I spent most of my adult life leading large-scale child nutrition programs all over the world: Nicaragua, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Zimbabwe and Senegal—30 countries at last count.
An essential part of every one of these efforts was implementing gender equality. Not only was it morally “right”—it also led to improvements in health, income, resilience and the creation of robust communities. When women are empowered, everyone benefits.
Through years of working in developing countries, I became impassioned about helping women thrive and survive. That passion didn’t stop when I returned to the US: It just found another outlet. I didn’t expect that outlet to be music, but my partner is a composer and a musician, and, as a result, I ended up founding a production music library.
A recent USC Annenberg Music Coalition study shows women cite common concerns when working in the music industry: Their skills are discounted; they lack a viable support system in a male-dominated profession; and they are concerned about financial instability—to name a few. The music biz is a “gig” industry, and building a sustainable career is one of women’s greatest challenges. Never mind the time-consuming task of juggling home and career, which continues to weigh heavily on women.
Often referred to as “library music,” production music tracks are recorded specifically to be licensed and eventually embedded into the TV shows, video games and ads we listen to every day. It’s a $1 billion industry and, over time, it can generate a reliable income for composers.
But female library music composers are traditionally among the most underrepresented among media composers. There is no shortage of extremely talented female composers—but how do we bring them into the fold?
Now, as owner and president of Mpath, LLC, a music production company based in Los Angeles, I can be part of a growing movement to change all that.
My goal with Mpath is to create a company where women compose at least half of our tracks. We started by producing Phenomenal Women, a series of albums that feature exceptional women composers, both emerging and seasoned. With a tagline “Gender Not Genre,” the series includes a colorful spectrum of styles including vocal pieces, rock, club dance, hypnotic minimalism and more. With the help of our distributor, APM Music—the largest production music library in North America—we plan to produce 8-9 Phenomenal Women albums per year. Currently, one-third of our composers are women, and we are on track to achieving gender parity by 2020.
It takes a village to achieve inclusion. Mpath, APM Music, and North Music Group (NMG), a female-owned music rights management company, have joined forces and have begun an initiative to build a supportive community. Our first live music salon, Mainstreaming Inclusion with a Focus on Women, will be held on September 7, 2019 and our invited guests will include directors, producers, music supervisors, and others who appreciate great music. Extraordinary women composers, songwriters, and musicians will perform, accompanied by LA session singers.
With the intention of improving visibility and awareness, I am also organizing a panel discussion at this year’s Production Music Association Conference. Representatives from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media, the Alliance for Women Film Composers, the 3% Movement, Free the Work, NMG, and the largest music library in the world, Sonoton Music, will discuss obstacles and opportunities.
We’ve created an Mpath mentorship program for emerging composers to gain hands-on experience. We have also begun collaborating with Women Warriors: The Voices of Change, which will premiere at Lincoln Center on September 20.
Grappling with burned-in habits, navigating an industry that is riddled with mysterious gatekeepers and seeking a seat at the table—both at home and in remote places—has taught me patience, perseverance, community-building and defiance of the status quo. When it comes to the beauty and power of music, women have way too much to offer to the world to be left out of the rotation.