Omnii Collective’s Beautiful Work In The Audio World
This is a really exciting one! We had the greatest pleasure of chatting with the team at Omnii Collective to talk about the amazing work they do. What is that work you ask? Well, Omnii Collective answered that so beautifully that we’ll leave it to them… But we can definitely get on board with their goal of empowering non binary people and women in music, specifically in the audio and recording industry. Well, Omnii Collective answered that so beautifully that we’ll leave it to them…
First of all, it’s great to chat with you! Can you tell the readers a bit about Omnii Collective and what you do?
We are a non-profit organisation aiming to inspire women and non-binary sound enthusiasts to operate in all aspects of music production and audio. We have been running workshops since 2016 in studio engineering, production, mixing, mastering and live sound. Our goal is to break down barriers to accessing these careers, promoting accessible and welcoming environments for all gender-identities. We collaborate with organisations, universities, studios and venues who share a common goal of increasing the number of women, trans and non-binary working in technical aspects of music.
Why was Omnii Collective started, what is your goal?
We started Omnii Collective soon after we started working professionally in sound. We were doing Live Sound and could really feel that we were not the ‘normal’ sound engineer that people expected to see when they walked in. It was clear that it’s still surprising to some people.. even in London. Alongside the surprise, there can be a mistrust of ability. It can be exhausting to have to constantly prove yourself instead of having your ability be assumed.
At the same time it was obvious that lots of women and non-binary people (including ourselves at the beginning) have a huge lack of confidence in these fields. So we really wanted to help level the playing field by helping to increase confidence in other women and non-binary people who experience the same issues. To make a space that was friendly and open enough that people with no or little experience could come and not be afraid to learn and ask questions.
Our goal is to help shape an audio industry where everyone feels comfortable in spaces where audio careers operate. Such as studios – as assistants, engineers, producers or mixers, in venues doing live sound, doing sound checks as FOH or monitors. We want an industry where women and non-binary sound enthusiasts work is fully recognised and celebrated. Where they are given equal career opportunities as men. We want to democratise knowledge and empower people. Whilst we focus on gender inequality in sound, we believe in being intersectional and the need to continue to break down barriers for anyone who wants to get involved with these areas, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, class and ability.
Tell us a bit about each of the events that you run and what they look like.
For our Gain Change programme, we ran some workshops in studio engineering and some workshops in live sound. Our workshops are generally modelled around what we do when we get to work in these roles. So in the studio, we get an artist in and run a session. In the live workshops, we get a band in and run a soundcheck. We mix real-life hands-on experience in with the conversations about the more technical stuff, which includes everything from safety to signal flow.
In the live sound workshops, the ideal outcome is that everyone leaves feeling comfortable enough to run the sound for a small gig. In studio workshops, we make sure everyone gets hands-on and everyone has the opportunity to shape the recording. We also have events where professionals give their careers tips and masterclasses. I think the best bit of the workshops is the wide range of experience and insight that the participants have and the conversations this brings about during the sessions.
How can people get involved?
Like most things these days, it’s best to check in with us online! Our website (omniicollective.com) is constantly being updated with news of upcoming workshops and events. It also has an archive of interviews and features we’ve done with engineers and producers. Plus a free PDF download of our Zine – Figure of Eight – is on there too. Similarly, we’re always posting on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with news and updates. As a matter of fact, on Facebook, we also have our ‘Omnii Network’. This is a group we moderate for any women and non-binary sound enthusiasts in the music industry to join. It’s pretty great, actually, as people are always swapping tips and helping each other out. It’s a proper community.
I noticed you’re also working with the Roundhouse on their ‘Young Creatives’ initiative. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
We believe that it’s important to give young people who are perhaps unsure of what they want to pursue different opportunities to help them make decisions about their futures based on experiences. At the Roundhouse we’ll be working with 15-17-year-olds, so young people who are either in the process of making decisions concerning their development or who are close to doing that. We thought it’d be great to give this demographic a ‘taster’ of other careers that perhaps are not talked about in schools. The Roundhouse has a great programme for encouraging young people into the arts. And they have a proven record of helping young people express themselves and achieve their goals, so it was a no-brainer!
What has the reception been so far to your efforts at diversifying the audio and recording side of the music industry?
The reception continues to be really positive. We would say the feedback that means the most to us is from those we meet at our workshops who tell us how much they’ve gained from the environment. How they felt their voices were heard and felt comfortable asking questions. We have met people who say they wouldn’t have gained certain skills without the specific space provided to do so, or the role models to look up to. There’s also those we collaborate with; A range of engineers, producers, and others working in the music industry of all genders who have been an amazing support to us throughout this journey. Offering their skills, advice and solidarity.
There are always challenges that come with promoting this type of work. However, we welcome any criticism as an opportunity to challenge perspectives or continue to develop our work.
In recent years, the music industry has been very vocal about its support for women in music. But it’s important to acknowledge that there are still many challenges at grassroots and industry-wide levels. Whilst this support is a fantastic step forward, it leaves opportunities for women and non-binary people in music to be ‘tokenised’. There are still many people who don’t believe in equity in gender and music tech. AKA the idea that we must provide more opportunities in these fields for women and non-binary people to help level the playing field.
Do you feel like you’re making progress?
Most definitely! We can really feel the benefits of what we are doing. Being able to show another type of person in these roles is very powerful in itself. Participants can see that it is possible for them to do that too if they want to. It’s also been amazing forming a community around Omnii. We’ve met so many amazing people and collaborate with fantastic organisations such as Girls Rock London, WITCiH, Damudomi (Faroe Islands), fantastic studios and venues, and many more. The collaborations and inter-connectivity within the community continue.
We stay in touch with attendees of the workshops via our online forums where people can ask questions and share their work.
What would success look like for you? As in at what point would you be able to happily announce that Omnii Collective is no longer needed?
We will no longer be needed when there is no gender inequality in audio technology anymore. Unfortunately, until gender inequality ceases to exist altogether everywhere, it seems unlikely to happen in my lifetime. I know that sounds pretty doom and gloomy! A huge success would be for larger organisations with influence taking more responsibility in fighting gender inequality in all aspects of music. Another would be for young women and non-binary people in music to have belief and confidence in themselves to explore audio.
Our goals and successes constantly evolve… We wouldn’t say ‘when 50% of all sound engineers everywhere are women and non-binary people’ or similar. Because, not only would that data be really difficult to measure, we think that focusing just on providing that equality for people working ‘professionally’ in audio technology is pretty limiting, and puts the emphasis of what we do into training for a particular job, which I think misses the point. We’re interested in empowering people with skills and knowledge.
We already see success in what we do now as a grassroots organisation. All our workshops are completely free to attend, with a strong focus on making them completely accessible to all. I think that democratising our knowledge and making a platform for accessible free skill-sharing is the best bit of what we do. I can’t foresee a time under capitalism where that won’t be a radical thing to do.
What can each of us do to help you achieve that success?
Send people our way! If you are or know anyone who would benefit from our work, or who’d like to work with us, do get in touch. There is always something going on and there’s always work to be done! It’s also important to build a community (strength in numbers!) So if you know any collectives/organisations working in music towards a similar goal, we’d love to speak to them.
We can all help by accepting a responsibility to continue to empower those around us who are facing barriers to accessing audio industries. Or facing any kind of discrimination in these environments.
Inspired by this interview? We sure are! A few of the Music Gateway team are actually attending a Gain Change workshop very soon. If you’d also like to attend a workshop, make sure to check out Omnii Collective’s website. (Or social media channels!) In the meantime, be open in our marketplace and be part of the reason for the improvement of equality in the music industry! You too can support non-binary people and women in music.
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