The world of music composers and producers has been traditionally male-dominated, like so many other industries. Although there is immense talent out there, female composers are often overshadowed by the big-name male composers that are already well-known in the industry. Think Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, or Alexandre Desplat. Interesting fact: in 87 years, just three women composers have snagged an Oscar for music, namely Hildur Guðnadóttir for Joker (2019), Rachel Portman for Emma (1996), and Anne Dudley for The Full Monty (1997).
Nevertheless, female composers are beginning to take center stage, and be recognized for their talent and achievements. Some of the biggest names in the industry today include Hildur Guðnadóttir, Laura Karpman, and Kathryn Bostic, to name a few. Some projects released recently are breaking barriers in this regard. The Disney+ TV series Loki is one of them.
Spearheaded by a female director, Kate Herron, the first season of the series boasts a magnificent score by British composer Natalie Ann Holt. This makes Holt only the second woman to write an MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) score, following Pinar Toprak for Captain Marvel in 2019. Additionally, Herron wanted to make sure that there was gender parity amongst the Season 1 crew, and included this request in her contract terms. She also hired Autumn Durald as cinematographer, a position more often than not occupied by men in the industry.
Challenges and Opportunities for Female Music Composers in 2021 and Beyond
In a recent interview, Natalie Holt said that she believes the pandemic has opened new doors for composers. In her experience, there is now a lot more openness towards remote composers, and a desire to try out new things, new instruments, and new directions. This openness towards change is what made Loki’s playful soundtrack and character evolution possible in the first place. At the same time, studying music and climbing the career ladder is still a struggle for many aspiring composers, and female musicians have an even higher barrier to entry, even today.
The good news is that the industry is a lot more aware of these gender disparity issues, and many organizations are taking action to change this, including the Alliance for Women Film Composers. Female composers that have managed to break through the barriers are now mentoring other composers, and more and more aspiring professionals are getting noticed. The lockdowns of the past year forced everyone to focus their attention inwards, and a lot of composers and producers took the time to improve their skills and find new ways to connect with audiences.
kicking off a new series of q&as with female composers
Cutting Room Music knows firsthand the challenges that female composers have to overcome when trying to break through in the music industry. Team member Katherine Beggs knows all about what it takes to get recognized in this male-dominated industry: talent, courage, and determination. She’s been able to push through the barrier and work successfully as a musician, composer, and producer, and she’s not the only one.
We want to bring some awareness and recognition and celebrate the talented female composers in this industry, so we’re kicking off a series of Q&As with female composers that have managed to break through in the music industry. We’ll start our series soon with the first interview, so stay tuned and follow us on social media for updates. If you want to be part of the series or know a female composer who deserves to be heard, feel free to reach out to us via our contact page, or send us a message on Facebook or LinkedIn.