A conversation with Carrie Caulfield Arick, founder of Yaya podcasting.
According to Soundgirls and Women’s Audio Mission, women working in professional audio make up just 5% of all audio engineers. Edison Research showed that women represent 46% of the overall listeners. So, why are there not more women in the audio production field? According to an Atlantic article, Terri Winston, the executive director of WAM, says she believes women don’t go into audio partly because of how young girls are first exposed to technology. When women don’t play with tools or learn to build things as children, they can lack interest or confidence in using those skills as adults. “It’s not just our industry,” Winston tells me.
“We have a very serious problem in this country in how we socialize women in technology and in leadership positions in general.”
Despite the gloomy numbers, podcasting has opened doors for women entering technology and there is a large demand for audio editing and audio production jobs. The industry is slowly changing.
Often women have a DIY approach when it comes to learning the ins and out of audio production. As a result, many women learn on the fly without going through traditional technology school to learn how to use the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) more efficiently.
To learn more about how women can become a professional audio editor and some of the challenges they might face, we are talking today with Carrie Caulfield Arick, the founder of Yaya Podcasting.
Carrie, Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m firstly a mom to a special needs teen and wife to an incredibly patient and supportive husband. And I have a lot of cats I’ve spoiled enough to think I’m always talking to them. We live in a quirky Delaware beach town. I love stories. I love history. I love orating. I love yoga pants. And I enjoy playing video games like Call of Duty.
I founded YaYa Podcasting in 2018. We create an uncommonly good sound for brands and the professionals that serve them. I’d love to say there’s a great origin story, but I enjoyed post/production enough that I wanted to try to get paid for doing it.
Now, I’m also in awe that we are architecting a booming multi-million dollar podcast editing industry. There so many pieces I’m honored to be a part of shaping.
How did you start working in the podcasting industry?
My dad brought home a collection of old radio programs on tape when I was a kid. I wore them out. There was nothing like that on the radio at the time and it fascinated me. Then I discovered NPR as a teen and I was hooked on the stories. Fast forward to my 30s, I remember distinctly listening to Science Friday one day while running errands. Ira Flatow was talking about something called podcasts. He explained it really well, so I downloaded iTunes.
Then I found a scrapbooking podcast— it blew my mind that there was a show devoted to my hobby. I listened to it every weekend religiously for about 2 years and my dream was to be a guest. I was gutted when the host announced she was retiring the show. So, while lamenting the loss to a friend, she suggested I pick up the torch. I didn’t hesitate saying YES! I launched the DigiScrap Geek in 2014 (now retired) and it set me on this course.
How did you become a podcast nerd?
It’s the mindset, partly: Curiosity and an understanding the more you learn, the less you know.
I’ve also curated some incredibly smart, amazingly helpful friends in a variety of niches.
I’m part of a mastermind. Nerds need other nerds. A business podcast would call them a Board of Advisors.
And I’ve invested money into some form of education each year. I’ve done Elsie Escobar’s E-League a few times. I’ve done Business Fabulous with Bonnie Frank. I’ve gone to conferences and taken workshops. I’m currently enrolled in Stony Brook University’s Audio Podcast Fellows program. A couple of friends thought I could teach that program, but the truth is while there’s a lot I know, the fellowship is already filling in gaps that I didn’t even know existed. And I got to talk to Ira Glass.
What does it take to become a podcast audio editor?
Anyone can learn the tech part. You can learn how to remove ums. But to edit professionally and do it well, you need to understand how people communicate with sound to convey a story.
to edit professionally and do it well, you need to understand how people communicate with sound to convey a story.
Subtext, pacing, biological stress responses… You need to learn to listen like a listener, a storyteller, a critic, a musician, and a linguist or sociologist.
That kind of listening comes from practice. Listening to more highly produced shows like This American Life helps. They leave in more imperfections than the average indie podcast. If you really break it down, those imperfections heighten your engagement with the content. That’s a difficult skill to learn and even harder to explain to a client why you edited that way. But it works.
What is the job of an audio editor?
In podcasting, an audio editor cuts and refines the dialogue and, with the help of a producer ideally, shapes the story. An editor then assembles all the audio elements into a podcast episode. During this process, they may do some audio engineering or ‘mixing’ and/or some sound design (adding musical elements and sound effects). The term ‘podcast editor’ is what we usually use as a catch all for the editing, mixing, sound design and even the producer role– where you make content and story decisions.
There’s no standard on the scope of work. And in larger production houses– like Gimlet or NPR– the audio editing is part of the assistant producer role. But the production process is different altogether and you work with a larger team to produce content.
How different is it from an audio engineer?
An audio engineer is usually formally trained with a heavy emphasis on engineering music. Those who have learned the audio engineering involved with the spoken word call themselves ‘podcast engineers.’ That sits somewhere between formally trained and practical education with an understanding of engineering sound for podcasts specifically.
What has been your biggest challenge as an audio editor in this male-dominated industry?
Then there’s a technical language barrier and it’s used to push non-male people out of the industry. Not knowing the jargon when you’re starting out isn’t a gender thing. It’s human. But women routinely get made to feel like idiots publicly for not knowing the tech/speak (even though men didn’t always know it either).
It never fails: a woman asks about making the ‘volume even,’ for instance, and she’s humiliated for not saying ‘gain’ or ‘levels’ or not knowing about compression. It shuts women up, shuts them out. This may lead to them giving up because it’s too exhausting to learn when you’re being shamed for it.
For everyone one of those women posting, there’s many more lurking, hoping for an answer. We lose them thanks to misogyny, too, no doubt. I’ve heard horror stories from every sector of the audio industry. It’s tough. And even though Podcast Editing is more progressive, it’s still something women face daily.
That’s why Jennifer Longworth, Emily Prokop and I created Just Busters: Because women literally were not asking questions they needed to ask. We couldn’t talk about our craft without shame. And even with an all-female group, we still need reminding that it’s okay to be new at this.
Note from the editor: Perhaps one of the reasons technology is pushing women out is because, in the first place, audio technology was traditionally designed by white males. As an audio editor myself, I feel that if women were designing audio products from scratch they probably will be more intuitive and user-friendly.
Interested in becoming a professional audio editor? We have something for you. Take a look at the audio editing workshops we are offering, all led by women.
Any tips for any woman looking at breaking into audio editing?
So many! Start a podcast, if you haven’t already. Nothing will help understand a client’s true needs better than walking in their shoes.
Then, put yourself out there and show off not only your skills but your understanding of content creation. From being helpful in Facebook groups to how-to videos on IGTV.
Invest in your skills. There are learning opportunities at every price point. Go to conferences, virtual events, and follow industry newsletters and listen to podcasts. Part of your yearly budget should be dedicated to learning your craft and improving your business skills.
Finally, have a website where you have all your basic contact info, a place to book a call (Calendly is a great, free, easy to use scheduling app), and a portfolio to show off your work. Keep it simple, clean at first. It can grow with you.
Speaking of portfolios, you can easily record a short, clip of a mock podcast episode and edit it. You can also use clips from your own podcast episodes.
Oh, and listen to the Podcast Editors Mastermind. We cover all of this on our podcast! This is a great resource for anyone interested in becoming an audio editor.
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