It’s no secret that non-male producers are a rarity in the music industry: According to a USC Annenberg report released earlier this year called “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?,” just 2.8% of the credited producers of 1,000 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 from 2012 to 2021 were women. It’s a completely counterintuitive prejudice — if women make up approximately half of music’s listening audience, why wouldn’t they be making that music? — and an illusory barrier to entry, as if non-males were somehow less capable of operating equipment, judging music and working with artists than males. (Variety spoke about this topic at length with five female A&R and label execs last year.)
MNDR, a.k.a. artist-songwriter-producer Amanda Warner, saw an earlier version of the USC-Annenberg study and felt discouraged, and then inspired.
With a goal of “creating gender balance in an uneven industry,” she, along with fellow artist-songwriter-producer Tayla Parx and in association with Evan Bogart’s Seeker Music Group and publisher-label-management company Tigerspring, organized No Name — a “non-male producer writing camp” held at a castle in Denmark last week. While men were not excluded from the proceedings, all of the songs created at the camp were produced by a female producer (a full roster appears below).
“The camp will consist of both female and male creatives who will participate, support and share the message of this event which focuses on gender equality,” the organizers said in a statement before the event. “The ambition is to create a platform to shine a light on non-male creators, pushing the boundaries and setting up a better playing field for women in the music industry.”
How did it go? MNDR was kind enough to keep a diary of the remarkable week for us below…
I am artist, producer, writer, and multi-instrumentalist MNDR (Amanda Warner). I have been playing music my entire life and kicking around the music industry for the last 15 years, give or take, and this is my diary of a creative music experience that, to the best of my knowledge, has never happened in quite this way before.
To give a bit of context, I have been frustrated with the vast gender inequities in the music-making process throughout the years, and honestly puzzled by the lack of representation. According to the USC Annenberg “Inclusion in the Recording Studio” study of 2022; 2.8% of producers are non-male (up .2% from a 2020 study), along with just 12.7% of the songwriters and 21.8% of the artists.
These numbers were not only a gut punch, but also a sort of surreal crisis for myself. I had always thought of music as this progressive, edgy space that pushed, bent and smashed the boundaries of culture. In fact, I would argue that music’s “IDGAF” attitude was what hooked me in for life. I believe that music is the language of the soul and transcends the constructs of gender as it amplifies what connects us all: emotions. So to learn that an entire creative perspective was on mute was heartbreaking, to say the least. It was as if the entire music industry was stuck in some sort of ridiculously homogenous vacuum. I had to do something drastically different in my own creative life to bring my soul back from the shock I felt after realizing how much music I haven’t heard just because of someone’s gender.
So this year, I decided to try something that was “shocking,” I guess: I decided, without posting on social media or discussing with publishers and managers, to work only in rooms and projects where non-male creatives make up over 50% of the room and ideally 100% of the room. This is risky behavior, as a music producer, writer and artist who depends on records coming out to support their family — especially in an industry that is as competitive and cut-throat as it gets. But honestly, I had to do this, as I felt my passion for music dying, and the change I needed had to move past the “talking about it/ trauma-sharing” and into the “action” part of change. I also knew that this feeling deep down inside of me has nothing to do with me, which is 100% the point: It has everything to do with wanting to hear a new and fresh perspective in music made by those who haven’t had the mic, and celebrate their joy in making music.
With the help and support of hit songwriter Tayla Parks and my amazing management teams at Seeker and Tigerspring, this path led me to a castle in Denmark, working with top songwriters and creatives — all led by non-male producers — making the next generation of charting topping hits.
We call this experience or camp “No Name” — a title that embodies the rebellious spirit of music, with a knowing nod and wink.
A two-hour journey from Copenhagen on a Danish party bus with 20 or so of the top music creatives working today has us all buzzing and full of excitement. The energy on the bus is supercharged with nervousness, jet lag and lightning bolts of creativity. I can definitely feel that we are on the precipice of greatness, as sometimes the best music is made in jet-lag twilight.
We pull up to Dallund, an idyllic, 14th-century Danish castle set on a beautiful lake, which is completely surreal for all of the Americans on this trip. Although the estate has gone through many renovations and has all of the modern amenities you would find at any luxury hotel, there is a beautiful past and history that encompasses your body once you set foot on the property — it’s as if you can feel the souls who have left parts of their existence here. The whole experience is beautifully curated, with organic farm-to-table food at every meal. The air is sweet with hints of early autumn, the apple orchard on the estate is bountiful, and the weather is as balmy as it gets. Not too shabby for a five-day, super-intense music camp.
