The School of Media & Film staff at the University of Winchester has ensured its Audient-packed music studio complex has been fully utilised (whilst respecting Covid-safe rules) by launching the inaugural Women & Gender Minorities in the Music Industry: Songwriting and Production Camp last month.
“it is about empowering our female and non-cis students to reclaim the studio and stage”~ Dr Niall Thomas
Spanning two weeks, the songwriting initiative was open to all University of Winchester students, regardless of gender. Fifteen took part and were immersed in intensive songwriting workshops with an array of industry luminaries during the first week, overseen producing their own creations in the University sound recording and post-production studios using their ASP8024-HE consoles the second and – possibly the most exciting of all – will be releasing one or more of the tracks in the coming weeks!
The idea for the songwriting camp was sparked as a result of a student forum about gender balance. Keen to keep students front and centre in conversations about diversity, senior lecturer in Music Production, Dr Niall Thomas has championed equality within the music programmes for a long time. Although things have begun to change, current statistics across all three year groups studying BA (Hons) Popular Music: production and Performance & BA (Hons) Sound Production at the University show just 20.45% of them are female or non-cis gendered. “Still a long way to go, but a step in the right direction,” he says.
Redressing the balance for this songwriting camp, the all-female in-person mentors comprised: Eve Horne (PEAK Music), Fragile Lucy, Natalie Fisk (formerly of The Paper Trains) and part-time Music Production lecturer, Sarah Shawcross – who also happens to be a prolific and successful commercial songwriter. In addition, two international EDM artists joined the programme, kindly supported by Hospital Records: B-Complex and IMO-Lu wrote tracks especially for the students taking part to write a topline.
“We aim for equal gender representation from industry guest lecturers, so that our students can see themselves in various industry roles.” ~ Dr Niall Thomas
“The initiative is about highlighting the shocking statistics, and promoting to women and gender minority communities that a role in professional audio, commercial music, performance and/or production is an option. As a programme team we have been working to make sure that our students are represented in our taught content, but also in our exciting programme of guest lectures which we hold each year,” continues Niall.
“We aim for equal gender representation from industry guest lecturers, so that our students can see themselves in various industry roles. This project is a natural extension of increasing that visibility; it is about empowering our female and non-cis students to reclaim the studio and stage. We are really proud that this initiative came from our students and will showcase student work throughout.”
intensive songwriting workshops with an array of industry luminaries
Niall is very pleased with the students’ output and has high hopes that this will be the first of many Songwriting and Production Camps, as well as more direct action to promote positive change. One example of this has already come to pass immediately after the camp. A second year BA (Hons) Music & Sound Production student hosted the first After Midnight ‘Summer Daze’ Music Festival in support of Girls Against, raising money for the charity who stand up against sexual assault and misogyny in the Live Music scene. The festival featured eight student artists, nine external artists and championed a 65% majority in favour of female or non-cis artists. Watch the full event below:
To counter the restricted access to studios over the previous few months – Niall is running a mix competition over the summer which will be judged by producer, mix engineer and friend-of-Audient, Romesh Dogandoga. Prizes will be awarded for ‘Best Mix’ and ‘Best Remix’ in any style with one lucky mixer to receive an iD44 audio interface from Audient.
If that weren’t enough, the University of Winchester’s School of Media & Film has a new BA (Hons) Commercial Music degree programme starting this September. With space for a potential 30 undergraduates, Niall hopes a good proportion of these will be women or non-cis.
Audient hopes so too.