SoundGirls’ Karrie Keyes on Supporting Female Audio Engineers & Music Producers

SoundGirls’ co-founder Karrie Keyes

Check out the SoundGirls.Org website’s About Us page and you’ll see their unofficial mantra: “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See.” It is the organization’s mission to “inspire and empower the next generation of women in audio” by shining a light on women who are living it, every single day. Founded in 2013, SoundGirls is dedicated to fostering community as well as providing tools, knowledge, and support to individuals who are actively building careers in audio, sound, and music production.

When we reached out to Karrie Keyes, the executive director and co-founder of the organization, and asked her to describe her role to us, she responded: “As Executive Director, I work with our co-directors and our chapter heads on developing programs. I oversee the day to day of running the non-profit and work with our volunteers to keep things running.” That’s no small feat considering that SoundGirls now boasts an international membership of more than 6,000 members with dozens of chapters worldwide. Also, never mind the fact that Keyes already has super important job —as the monitor engineer for Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder — a post she’s held for the past 28 years!

Since starting out in L.A’s punk circuit during the 80’s under the mentorship of Dave Rat of Rat Sound, Keyes has worked with an array of bands and artists including The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Neil Young. We caught up with Keyes at The 2019 NAMM Show to learn more about SoundGirls and some of the issues women in audio are facing today.

Your “Guide to Supporting Women in Sound” shares this bit of advice: “Don’t comment on someone’s gender, take interest in their work.” Why is commenting on someone’s gender before you learn more about their work probably not the best approach?

“As women, that’s always the first question asked: ‘What’s it like being a woman audio engineer?’ Honestly, ‘F’ if I know. I have always been a white, cis woman. The question itself implies that something is wrong with me…I just want to be acknowledged as an engineer, an engineer that has worked continuously with a band for 28 years. That’s what I should be recognized for. Not my gender.”

How did SoundGirls come about in the first place? What prompted you to found the organization?

“I met the Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato while we were both on the ‘Women of Professional Concert Sound’ panel at the AES Conference in San Francisco in 2012…We had all been in the business for 20 years or more, yet most of us had never met before that day, and within minutes we bonded like long-lost sisters. We’d been asked literally hundreds of times in our careers: ‘Are there other women doing sound? How would a young woman go about getting into sound? How did you get into sound?’ It was basically a no-brainer after that.”

What would you like girls and women who are considering a career in audio, sound, or music production to know?

“That there are women and lots of them succeeding and having careers that they love. Never Give Up and DO NOT take NO for an answer!”

Do you hope STEAM will lead to more females entering audio?

“I think we’re making these jobs more visible and that more women are entering into the field. Many STEAM Careers also have wonderful support groups for women starting out in all fields. Just a few years ago, those resources weren’t available.”
*Note: STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics.

What can studio owners and managers do to make their work environments more inclusive?

“I’m glad you asked.”


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