Women In The Studio National Accelerator 2021: An Interview With Sarah MacDougall

Kat Harlton

According to a recent study, women held only 2% of all producing positions across the 2020 Billboard Hot 100 songs. The same study found that the ratio of men to underrepresented women in producing was 180 to 1, and that women earned only 33 producing credits in six years (with only 9 going to women of colour).

First launched regionally in 2019 and expanded nationally in 2020, the Women in the Studio program offers women, gender fluid, non-binary and gender non-conforming participants a series of curated workshops, educational sessions, and networking opportunities with music industry leaders. Music Publishers Canada is committed to helping right the imbalance in the industry that exists for these producers, and supporting a creative community that will keep growing each year.

The Accelerator is designed to provide the cohort with opportunities for skills development and networking that they may otherwise be unable to access. Participants will gain valuable insights from mentors and industry experts for the duration of the program starting with virtual sessions in June through to January 2022. The program will focus on topics including technical skills, financial literacy, music business skills, and branding and will offer opportunities for creative collaborations. Each producer, as a condition of acceptance, has also agreed to explore volunteer opportunities in their own community.

We had the opportunity to chat with Sarah MacDougall a Women In The Studio 2021 participant about why this program is important, what she looks forward to learning, and the biggest challenge she’s faced in the industry thus far.

Kat: What does it mean to you, to have been chosen as a participant for the Women in the Studio National Accelerator 2021?

Sarah MacDougall: It means a lot to me. I am really loving being part of this program, connecting with the other participants and incredible mentors, and advancing my skill set. In the last couple of years I have really been diving into the producing songwriter role and working with other artists, and getting accepted into this program solidified for me that I am on the right path. 

Kat: The program will focus on topics including technical skills, financial literacy, music business skills, and branding and will offer opportunities for creative collaborations. What are you most looking forward to learning? 

Sarah MacDougall: Of course, I am most passionate about the songwriting and production aspects of this course, but the financial literacy and branding topics are equally important in working as a songwriter and producer. So I am also really loving learning more about that. I am excited about all of it! 

Sarah MacDougall

Kat: What has been your biggest challenge thus far in the industry?

Sarah MacDougall: I studied audio engineering and production in university, and once out of school I always felt subtly interrogated by men whenever I mentioned anything about audio, as if I always had to prove myself before they would even believe I could use my own equipment (be it in the studio or in a live music situation). I think these microaggressions in the music industry held me back for a long time from truly believing in being able to make this passion I had into something that could be a job. In the last few years (probably thanks to programs like this one and also because now it’s so easy to get a great recording setup for anyone at home) things have really changed, and producing and recording has become more democratized and the attitudes about who gets to step into those roles have changed. I think there’s still a really long way to go to get the whole industry to hire more women and non-binary people, but the important thing is that there are way more women out there being visible taking on these roles which, in turn, will change the industry.

Kat: In an industry where males are often given more opportunities, do you have any advice for producers-songwriters who identify as women, gender fluid, non-binary or gender non-conforming?

Sarah MacDougall: I think that seeking out other women or non-binary people who are doing the same thing or a similar thing as you is important, getting inspired by other creators and feeling like there’s a community out there. Keep doing your thing, believe in yourself, work super hard, be supportive and kind to others, and be ready to jump into a session at any point. Also, I learned from touring and performing that men in general ask for more money, and believe that they deserve it. Once I realized this in my artist career, it was a turning point for me. I think as women and non-binary people, we need to figure out what we are actually worth, and start asking for it.

To learn more about Sarah visit: http://www.sarahmacdougall.com

To learn more about the Women In The Studio program visit: https://www.musicpublisher.ca/women-in-the-studio-program

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