[With more than 20 years in the music industry, Cookie Marenco’s creative and technical skills have touched almost every aspect of the music and audio business. She is widely known for the quality of her audio engineering skills and for drawing out passionate performances from the artists she produces. Marenco is an advocate of using analog tape for recording while pioneering digital delivery to consumers using DSD digital audio.]
You know, it’s a question I never think about. I chose to be a recording engineer and producer because it was something I liked doing and people paid me to do. There are many other work areas dominated by men… notably entrepreneurship, auto racing, plumbing, construction, politics. Have you ever seen a female meat butcher? I did once. I stared at her it was so odd. She did a good job. 🙂
Then there are other fields dominated by women like nursing, fashion, elementary school teachers, publicists. I’m not an expert in those fields, but it seems that there are more women than men.
What could be an interesting study is the similarities of characteristics present in fields dominated by a gender. I don’t believe it’s a crime to have an industry dominated by a gender unless the opposite gender is willfully kept out and their contributions minimized.
I have never felt left out of engineering or producing because I was a woman. I read the article you’re linked to and am sad for the women who had so many problems getting into this field. My opinions and experiences more closely match those of Trina Shoemaker.
If you’ve worked at a lot of studios, you’ll notice a certain personality type being more successful than others in the recording environment. Producing has a little more variety of personalities depending on the producer’s background, skills, financial backing and ability to manage a budget and deadline.
My label, Blue Coast Records, has been well received by the audiophile community. I don’t announce the fact I’m a woman, but I don’t hide it. On the forums, many think I’m a man. I find it amusing when they meet me for the first time. 🙂
Good question… I started playing the piano at four, before I could read. Studied violin at ten(to get out of class), asked to play the oboe at 13, and at 14 was teaching piano. Up to that point, I wanted to be an astronaut. 🙂
My father loved his stereo and bought me a 4″ reel-to-reel tape deck from Sears when I was in 5th grade. We had a lot of fun with it. But I believe his greatest contribution was teaching me to play baseball and how to be competitive.
We all follow a path where we get the most positive reinforcement. Eventually, for me, that was music. Playing the oboe (and being competent) opened a lot of doors, along with having 60 piano students when I was 18. At 16, I changed my career focus to being a musician and composer.
At 19, I had a very influential teacher, Art Lande, who encouraged me follow my bliss. I left college (as a music student), joined several bands playing electronic keyboards. I was fascinated by sound, overtones and temperments used by various cultures—especially North Indian Classical—I studied the sitar for 3 years with Krishna Bhatt.
One of my band mates, Dino (JA Deane to those that know experimental music) suggested our rehearsal facility would make a great recording studio. He pointed to me as the ‘obvious’ choice of who’s going to learn to engineer (partly because I was out of town during the installation and this was his form of revenge for my absence—I say this lovingly.)
Formal training to be an engineer didn’t exist in the schools. We researched, bought gear and spent every day in the studio learning how to use the tools. Realistically, that’s 10% of the job. Understanding the needs of the artist is 90% of the job. A happy customer gives referrals.
The skills I attribute most to success was my history as a piano teacher/ entrepreneur. If people are going to spend their hard earned cash, you have to deliver confidence in what you do and deliver the best service you can offer. Being a musician myself, I could understand their needs. Give customers what they want, they’ll pay you. Pretty simple.
After 20 years, I was very skilled at recording but found the artists were more inclined to rely on protools and less on great performances performances. The job of engineer was like becoming a janitor and the music less exciting to me so, I took 3 years off in search of what to do next.
Eventually, I returned to analog tape and DSD (one bit recording that is the closest sound to analog tape.) I started Blue Coast Records and found a whole new set of customers—the end listener and music lover who appreciates high quality recording.
I still record and produce as a hired gun, have a crew of engineers, run an intern program with students from around the world and operate a commercial studio– all to analog tape and DSD. We also have a mastering facility to prep PCM and DSD masters—CD, DSD and WAV downloads, and Internet audio. To these, we’ve added a division for creating websites for musicians that cater to the unique needs of musicians and labels.
