A recent study by the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism looked at 600 songs that made the Billboard Hot 100 from 2012 to 2017 and found that only 22.4 percent of the artists, 12.3 percent of songwriters, and a measly 2 percent of producers on the list were women. While all of those percentages are shocking—and a sign of how far the music industry has to go when it comes to gender parity—the minuscule percentage of women producers stands out as being particularly awful. Why? Well, because it implies that there aren't a lot of women behind the music; and that those who are there, aren't making quality work. But nothing could be further from the truth. The women are there—they’re just not being recognized for all they do.
In an attempt to give these influential women visibility, we spoke to a handful of female music producers doing big things. Read all about them, below.
How did you start producing?
I went on YouTube a lot and learned how to produce. Also, my writing partner and co-producer Jeremy Greenspan helped me a ton. My dad left me a lot of his instruments because he was a musician who collected gear, so I was lucky to have access to some really nice synthesizers early on—a Yamaha DX7 and a Polymoog. My friend Christie Sealey has helped me wrap my head around a lot of production stuff, too. We share a studio space, so if I get stuck with something that’s driving me crazy, I can go bug her.
What are some of the most exciting projects you’ve worked on?
Every project I work on is exciting because I can honestly say I’m never sure how it’s going to turn out. Sometimes, I’ll be working on a track, and I’ll love it right off the bat. I’ll be thinking to myself, Wow, this one is really good. And then I'll listen to it a few days later and realize I don’t like it at all. But then sometimes tracks will surprise me. I forget about tracks I’ve started and lost enthusiasm for all the time and then come back to them months later realizing they’re actually pretty good.
Have you faced any difficulties being a woman in your field?
It depends what you mean by difficulties. Have I had to put up with annoying shit that people I don’t really know say to me for no reason other than the fact that I’m a woman of a certain age? Absolutely. I’ve had people tell me I should do all sorts of things: dress skimpier, wear more makeup, even spell my name in a “cuter” way—Jessy spelled with an “i” instead of a “y” and a heart over the “i,” if you can believe that. At the same time, I am incredibly lucky that my experience in the music industry has been very positive with the people that are close to me and who actually matter to me being very supportive of what I want to do.
How can women become more of a force when it comes to producing music?
I think that question is too big for me to answer here. The absence of women in technical fields is a symptom of a much bigger problem that comes down to deep-seated misogyny and toxic masculinity within the culture at large.
What advice would you give to young women and girls looking to work in music?
When it comes to making music, do whatever you want. When it comes to production, ask questions and don’t be afraid to look foolish or be annoying or loud or vocal on the path to understanding something.