Mia Gladstone On Supporting Women and Non-Binary Producers in Music

The singer-songwriter spoke to BRICKS about creating music for the ‘anti-fixed’ individual, advocating for non-males in music production, and the future of the industry.

PHOTOGRAPHY Ellie Kitman

For most people, the past six months have handed over an accidental opportunity to take a step back, do some self-reflection, and make some changes (let’s be honest, what else has there been to do?). Thankfully, this has applied to the music industry as well. 

While music fans were taking some distressing hits – concerts seem to be a no-go until late 2021 if we can manage to pull the world together by then, and some of our favourite music venues are facing indefinite closure due to lack of funding – artists decided to produce their work in some unconventional ways. Charli XCX dropped her album how i’m feeling now which was produced in five weeks, Troye Sivan released his completely home-produced six-song EP In A Dream, Phoebe Bridgers decided to leak her album Punisher a day early, and artists began utilising Tik Tok to gain popularity, such as London-based artist Lizzy McAlpine. Besides this, with their time off touring, some musicians decided to speak out about long-standing issues faced in the industry. 

American artist, writer and producer, Mia Gladstone used the opportunity to continue her work as an advocate for women, non-binary, and trans people in the producing world. Besides rising to popularity through her chilled out jazz pop-fusion songs which she completely self-produced, her dreamy music videos, and collaborating with rapper Ciscero, Gladstone created and manages @producerswhoproduce, an IG account which vouches for non-males in music production. “I am trying to create a community where people can experiment through production and see other people who look like them doing the same,” Gladstone told us.

While there’s been major growth in women, non-binary, and trans people’s participation in music production over the past few years, the industry is still dominated by male producers and rooted in inequality. According to a study in Forbes, for every one female producer stood 47 male counterparts. Otherwise, non-males producers are at risk of experiencing sexualisation, gaps in pay, and stereotyping at work – which comes as no surprise after the music industry’s major role in the “Me Too” movement.

We spoke to Gladstone about her role as an advocate for non-males in music production, the unconventional future of the industry, and her music. 

HB: You self-describe your music as for the “anti-fixed” individual. Can you please talk a bit about what this means and why creating music for this type of person resonates with you?

MG: I make music for people who don’t listen with expectations of a certain sound or genre. I never want to box myself in – I find labels and categories very limiting, because we, as people, are constantly evolving, and my music reflects that. I might make alternative music at some point, and the next project could be jazz. My music is an extension of my fluidity, and I make music for people like myself and anyone who accepts us. I think the ‘anti-fixed’ description came from me not knowing how to define my music with words and then I realized that’s a good thing. Being anti-fixed means I’m only holding myself to the expectation that my music will always be a free expression.

Since lockdown, we’ve seen a lot of artists breaking the conventional rules in the industry – whether through home produced albums, musicians blowing up on Tik Tok, or releasing their stems for fans to remix. How do you think the pandemic has changed the music industry? Do you think social media plays a role in that?

I think the pandemic has forced people to be creative in ways they wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. I think it has sparked growth because most people have more time on their hands than ever and it allows us to try new things. Social media has played a positive and negative role in it – I think the phone addiction has increased all around, it has for me at least, and that can affect productivity and creating in general. But, there is also so much cool art being displayed online that it can be very inspiring and open the door to new forms of expression. This year has been very taxing, overwhelming, traumatizing… sometimes it’s hard to draw inspiration from that. I think given we are collectively struggling as a society, people have gotten the chance to take some steps back and focus on what’s really important to us. It seems people are no longer having to depend on labels or industry cosigns as much, since so many of us are making shit at home and releasing it to the world through social media, which has been one of the few forms of human interaction throughout quarantine. Creative expression has become so accessible which is definitely a benefit of this time.

You’re known for producing your own music. Could you please tell us a little bit about your relationship with music production?

My relationship with music production started when I was a little kid playing with loops in mixcraft. I would make beats with my brother by combining presets and loops. I started taking production more seriously in high school when I realized the frustrations of not being able to execute my own ideas. Making beats is interesting because I feel like I’m constantly winging it, figuring out new things through experimentation, there’s no formal training, no formula. It makes it really rewarding when you make something you’re proud of and a bit chaotic when you feel uninspired and stuck. Sometimes I don’t even know if I really know how to produce. So much of it is just following the flow and trying new things until they click.

I wanted to create a space where people could feel empowered to try something new and express themselves through this medium.

You also run the IG account @producerswhoproduce, which is a community for women and non-binary producers. What inspired you to create the account, and why is it important right now?

I created the account because I wanted to see non-male creatives being represented in the producer space. I never had producer role models growing up that looked like me and when i discovered the joy of making beats I wanted to share it. I wanted to create a space where people could feel empowered to try something new and express themselves through this medium. It’s been a lovely journey so far. I’ve focused on artist spotlights where I interview artists and producers about their experiences in the music industry and advice they have for (typically non-male) people who want to produce in a cis-male dominated space. I’ll be expanding the page with beat breakdowns, tutorials, and submissions. I think it’s important a platform like this exists to show people there are options beyond what we tend to see in mainstream media. There are so many people producing amazing music from all walks of life. 

Right now at BRICKS, we’re celebrating the way creatives adapt and evolve. How would you like to see the music industry evolve, and how can we support women and non-binary producers who might be feeling challenged by the current state? 

I would love to see the industry paying artists fair wages for their work, and backing more artists making weird, culturally shifting art. A lot of the time it feels like consumers are being bombarded with the same type of music and the same messages from the same demographics when there is an abundance of artists making really important stuff that could impact pop-culture and society in a very positive way. There have always been non-male producers making cool shit, they just haven’t been promoted in the same way – I would love to see a shift there. Some ways we could better support artists in this time is supporting them on platforms beyond streaming – reaching out through social media and seeing how they’d like to be supported in a more direct way. A lot of artists are creating Patreons – monthly subscription services where you get exclusive content from them. I recommend finding your favourite artists and showing love, sharing their work with friends, buying their merch, and commissioning them if you’re working on projects that need scoring or backing music. Also, giving credit where it’s due!

There have always been non-male producers making cool shit, they just haven’t been promoted in the same way – I would love to see a shift there.

What advice would you give to women and non-binary people who want to get started in music production in 2020?

My best advice is to experiment. Try to break free from barriers around music – express yourself freely and don’t be confined to a particular sound. You will surprise yourself! Also know that you don’t need a fancy set up to make music. If you have access to a computer or even a phone, there are tons of resources for producing. 

We are all about paying it forward at BRICKS – which female or non-binary artists/producers have you been listening to?

I’ve been listening to such a range of people. Some of my female producer favourites are Carmani, Gwen Bunn, Emmavie, and Maddie Jay. I also love EliNavvy – a gender-less master of Ableton. 

Lastly, what can we expect to see from your future projects?

Expect really weird shit. I’ve been letting go of musical expectations and expressing myself more freely, it feels so good. I’m dropping a single 15 October called Change The Channel

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