I’m proud of the accomplishments we’ve had in all my businesses. While I’ve been founder in several, I couldn’t do it without the help of hundreds of women and men from interns and high powered advisers to the crew who works with me daily.
In 2010 my label, Blue Coast Records, became the first to deliver DSD downloads through the internet to customers around the world. These one bit files are 40x the size of .MP3s and now close to 100 companies supporting consumer playback. Our goal is to add value in quality, and give the consumer reason to pay more for a download.
This is a business of relationships. Don’t be afraid to contact people for advice both men and women. Seek those people you admire. Become friendly with your sales/equipment dealers. Hire people to learn from. You’ll keep these friendships for life as people change and move between companies.
Terri Winston’s WAM (Women’s Audio Mission) is a great resource for both women and men to learn from.
Rule of thumb: follow your success and the people that like what you do—forget the rest. Not everyone is going to agree with you, and that’s okay. If you’re a woman and don’t get ‘the’ gig, it’s more likely you didn’t get the gig because you weren’t the right person… not because you’re a woman. Learn from it and make yourself the right person for the next gig.
I’m not holding my breath for gender changing percentages in producing and engineering. The career path as an engineer is practically non-existent unless you’re an entrepreneur.
That being said, I do see more roles available for both genders in the web and internet audio fields. Even as a hobby, fewer women produce music at home, although, I see more women asking questions about recording in their home studio.
Organization, management, hearing, listening, nurturing, taking care of business, multi-tasking—I do think women are better suited for studio work as a gender. But, I believe that the money is such a struggle that people are moving away from recording as career choice. Large studio systems are going away. If you’re a risk taker, ready to invest and start your own business, there are opportunities.
Well, I have to say I’m torn. I’d prefer to talk about what I do other than being a woman. I’d prefer to set an example by doing, not talking about being a woman.
It’s interesting that men tend to want to write about what it’s like being a woman in the business… not women. I’d prefer my legacy be my work in the techniques and brands I’ve innovated… not a string of articles about being a woman and how hard it was to overcome. I find being a woman is an asset not a liability.
Ryan, what’s it like being a man in this industry? I’ve never been one, so I don’t know. 🙂 Thanks for contacting me. I’m eager to do more articles not on this subject.
[Ryan’s response: “I will hit you up for more articles for certain! Being a guy in this industry feels quite… one-sided.”]
[This just in from Paul Svenson, lifelong audio engineer, AV contractor extraordinaire, and mastermind behind Dad’s Songbook Music. Paul runs PS Audio Video in San Diego. He recently made the switch from Pro Tools to Studio One Professional 2.5—within three hours of using the software! I asked for more detail regarding the reason for his decision. His response follows.]
I’ve been recording since 1971, starting when I was 18—mostly projects where I was part of the production, engineering, mixing etc., although I also worked as a staff engineer in studios during the 80s. In 1990 I was a rep for one of the early hard disc recording systems, ProDisk. Our 8-track machine sold for $50,000. The other guys who were always around were the guys from Digidesign, with their very early version of Pro Tools. After all the rest of us vanished into irrelevance, Pro Tools kept growing to become the de facto standard. I made the switch from analog to Pro Tools around 1997 and had used it ever since.
Check out this incredible early footage of The Beach Boys that was just discovered. This early arrangement of “I Get Around” shows a few rough spots, but the genius of Brian Wilson’s songwriting was clearly there from the get-go. Happy Friday!
PreSonus LIVE Airs Thursday | Using Studio One Plug-ins Live | 2 p.m. CST / 3 p.m. EST / Noon PST / GMT -6
Join Justin Spence as he presents a few tricks on using plug-ins in Studio One at your live shows.
Aptly-named Jam in the Van travels around in a a KILLER tour van that includes a StudioLive 24.4.2 and a sweet, sweet, paint job. They record all their in-the-van performances, shoot some killer video, and post the results online for the benefit of all musiciankind.
