Musician Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine) is doing her part to help even up the gender wage gap. She spoke up and demanded co-production credits for her work on her latest album, High as Hope, That production work comes on top of her normal songwriting and vocal recording duties — work she’s been doing since she started recording years ago.
For Welch, co-production came as a result of necessity, she told BBC Radio 1. She recorded most of High as Hope in Los Angeles, and said that the studio they used wasn’t the nicest — “It didn’t have that much [recording equipment],” she said, so Welch was forced to co-produce with Emile Haynie. But producing gave Welch the “freedom to experiment with building my sound.” This meant banging on walls and mistakes on piano parts, she says, and keeping many songs close to their demo recordings. The result is music that feels free and childlike, with a roughness that reminds us of her earliest works.
Still, production is work that Welch has been doing all along throughout her studio albums. It’s her sound; she’s honed it carefully since the beginning. “I always sort of co-produced,” she says, noting that when she was younger, she very much obeyed the unwritten boundaries of producer vs. artist. “I didn’t know that I could ask for the title!” For the first time in her career, she’s finally getting the production credit she deserves.
That co-production title isn’t just given to Welch in fairness to her work — it also allows her to make more money from her music. When a song is licensed for movies or television, a fee is paid, which is divided up among the songwriter, producer, and artists. This also includes royalties from radio plays and streaming. Welch now has more access to that hard-earned money. By example, Welch is showing us a way that the wage gap can be closed — women should ask for the money we deserve when we are doing the work.
A producer, as our own Courtney Smith explained, functions in a similar capacity as a film director or writing editor. In a recording studio, a producer coaches the musicians through takes, generates beats or crafts song arrangements, and controls the switchboard as the musician records. It’s an extremely involved job, and most musicians don’t have the time to handle all aspects of this process. Artists with productions teams, like Beyonce’s Parkwood Entertainment, have producers (and lots of women producers, at that!); indie bands recording in a basement will also employ producers. Welch, who co-produced, sang, and wrote the music, is akin to Lena Dunham directing, writing, and starring in Girls.
Welch is lucky that she had the technical knowledge to co-produce her music. A recent study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative notes that only 2% of popular music producers are women — a shameful number in an industry that prides itself on diversity. Women in music are discouraged from pursuing technical skills; they are pigeonholed as performers, with men in the studio calling the shots. The more women like Welch take the reins at the switchboard, the more they talk about it and teach other women audioengineering skills, the more this outdated dynamic will fade away. Check out Welch’s interview below.