The world of music production is notoriously male dominated, so it’s refreshing to hear about women who have made it to the top. Mandy Parnell is one of a relatively small number of women to have scaled the heights of the technical side of the industry. Working from her studio in East London, she has been nominated for a Music Producer’s Guild award, which insiders describe as the “technical Grammys”. Amongst the more esoteric projects she has worked on are Björk’s Digital exhibition which involved heavy use of immersive, 360 degree and 3D music videos.
“You put lots of men in a studio and it’s that ‘Who’s going to be top dog?’ pack mentality. You’ve got to be able to deal with that. I’ve found that I needed to understand technology a lot more than some of my peers. I’d get a producer really challenging me on a technical level, yet they’d want to talk about the football [with the male engineers].”
Parnell identifies the plethora of playback devices people use as one of the main challenges in modern mastering: how to make a track sound good on everything from streaming to a mobile phone. “We have Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, Tidal – they’re all doing very different things to the audio in terms of compression,” she says, which in turn affects the depth and scale of what you’re listening to. “There’s a lot of distortion out there.” But ultimately her advice is one that all great mastering engineers understand. “If the emotional intention of the music gets across, it shouldn’t matter what we listen to it on”. Take Bob Marley’s Jammin: “It doesn’t matter how you play it, where you play it, on what system: it just works.”
Wise words indeed.