Here they talk a bit about their use of the StudioLive and QMix in getting their productions done. Hot stuff comin’ through!
Learn more about Jam in the Van at—wait for it—www.JamInTheVan.Com!
Those of you who have been watching PreSonus LIVE for some time now will likely remember the time we lugged a bunch of cameras (and talented dudes) into Oak Street recording and tracked Terence Higgins’ Swamp Grease II. We had 11,000 people tune in. It remains our biggest PreSonus LIVE ever.
[KK Proffitt is the chief engineer, musical editor and creative talent of JamSync. She has earned several degrees and honors in undergraduate and graduate school including a BA from Vanderbilt, completed coursework for the Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at the University of Tennessee (where she was inducted into the honors society Phi Kappa Phi), Guitar Performance Studies and Arranging at Berklee, and a graduate degree in Software Engineering from Northeastern’s State of the Art Engineering School. KK is an active member of the Audio Engineering Society.]
There aren’t a lot of women in the studio because a lot of men don’t want them to be there. There are exceptions, but the invisible burqa persists, and I’m disappointed that there hasn’t been much progress. My daughter designs games and women in games are much sharper and more up front than women in audio. I’m not sure they are making progress, either, but at least they’re honest about it. Women in the audio area try so hard to fit in when fitting into a mold that doesn’t work for them is really futile. I just built my studio, raised my children and ignored the other stuff. I wish I had more time to spend at my studio, but my elderly mother totaled her car last March and I’ve had to take over running the family farm (150 years old), selling her property, seeing to her medical care, etc. It’s one more reason why women like me have to take time off from career. After being mothers, we become caregivers. Everyone only gets 24 hours a day and a lot of us are supposed to fit 48 hours worth of work into that slot. Solve the child care/ caregiver issue, and you’d see a lot more women in audio. As it is, many of the successful women audio engineers either don’t have children or go on sabbatical to have them.
The only job where gender has been a factor is the one where I carried twins and then raised them to become a molecular biophysicist (my son) and a game designer (my daughter.) My mother was a biochemist, my grandmother was a magistrate, and my great-grandmother was superintendent of county schools, so the concept of being a woman with a career was not novel in my family. It was just confusing that the news, the school systems and nearly everyone I encountered on any job that involved technology seemed to reinforce a lifestyle ethic that was out of some dreary “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” belief. I ignored it, of course, but it certainly didn’t help me to obtain clients or money to feed, clothe, educate and house my children. Fortunately, my children are smarter than I am and would rather be nibbled to death by ducklings than work in the music biz.
I tend to stay away from the “female audio engineer” ghetto. It does nothing to bring me business and frankly I don’t mix or master with my gender-specific parts. I’ve had no mentors, male or female, but lots of men who have tried to discourage me or separate me from the simple business of audio by trying to make me feel special. I’m not special because I was born female. I’m simply good at what I do, when I’m actually allowed to do what I do. There is no doubt I would have made a lot more money in the biz if I had been a male, but I have never wanted to be a male because I don’t think of myself as male or female when I work. I just listen and respond to the job at hand.
PreSonus is committed to providing real solutions to music educators at all levels. Whether it’s recording a kindergarten class and uploading songs to Nimbit for parents to download, running live sound and recording a high school jazz band in performance, or outfitting music technology and audio labs for universities, PreSonus has the products and knowledge to support all educators. We are working with the National Association for Music Education, the Technology Institute of Music Education, and the NAMM Foundation’s Support Music Coalition to ensure our strategies meet the needs of the teachers in the field.
The mission of PreSonus for Music Education is to provide high-quality audio products and continued support to all music educators and students in order to promote learning reflective of current and evolving practices in the fields of music education and the music industry. We offer sessions at the major state music conferences, webinars through NAfME and the SoundTree Institute, and educator-specific product bundles with school pricing.
For more information on how PreSonus can support your school, please visit our website: musiced.presonus.com.
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