Professional Sound - August 2022 - Page 39


PS : The “ politeness perception ” is discussed in the book , and how it can be both a hindrance or a help depending on the situation that a female producer / engineer finds herself in . Can you define that term and how does it play out in different circumstances for women in the industry ?
Kallie Marie : So , the politeness perception is a term I coined because I was noticing this phenomenon , and it ’ s not just in music production . I think most women , I can ’ t speak for all of them , would say that the politeness perception extends to lots of other industries or everyday life . So , there is this perception that we should always be pleasant , pliable , polite , friendly , supportive , nurturing — all these things that are sort of positive terms but you ’ re confined to some sort of Betty Crocker , pasted-on Stepford wife smile , and that ’ s why there ’ s a whole movement of “ don ’ t tell me to smile .” You know , when I ’ m walking down the street and you ’ re asking me to rearrange my face to be more pleasing to you because you think I should smile at you .
So , in terms of the professional world , I think it ’ s part of the same pie , and it presents itself in different ways . At least in my experience , I can have a day where if I send an email and I don ’ t put enough pleases and thank-yous , I ’ m being considered a bitch . The conversation can go sour if I ’ m just to-the-point in an email . But if I were to change my name to a man ’ s name on the email , that directness is fine , because that ’ s “ just how men are .” So , they ’ re just to the point , and that ’ s wonderful . He ’ s a go-getter and , you know , sometimes that ’ s fine . Sometimes being to the point and direct really works . You have command of a control room , you have a lot of people to oversee , or you ’ re working with a big team of people and you ’ re trying to get things done . But sometimes that backfires , because you didn ’ t say it with a smile . And so , it really depends on the person . I think every individual ends up navigating it differently , depending on who they are as a person . So , that ’ s where it gets really tricky , because one person might get away with it , and another person might not and they ’ re looking at the other gal going , “ How did you pull that off ?” It ’ s so nefarious , it can make your head spin for weeks if you overthink it .
I think at the end of the day , at least for me , personally , you just have to get out there and do whatever it is you ’ re going to do . Try to be comfortable being yourself . And if you run into the issues , you slow down , you take a step back , and you go , “ Hmm , what ’ s really going on here ?” Sometimes it ’ s really simple , personal things — maybe somebody ’ s having a bad day and that ’ s why they reacted a certain way to you . And maybe there ’ s a small thin veneer where it was also the politeness perception , but it ’ s never going to be cut and dry . And it ’ s never going to be one thing . But I do think it ’ s important for people to be a little bit aware of those things because sometimes I become self-aware that I ’ m sending emails that are overly perky because I feel like it ’ s societally expected that I ’ m like , “ Hi ! Hope everything ’ s well , just wanted to …” and I ’ ve tried to eradicate a lot of that language out of my emails . But if I ’ m comfortable with a person , then some of that stuff comes back because it ’ s true and honest .
And so , it ’ s all about boxes . The boxes that we put ourselves in , because we think that ’ s what ’ s expected and the boxes that we put others in because we are used to an affectation or an expectation of a certain persona .
PS : Is there often an unfair , greater need placed on women to prove themselves ? The assumption that they ’ re an expert , or the assumption they ’ re good at their job is less a given for women in the studio than it would be for men at a similar point in their career ?
Marie : In my experience , that ’ s been true . A lot of the gals that I spoke with in the book said that you had to try harder to prove more . I could tell you a million little random experiences where any expertise or technical knowledge that I might have is constantly up for debate or questioned , even when it comes to everyday things …
So , at least in my experience , it makes it harder to get the work because if I say I ’ m a thing , they just go , “ Yeah , well , I ’ ve got GarageBand , though .” I understand and appreciate that that is a problem for everybody right now . That as a producer or engineer , or somebody who owns a recording studio , now everyone has GarageBand and so “ nobody needs us .” Like , okay , whatever . But there ’ s this little extra other layer because I have to say it five times , and they still come back to me and go , “ But would you sing on the record ? Could we get you to sing on it ?” I ’ m just like , “ Hold on , hold on , I ’ m an engineer .” And they ’ re like , “ Yeah , sure you are .” And so , if I delve into the conversation and dig deeper with them , I find out that when I ’ ve said I ’ m a [ producer or engineer ], they think that I ’ m a beat maker , or they think that I ’ m a solo singer-songwriter who dabbles in some home recording . It ’ s almost like when I say the term , they imagine a whole different thing . Like , I might be a DJ , or a vocalist who makes a few little beats . But I noticed that when my male peers say it , it ’ s like , “ Oh , that ’ s what they are , unquestionably .” So , after four or five times , sometimes they start to go , “ Oh yeah , wow .”
And I ’ ve noticed I have a much easier time if other men vouch for me . Again , I understand that ’ s partly just business and people will do business with you if you ’ ve gotten a recommendation . I understand that ’ s also how business works . But it ’ s interesting to me that I could chase down somebody four or five times , saying I ’ m the thing . But then one of my colleagues , a man , comes along and says “ she ’ s the real deal ,” and they ’ re like , “ Oh , really ? I didn ’ t realize you did that .” But how many emails did I send you ?
Actually , this is a good story : I was trying to book a session in L . A . because I was working with an artist there and we just needed to track vocals . So , I looked at a couple of different studios , I emailed a few different places , and I said , “ I looked at your mic list and I just want to get a quote . What ’ s it for a session , six hours max , with an engineer and without an engineering ? Can I get a rate for both of those things ?” And the responses I got were like , “ You don ’ t need a session , I can record you .” And I was like , “ Huh , what ?” I said , “ No , no , I ’ m the producer . I have a client who I ’ m bringing …” and I restated everything . I was asking questions about gear and stuff and they ’ re like , “ Well , let me save you some money . You can come to my house , I ’ ve recorded many such female [ singers ].” I was like , “ Wait , what ? No , no , no ; no one ’ s going to record me . I ’ m recording someone else .” And the guy finally responded to my email and said , “ I ’ m sorry , I don ’ t understand what it is that you do .”
So , at that point , I just gave up in frustration because I ’ m just chasing my tail trying to explain because they ’ ve got such an image in their mind . There ’ s a mental block that they just couldn ’ t get past , that it wasn ’ t me that was singing , and they were confused .
PS : In terms of barriers to entry and advancement , what were the reoccurring themes in your conversations ?
Marie : I think a lot of the younger cohort , including myself in that post-internet generation , I think a lot of us in that era , we ’ re seeking higher education as a way into recording . Because they can ’ t deny you education , right ? Like somebody could decide they won ’ t mentor you , or they won ’ t hire you , but at least in the United States , if you ’ re going to pay them money to go to a school , they ’ ll take your money and so you can try to force your way in that way . But I think it bottlenecks at that point . After you get out of higher education , where do you go ?