Nowhere has that notion been reinforced more than in the Grammy category for producer of the year, non-classical. Since the trophy was first handed out in 1975, no woman has taken home the golden gramophone. Just a handful of women — including Janet Jackson, Paula Cole, Sheryl Crow, Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, and Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin from Prince’s band The Revolution — have been nominated for producing their own music. Only one nominated female producer was not also the recording artist: The Matrix’s Lauren Christy in 2004. (The situation is less bleak for producer of the year, classical: Three women have won in that category, including quadruple-winner Judith Sherman. Imogen Heap and Trina Shoemaker have earned Grammys for best engineered album, non-classical.)
It’s not just a Grammy issue: During the last decade, only two women, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, have landed on Billboard’s year-end Top Producers chart, for their own songs.
Eight years ago, when Alex Hope was 16 and first interested in music production, she Googled images of “female producers.” “I only came across Linda Perry,” recalls Hope, who has gone on to produce Troye Sivan and Tove Lo, among others. “We just learn early on that it’s a man’s job to be at the mixing desk.”
Why does record production remain the ultimate boys club of the music industry? There are myriad reasons, including a lack of role models. “I just don’t think there are that many women interested,” says songwriter-producer Perry, who, along with Missy Elliott, has been arguably the most successful female producer in pop and R&B, having worked with such hitmakers as P!nk, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Courtney Love and James Blunt. “Where are they if there are?”