Over the years, one of the criticisms of the audio industry has been the grave underrepresentation of women in all capacities—from producers and agents to songwriters and managers. In fact, in January 2020, when the Grammy-award winning sitarist and composer Anoushka Shankar launched her EP, Love Letters, she highlighted the lack of women’s presence in the technical aspect of music making. To address this, for her album, she collaborated with a lot of women artists. “I just felt drawn towards the kind of music that needed a strong female presence—female writers, female producers, female figures and that just kind of unfolded on its own,” Shankar said in an interview.
According to Sneha Singh, head of editorial (music)-India, Spotify, the problem is not that there aren’t enough women in the industry, but rather that their voices have not been amplified. “The first step is to acknowledge that this is a problem. From there, it’s upon us to create, in collaboration with labels, artists, creators and other partners, an ecosystem that opens avenues and nurtures the community through awareness, reach, and success stories of women who are transforming the world of audio,” she says.
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Hence Spotify has launched a unique initiative in India, AmplifiHer, to put the spotlight on women in audio. Talent across music and podcasts, including artists, music composers, lyricists and producers, get to tell their stories to a wide audience. Through in-app and off-platform support to these women, it aims to increase the momentum around conversations related to equality in audio.
One programme as part of this is the EQUAL hub, which seeks to highlight local female talent across music and podcasts. In India, EQUAL spans playlists such as Women of India, Women of Punjabi Pop, Kollywood Queens, Girls like You-Telugu, and more. There are also women-led podcasts including Maed in India, Kalki Presents: My Indian Life, The Overthink Tank, and Yours Positively.
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The audio streaming app is also partnering with SoundGirls, a professional advocacy organization aiming to empower women working in the audio industry. The idea is to relaunch the EQUAL Director, which allows women of all experiences, and gender nonconforming creators to create a profile and claim their space in the community. Anyone can search this directory by region and audio discipline to find suitable candidates for upcoming tours and events, studio projects, film and TV production, game audio, post production, podcasts, and more.
Yet another programme to this end is Sound Up, which hopes to diversify the podcast landscape through education, workshops and other support. “It is designed to amplify the voices of underrepresented podcasters. In one country, it could be women of colour, in another it could be LGBTQI creators. It is already running in six countries and we are thrilled to have announced its launch in India recently, where we are focusing on nurturing female creators in the industry. In 2021, the program is growing from six to 14 countries,” says Natalie Tulloch, global lead - Sound Up, at Spotify.
One of the first podcasts coming out of the program is Dope Labs, which is a blend of science and pop culture. Then there is Search Engine Sex by Rowdie Walden in Australia—a fun podcast around sex-related questions.
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In the recent past, India has seen a vibrant female creator community emerge in India, be it Mae Mariyam Thomas and Aastha Atray, whose podcasts Maed in India and Love Aaj Kal with Aastha and Ankit have become hugely popular. Then, there is a newer generation of female creators who are taking on everything from tech and body positivity, to fun banter and social issues. There are creators like Riya Mukherjee who have produced Shuddh Desi Gay, catering to Indian’s LGBTQ community, and Akanksha Thapliyal, one of the writers for Darr Ka Raaz with Dr Phobia.
“The unique backgrounds, personal stories, and pivotal experiences of these women resonate with listeners, and going forward, we’ll see many more women break through as the medium continues to grow in popularity, and provide a safe space for creators to experiment, learn, and grow,” says Singh.