Cheryl Guerin, Lori Feldman, Gabrielle Armand & Stacy Smith
Photo credit: Joshua Applegate
Emily Lazar, Linda Perry & Other Powerful Industry Women Talk Inclusivity In Music
Two years ago, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, led by Stacy Smith, released their first study of inclusivity in music, provided some eye-opening statistics that revealed the male-dominated status quo of the industry. This week, on Jan. 23, industry professionals and musicians gathered together in a sunny room of MasterCard's special GRAMMY Week One Love Hotel experience on Sunset Boulevard to hear from barrier-breaking women on exactly how we can even the playing field and fix these numbers.
Split up with two delicious meals and space to chat with fellow attendees on the sunny, L.A. skyline-backed patio, Designing a Better Music Industry for Women: Equality on Both Sides of the Board featured two dynamic conversations that brought forward actionable ways we can all create a more inclusive music industry. The first conversation was a panel moderated by SiriusXM Hits Host Nicole Ryan and featuring Cheryl Guerin, Vice President of Marketing/Communications at Mastercard, Lori Feldman, Chief Marketing Officer at Paradigm, Stacy Smith, Founder/Director of USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and Gabrielle Armand, Vice President of Marketing of Jazz at Lincoln Center. The after-lunch "fireside chat," moderated by Andrew Hampp of Variety, featured two behind-the-board powerhouses, GRAMMY-nominated producer, songwriter and former Four Non Blondes lead singer Linda Perry and GRAMMY-winning engineer and The Lodge Founder Emily Lazar. Here are the four major themes that emerged over the course of the day.
Sharing Truth With Data & Taking Action
While the statistics brought forth by the Annenberg studies can feel shocking, angering or even overwhelming, instead it is exactly these numbers that motivate action and can measure change. During her introduction, Smith declared her work's focus is to "disrupt systems of injustice" and later pointed to how the study helped highlight all the work that needed to be done and serve as a rallying point for many people across all touchpoints of the industry, including 2020 GRAMMY host Alicia Keys, who was inspired to start the new nonprofit music network, She Is The Music.
"Collective action only happens when people link arms and say we're going to do this together," Smith shared, pointing to She Is The Music as a perfect example of collective action making change.
She also noted the improvement they've already seen in 2019, as opposed to 2017's numbers, including doubling the number of female producers that worked on hit songs. While there is still plenty of room for improvement, the shifts prove that change can be made when intention and energy is put towards doing things differently. "I'd never seen something like this happen so quickly and so sustained," Smith stated.
Ryan, who underscored the very male-heavy world of radio, feels that really showing those standing against you how they are wrong, so they can actually understand it and see from your perspective, is one of the most fulfilling things to do. When she became pregnant, one of her coworkers at Sirius told her career was over. While it was an upsetting comment to receive, she later sat him down and explained why his opinion was unfair. When she did become a working mother, she demonstrated exactly how she could continue to achieve work-life balance with a child, like many women do.
Everyone's stories echoed Ryan's point that not only is it important to stand strong in what you know is right and true, but to also go above and beyond often-limited expectations others may have of you. That in itself will not only bring you forward, but help pave the way for others.
Identifying Barriers & Breaking Them
Armand, who got her start in the industry 30 years ago at a jazz label, said that it was knowing her worth that always kept her on the right path: "I knew what my value, what my truth was." As she moved up in her career, she realized the value of modeling this for everyone around her, especially younger people.
As Feldman said, sometimes in the moment, it's hard to really see how bad things are, especially when others see them as "just how it is." Looking back, she's amazed at some of the behaviors that were left unchecked, like a male college photocopying (in the pre-cell phone days) an unflattering picture of her and passing it to all the other men in the office.
As everyone's stories of perseverance highlighted, you often aren't thinking about the fact that you're a female professional until your "otherness" is pointed out to you.
For Lazar, who won her first GRAMMY last year for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical on Beck's Colors, the first female mastering engineer to ever win this award, the weight of it didn't hit until she won and was informed of this powerful accomplishment.
When Hampp asked how they faced challenges in their path, especially when doors sometimes weren't even there, Lazar had a poignant answer grounded in optimism and courage. "It's about seeing the doors, seeing the giant padlock and kicking it down. For me, there's doors everywhere."
Advocating For Yourself & Others
All the women echoed the importance of mentorship, fostering opportunities and education.
With The Lodge, the mastering studio Lazar founded back in 1997 in New York City, she has an open-door policy and celebrates doing whatever creative things work best for the art. She also feels a responsibility to educate young engineers, so she speaks on college campuses to kids interested in a career in music "to show that it's okay to follow your dream."
Meanwhile, Perry works with her We Are Hear organization and donates hours of her time to countless panels and workshops across her home city of L.A. "If we can offer you one little nugget that can help your career, that's what we are here for," she said.
Guerin, who is grateful to work at an organization like MasterCard that values diversity both internally and with their many community programs, said it well: "Education is continuously important." Education should be ongoing and ever-evolving and really reflect the people they claim to serve. She shared that while women are opening up businesses at twice the rate of men, they are only receiving two percent of the venture capital funding.
Helping Artists Identify Methods Of Distribution
"When you find people in this field that are really accomplished, they're usually more than one thing," Lazar said. "We need to protect those special people; I'm here to protect artists." She underscored the vital importance of giving artists the space to make good art and to also help them distribute it in ways that allow it to really be heard as they intended.
The official programming ended on this inspiring high note, but really it was just the beginning of many conversations, meeting new faces and, perhaps, movements that will come out of it.
The end of GRAMMY Week is near, but there is still plenty more to unpack and celebrate, with the 62nd GRAMMY Awards taking place tomorrow, Sun. Jan. 26. You'll be able to view the Premiere Ceremony and Red Carpet livestreams right here on GRAMMY.com. Then, tune into CBS at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET to watch Music's Biggest Night live.