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8 Game-Changing Female Music Producers You Should Know

Music

From TOKiMONSTA to Crystal Caines

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.

Jessy Lanza
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.

She considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth"

Dani Okon, NYLON's associate creative director of video, sat down with her great-aunt, May Okon, to talk about their shared experiences—despite vastly different time frames—living as queer women in New York City. Prior to retirement, May was a journalist for the New York Daily News, having first entered the male-dominated workforce when "the boys were all at war." And, of course, she absolutely killed it. Her only regret? "Retiring at 55," she tells Dani, joking, "Who the hell knew I was gonna live to 100?"

Upon retiring, she moved out to the Hamptons with her partner and bought a home. If she had to do it all over, May says "there are a lot of things I wouldn't do," but she still considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth." Get to know May in the video, above.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Marlene Colburn and Naima Green
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by: Alexandra Hsie
Camera: Gretta Wilson + Katie Sadler
Edited by: Madeline Stedman

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Here's how they're making sure it doesn't happen

Lauren Morelli, the showrunner and executive producer for the new Netflix show Tales of the City, is fostering a space where multiple queer realities can be shown on-screen. She spoke with one of the cast members, trans actor Garcia (who plays Jake Rodriguez on the show), and, in the video above, they explore why it's wrong to treat queer stories as representative of the entire community. Tokenization is something that they both want to avoid at all costs, and they're on the right track.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Gretta Wilson + Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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We put non-binary activist Eddie Jarrel Jones and The Phluid Project founder Rob Smith in conversation with each other, and the two spoke some powerful truths about the continued gendering of products like makeup and clothing. Smith recalls that 30 years ago, the only way that he was able to experience the joys of playing with makeup was to work at a beauty counter. Even today, Jones notes that it's hard for non-binary femmes like them, or even trans women, to get that experience in stores.

In the video above, get a sense of why Smith created a genderless store, and see how important it is for people like Jones to have a space where they don't feel criticized for dressing like they want.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Charlotte Prager + Dani Okon
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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