By Melinda Newman for Billboard
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The 7%: Tiffany Kumar Makes Moves for Inclusion at Spotify
“At the inaugural The 7% panel, producer/songwriter TRAKGIRL stressed the need for women to lift each other up as a means to increase opportunities in the recording studio.
‘We have to create a pathway for other girls. They have to see there are role models,’ she said, at the event organized by her and Stem, a distribution and payment platform for creatives. ‘Any project I’ve produced, I try to get a female collaborator, whether it’s a writer or engineer. We have to create a girls club.’ Among the artists TRAKGIRL has produced are Jhene Aiko and Luke James.
The invite-only evening, which was held at Stem’s Los Angeles offices, drew a widely diverse group of female producers, engineers, performers, managers, publishers and A&R execs. It takes its name from the statistic that less than 7 percent of recording producers and engineers are women. The mission of The 7% is to move toward gender equality in music.
‘I get asked on a daily basis, what are you and your team doing to support female creators,’ said panelist Tiffany Kumar, global head of songwriter relations for Spotify. She pointed to several developments at the streaming service, including Spotify’s Secret Genius recording studios, which offer free studio time in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Nashville, as well as Spotify’s writing camps, which strive for a gender balance among attendees.
Any bias often comes because young girls can’t imagine themselves filling traditionally male-dominated roles. ‘If someone sees someone in the same role over and over again, they think that’s the only person who can do it. They don’t think someone else who looks differently can do it,’ said producer/musician Madame Gandhi, who was worked with M.I.A., among other artists. She also stressed that females are taught they are valued for their sexuality over their abilities. ‘Girls realize if they post a photo on Instagram with some sexy vibe instead of a photo of them creating on Ableton, they get 1 million likes versus eight. Invest in your own capability, that’s the hottest thing.’
Asked for advice on how to move forward for young artists, rapper/songwriter/entrepreneur Qveen Herby, who was previously signed to Epic as half of coed duo Karmin, suggested ‘show your talent.’ Karmin’s YouTube covers drew hundreds of millions of views. ‘I’d do cover songs. I sent one to Janelle Monae and she reposted it and it tripled my followers in one day. So now I’m always looking for new talent to encourage.’
Kumar advised to quit waiting to find a mentor — as helpful as they can be — and embrace your talents. ‘I just needed self confidence in myself from the beginning,’ she said.
Madame Gandhi then joked that her advice was going to be to find a mentor, but following Kumar’s remarks, she was changing it to ‘be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.’
While knocking down barriers is essential, Madame Gandhi also suggested creating your own spaces without any limits instead of waiting to get invited to the boys club. ‘I would think ‘How can I heal the men?’ The men oppress each other. I thought, ‘Go oppress each other. I’m over here with the women cutting up some oranges and enjoying the energy.’ I’m not interested in not feeling safe. How do I create the session of my dreams where men say, ‘I want to be part of that’…When we have to depend on a system that doesn’t work for us and we don’t have an alternative, that’s the problem.’
Madame Gandhi also suggested that women who are creating in the studio document their work on social media, not to show off, but to encourage the next generation. ‘I put every shitty beat I create on Ableton on my [Instagram] Story so [other Indian women] see what it looks like and say, ‘I’m here’.”
Organizers plan for the next installment of The 7% to be in New York and open to the public.”