Platoon’s senior manager of artist strategy, Grace Hsiu, has told Music Week that “the percentage of women in the engineering and producer world is shockingly low”.
In an interview to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, Hsiu has opened up about plans to challenge the lack of racial and gender diversity in the music industry – particularly in the world of production – with Platoon’s new studios.
Platoon have opened their studios in London and LA to offer artists spaces to book and engineers to work with for free. Artists do not have to pay a recording fee, nor are there any extra costs in their contract.
The London studio is run by an all-women diverse engineer team, something that Hsiu explains is key to the ethos of the company.
Here, Music week talks to Grace Hsiu about the concept of the studios, diversity in the music industry and upcoming artists…
First off, what makes your studios unique? How are they different from other studios?
“We're focused on two things: a curated roster of amazing artists; and building a strong community around this roster that encourages each of them to tell their individual story, not be afraid to experiment and take risks, and ultimately build their brand. Our studios were built with that ethos in mind. The London studio in particular houses all creative elements under one 8,000 square foot roof: recording studios, content capture studio, writing rooms, a podcast room, artist lounges and more. It's essentially a tool and service for any of our artists to use the spaces – whether it is recording music, doing a photo shoot or a live session, a writing camp or whiteboarding their campaign strategy – and not stress about cost.”
How did the concept of the studio come about?
“Having the Platoon Studios has always been in the plan from the jump. The year after Platoon was founded in London, we were able to commandeer Mark Ronson's studio which led us to build our own flagship London studio. Seeing the success and value of our London studio is why we opened the Studio House in LA and partnered with studios in South Africa. The environment that we aim for in the studios, on our production sets and at our offices is collaboration, respect and execution driven results.”
The London studio has an all-women, diverse engineer team, is this key to the concept of Platoon?
“Absolutely. We made it a mission to do our part in balancing the scales by first hiring female interns to our first London Studio, and then when our flagship studio opened, it was a natural progression to build a bigger team of diverse female engineers. This approach is also how our creative team is built as well – the majority of our creative team are female.”
In your opinion, does the industry provide enough support to women in production, a typically male-dominated sphere?
“No. There is a lot more work to be done. The first place this can happen is creating a more inclusive, friendly and inviting atmosphere for recording studios. Having a diverse team atmosphere where everyone is supporting the creative pursuit, but in a respectful, equal manner is what we need to rally for. Another example is on set for a photo or video shoot, where more often than not, the strongest personalities have come down to who can shout the loudest. Whether it is in the studio or on set, we make a conscious effort to not just have different voices in the room, but also make sure to hire women who are starting off in their careers so that they can have a good experience early on. Our A&R and marketing teams make it a priority to mentor the next class of women executives in music through internships and mentoring. As a woman who has worked in both male-dominated industries of music and tech for over 20 years, those early experiences of seeing a female executive lead a session, direct a shoot and make business critical calls were extremely formative for me.”
What thoughts do you have on ways that the industry can support gender diversity in creative, production and studios more? How can we create more safe spaces?
“For us, it starts with our own team. We are a racially and gender diverse team with the majority of the leadership team being female. Representation matters, and it says a lot that any female talent we work with – whether that's artists, engineers, producers, creative directors – can see that we ourselves prioritise gender and race diversity. This then extends to our collaborators and how we work with them.”
How do you plan to support diversity further looking ahead?
“We have always sought ways to be more inclusive and have strong female perspectives on our projects. Being a supportive senior leader and working with other supportive senior leaders allows Platoon to focus on mentoring new professional talent. We are currently planning a new initiative called She Runs The Boards for Autumn. These would be workshops in both LA and London focused on connecting developing female artists with established female producers, songwriters and engineers. Anything community building we’re very excited about.”
Who do you have working in the studios at the moment? What artists/producers? What releases are you most excited about?
“I’m really excited about Ayra Starr. Sage White, she's an incredible songwriter who has been working with one of our R&B artists in our LA Studio House. Sha Simone, a UK rapper, is also a talent on the rise just shot a live session of her project, Simma Down, at the Platoon London studio. Yunè Pinku, a London-based DJ who is working on her second project with us; and Yinka who is dropping her debut EP, Let’s Get Romantic, this Friday. In the Wellbeing music space, Jessica Skye, who is a House DJ and yoga teacher, just released her first single, Virgo Rising. And we have been working with an exciting Latin Kids artist, Tía Leah’s Neighborhood, who will be performing her new songs at the LA Times Festival of Books on April 22.”
And what do you provide your artists that other labels and studios might not?
“Studio access is huge for a lot of our artists as they are developing their sound and look. I often hear that the level of artist services that Platoon provides is unparalleled, and it goes back to how much we value working with emerging artists. But ultimately it’s our perspective – one of being heard – that is what matters to everyone.”
(L-R) Lizzie Arnold, Stella Massonnet, Maryna Beskorovayna and (seated) Ramera Abraham