We meet in the gardens next to the lake, which is so clear we could dip our straws right in for a cool drink. A little meet-and-greet along with a champagne toast to kick things off is just what we all need. Tigerspring, Seeker, Tayla Park and I give a brief rundown about the spirit of “No Name,” and I am hoping that everyone is feeling inspired. Setting the right tone is essential, and I’m hoping we’ve gotten it right because this camp is not only about creating amazing opportunities for non-male and male allies to connect and collaborate, but it is also about celebrating the joy of making music together, which weirdly can get lost. After the toast, all of the producers (Suzi Shin, V-Ron, Fanny Hultman and me) go to their assigned studios and start setting up. We are going to dive right into it: I’m exhausted, but so is everyone… so let’s start making music!!
It seems like everyone is still trying to recover from their jet lag. A lot of people were up early and got in a nice walk or run around the pristine lake before the day began. Everyone is starting to trickle into the dining room for breakfast and coffee, as the only strategy is to caffeinate our way through the morning. There is a lot of chatter and buzzing about the songs made the night before. The room where I was producing was particularly crazy and loud, as Benchwarmer, Bibi Bourelly, Oliver Frid and myself were working well into the early hours of the morning on a raucous electronic anthem that could only be played at extremely loud volume.
As the day progresses I can feel the creative energy flowing through the castle. Every room has such a completely different vibe, and everyone is making unbelievable records. It is also great to see everyone congregating in the garden area for an ear break or smoke or drink — you can hear the laughter as muffled beats pulse out of the rooms. There is something about a bunch of musicians together: We are a competitive but loving bunch. As the night rolls on, some people have written and recorded as many as six songs, and after a few bottles of wine they’re going all night for sure. I was truly hoping that after the “set” sessions during the day, people would just spontaneously start making songs together, and it looks like that is what is happening.
Everyone went pretty late the night before, so no surprise that it’s a very slow morning for the whole camp. I notice some new faces at the camp, which is exact the loose atmosphere we were hoping to create. The day kicks off (slowly) at 11:30 a.m. with everyone’s first session, but by 3 p.m. the whole castle is humming again with melodies, beats, laughter, singing, and the beginning of new friendships… there’s truly nothing like it.
I spent the first half of the day getting to know the other producers: Fanny Hultman, V-Ron, and Suzie Shinn. We’re all shocked that we’ve never worked together before, here we all are, producing and writing nearly every day: I had sort realized how many non-male creatives are absolutely crushing it right now, but we aren’t necessarily working together very often. Again the beautiful and competitive nature of the musician comes out and people are making four, five, even eight songs as the night goes on… an doesn’t seem to be ending. It is 1:45 a.m., the wine is flowing and we are all outside with acoustic guitars around a bonfire, writing a song, laughing and telling stories. I know I will be lulled to sleep by the late-late nighters, who will be playing until the sun rises. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
The final day at camp begins with a lazy breakfast and coffee. People are definitely moving a bit slower, as most of us were up until the sun rose working on songs and hanging out around the bonfire, but by noon the castle is pulsing with music. The day goes late into the night again, and everyone wrapped their Danish adventure of music, mayhem, joy, new friendship, and creative love affairs. A sad end to a glorious condensed four day event that really has never happened before in our industry. This beautiful idyllic castle we called home for our musical dream vacation in the lush rolling hillsides of Denmark is truly what fairy tales are made of, inspired and sirene. And it turns out…girls/women/non-males really CAN make smash hit records…but I think we already knew that.
THE CAST OF PRODUCERS:
MNDR is a Grammy Award-winning producer, artist, songwriter & multi-instrumentalist whose credits include Mark Ronson, Calvin Harris, Charli XCX, Santigold, Sophie, Tokimonsta, Flume, Louis the Child and others. As a member of the Web3 community, MNDR has been a part of recent releases including her collaboration with RAC, “Ether.”
Singer-songwriter-actress Tayla Parx is co-writer of three Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles: “Love Lies” by Khalid and Normani, “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande, and “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco. Her songwriting contributions to Grande’s “Thank U, Next” album and Justin Bieber’s “Justice” have earned her two Grammy nominations.
Producer-engineer-multi-instrumentalist Veronica Vera (aka V-Ron recently produced Alicia Keys’ “Billions (Unlocked)” executive produced UMI’s debut album. She has also worked with Lil Nas X, Lucky Daye, Davido, Dora Jar, and more.
Singer-songwriter Bibi Bourelly has co-written Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “Higher,” Demi Lovato’s “Anyone,” Nick Brewer’s “Talk to Me,” among many others. She is also featured on Lil Wayne’s “Without You” and Usher’s “Chains.”
Producer Suzy Shinn has recently worked with Weezer, Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco, among others.
Grammywinning songwriter Trey Campbell has worked with Giveon, John Legend, H.E.R. Skip Marley, Ella Mai and others.