which avenue to take,” Bartlett says, extolling the virtues of Abbey Road Insitute as a faculty that offers a concise depiction of the challenges of finding work within the industry.
“For me in particular studying at ARI has given me a better understanding of the music industry as a whole, not just from an audio engineering perspective, but also being able to understand that it is challenging to commit to a full-time music career without making many sacrifices. This course gave me confidence and provided me with the knowledge I needed to form better relationships with producers and even band mates. I can now assist my peers when setting up a studio session or gig and pack down as well with the knowledge of how the equipment works.”
For women and non-binary people looking to study audio engineering, Abbey Road Institute offer a prestigious Women In Music Scholarship to help you put your best foot forward in the industry. To find about more about their Women In Audio Scholarship and apply, head to abbeyroadinstitute.com.au/women-in-music-scholarship-application/