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Adele Fournet

Adele Fournet is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at NYU where she investigates gender, music production, technology and aesthetic values.  She is an active composer, producer, musician and freelance videographer in New York City.  She directs a web series about female music producers called Bit Rosie (www.bitrosie.com), which became NYU’s first music-related streaming video archive in 2017.  Her films have been screened on PBS New York and the NYC Independent Film Festival.

"Recorded Popular Music: Production and Reproduction" 
“There are no social barriers to a woman becoming a record producer…The more stringent and insurmountable constraint is the biological one.”  This is a quote from record producer, studio engineer, and music professor Susan Rogers—most famous for her engineering work with Prince—in a 2012 BBC article titled ‘Why are female record producers as so rare?’  Other top-tier female producers, like Sylvia Massy, echo Rogers’s seemingly outmoded observation.  I was curious to know why this explanation is so commonplace.  Could it be that reproduction does explain women’s stark underrepresentation in production, especially women beyond their twenties?   In this presentation I explore how women’s undervalued reproductive labor under capitalism intersects with the precariousness of freelance work to significantly curtail their professional participation in fields like music production and engineering on both a material and symbolic level.  Throughout the presentation, I draw on my ethnographic work with female music producers in New York City and Berlin, analysis of pop music media, and a survey of 64 female producers worldwide I conducted in 2017.  My survey results show that less than 10 per cent of women working in music production and engineering have children or are primary caretakers of domestic dependents.   Moving beyond these material limitations, I interrogate how the role of music producer symbolically appropriates and celebrates aspects reproductive labor—in figures like the male audio midwife—while alienating people who actually engage in reproductive labor.  Elite pop artists like Beyoncé and Adele—who dominate the front-facing side of the contemporary pop music industry—frequently refer to themselves as feminists and foreground motherhood in their public personas.  Beyond these elite circles, however, my research suggests that music production and reproduction are mutually exclusive activities for most women, which may go a long way in explaining the ongoing gender gap in these fields.