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More female role models in the audio industry

Phuong Boi Nguyen, Media Music Academy of Music Enschede: "I arrived here with blinders on. As a purist, I loved analogue instruments and only wanted to make band and rock music. In the first and second years, you take lots of different subjects, which gets you to take off those blinders. I discovered that I found pop music and electronic music with synthesisers and such exciting. Those things suit me much better than I ever would have known without the course.

MediaMusic Enschede

Thanks to the course, I was able to learn the technology fairly quickly. At a certain point I was one of the most skilled people in the studio, because I worked with a studio desk and computer technology at the Academy. Now I can call myself an engineer."

Quest with an objective eye

"I was looking for role models in the audio production and sound engineering industry. All my lecturers were men and there are only a few women in this part of the industry who have been awarded a Grammy. That's why my graduation project is about women in the audio industry. I was interested in looking at why there are so few women in the industry, so I talked to people from the industry, both men and women. I talked to people all over the world: from South America to Australia.

There turned out to be a connecting thread. Men see the job as something that women can definitely do. Many women don't know the job exists, because the role models aren't there. Women also don't feel they are taken completely seriously in the job. That is starting to improve, especially in the middle layers. The top is still dominated by men and it's hard to find a way in. Every woman I talked to said it was three times harder to work in the industry as a woman than as a man. I heard those stories from the male side too – they could also see it from where they were standing. The big conclusion: we need more female role models.”

Enterprising, enquiring and international

"My dream was to go to LA and I knew we could go on internship in the fourth year. I started looking into the options early – in year two. On the course we had some coaches from abroad, and Warren Huart was one of them. I stayed in touch with him and was ultimately able to do my internship with him. I worked as the assistant engineer alongside chief engineer Eric Gonzalez, and we clicked together. We did a lot of preparatory work, so that Warren only had to sit down at his computer.

We went to the studios and home studios of legendary producers and mixers. I talked to people I would never have dared dream I’d meet. Like Michael Beinhorn (Red Hot Chili Peppers), or Bob Clearmountain (the first person to be credited as a mixing-engineer; David Bowie, ‘Freak’ by CHIC). You don't realise they are behind the music. The way they talk about the job and how they use it as a creative expression changed my mindset and it improved my mixing. In my head, mixing was something that had to be added to make the track sound good. Now it is a creative expression in its own right. Those seven weeks in LA were indescribable, but I still wrote about them in this blog.”

From internship to income

"After my internship in LA, I did another three-month internship with someone on my course. He has his own management company and gave me the assignment to set up a new act, as creator, songwriter, producer and possibly artist – we weren't yet sure about the last part. That project became D A R K D A Y S and has grown way beyond an internship. I received a grant from Hedon, the pop venue in Zwolle. I wrote and produced an electronic act and set up a live show, including the light show. Hedon gave us help from sound, light and PR people. This is now my job. We had a full tour scheduled for April and May. That was cancelled due to the coronavirus, but we did release a video."

After the course

"The plans have changed as a result of the coronavirus. I had invested so much time in the act because it looked as though we would be able to earn an income from it. Now my life is all about making grant applications and producing and mixing for others on a freelance basis. Warren Huart offered me a full-time job as an engineer and wanted me to come back after the coronavirus crisis, but I want to stay in the Netherlands because I have more creative freedom here.

My dream is to be able to earn money from what I do, from music. I used to want to win loads of Grammys, but over the past few years I've realised that isn't so important. I’ve met people who have won all kinds of awards, but I didn't get the feeling they were really happy. The process is where you need to find your happiness."

Quarantine interview

Phuong Boi on MediaMusic 

“A big part of the course is about the creative side of music and how music comes together. You have a production component and a technical component. I focus on producing for bands and artists, but there is also a film and gaming side (classical music and sound effects for films and games), a media side (for commercials, which is more about adapting yourself to the consumer), and finally you have electronic artist and production (developing as an artist in electronic music, primarily in the dance world)."

Fotograaf: Jelle Bakker (https://www.instagram.com/jelle_bakker_photos/)

Photography: Jelle Bakker (Instagram)