Women in Pro Audio: Song Bookyeom Women in Pro Audio: Song Bookyeom...

In the world of live sound systems, the contributions of women in pro audio often go unnoticed. However, figures like Song Bookyeom are paving the way for future generations. Song, a general manager at Seoulsound in Korea, works as a front-of-house (FOH) engineer and monitor engineer for KPOP artists and handles broadcast music programs. Her story is an inspiring reflection of her passion, perseverance, and breaking barriers in such a male-dominated industry.

Early Inspirations and Career Beginnings

Song’s passion for audio engineering began with her love for music during her school days in Seoul. She recalls, “Back in school, I was just an ordinary girl who loved music. Visiting the broadcasting station and attending concerts was natural for me. I was fascinated by the professionals who worked hard on stage and at the FOH to prepare for excellent performances. They seemed so cool to me when I was young.”

Her dream to work in live sound solidified as she grew older. “I wanted to find a job that would make me happy. Suddenly, I thought of the people who do live sound at concerts and wanted to be one of them. Looking back now, I realize that this thought has shaped who I am today,” Song says.

Song started her career by attending a sound engineering school and joining the audio crew of a musical show through a friend’s introduction. “The teammates I met in the field are now my coworkers here at Seoulsound. Luckily, with their recommendations, I was able to start my internship here,” she shares.

Challenges in a Male-Dominated Industry

Working in the pro audio industry came with significant challenges for Song, especially as a woman. “Life in the field was far from what I had thought. It was a world with mostly males, and the workload intensity was not what I had expected. I had to do dangerous rigging work, handle cables the size of my calves, and manage V-DOSC loudspeakers, each two times heavier than myself,” she recalls.

Song also faced social isolation due to her inability to drink alcohol and the smoking habits of her colleagues. She shares a memorable experience: “I still vividly remember the day I attended the production meeting as the new project manager. Out of the twelve people at the table, I was the only female, and their gaze didn’t convey trust or condescension. It was filled with an awkwardness they hadn’t experienced before.”

Despite these challenges, Song has persevered, demonstrating resilience and determination. “The challenges have never come from the outside; they have always been within me. I trust myself and move forward. I’ve aimed for a sound that satisfies me. I’ve constantly contemplated, tried, and criticized myself,” she explains.

Song acknowledges the limited presence of women in the professional audio and technology sectors, particularly on the tech side. She attributes this disparity to historical and cultural factors: “Historically, this occupation hasn’t provided equal opportunities for women. Over the centuries, this term, which conveys professionalism, has expanded to include pro audio. It’s a culture where physical strength and capability of handling heavy equipment have been prioritized, and nobody wants to start conflicts.”

Industry Changes

Song highlights the impact of technological advancements: “The emergence of the line source array not only enhanced audio functionality but also reduced weight, streamlined stage design, and shortened setup times.” She believes these innovations have significantly reduced the job’s physical demands, making it more accessible. She also emphasizes that “the term ‘Engineer’ has been gender-neutral for quite some time,” indicating the industry’s gradual evolution.

However, Song points out, “There is not enough exposure and encouragement for women in the STEM industry.” Despite some progress, she acknowledges that “old social stereotypes and prejudices may still limit opportunities and equality.” She highlights the importance of female role models, noting, “Since female role models are scarce compared to males in this industry, it’s uncommon to see young women succeeding in the pro audio industry.”

Yet, Song remains optimistic, stating, “Individuals within the industry are working to improve prejudices and the environment, and many women are currently challenging themselves to join the pro audio industry.” She finds inspiration in the stories of female pro audio workers shared online, which “are becoming role models and providing courage to women worldwide, including myself.” Song expresses gratitude for initiatives like the L-Acoustics campaign focusing on female engineers, saying, “I am grateful for the L-Acoustics campaign focusing on female engineers.”

Overcoming Barriers and Pushing Forward

Song’s journey has been marked by moments of self-doubt and the temptation to give up. However, her love for live sound and the joy it brings her has always pulled her back. “I attended a concert by chance merely as an audience member. Honestly, I couldn’t fully immerse myself in the performance. It felt like watching my former team play a meaningful game after retiring as an athlete. I felt envious of the crew members working in the field,” she says.

Her determination to excel in her field is evident in her approach to overcoming obstacles. “Compared to before, I constantly ponder more. I anticipate various scenarios of problems and prepare ways to solve them. I don’t want to encounter barriers anymore,” she states.

Contributions and Future Aspirations

Song’s favorite part of her job is the sense of accomplishment after a successful performance. “My favorite part is unplugging the cables after the performance. We prepared a lot for a single performance, starting with pre-production and going through the setup period. When we finally unplugged the patch cables after successfully finishing the performance, it brought relief knowing we did a good job,” she shares.

Looking to the future, Song envisions a more inclusive and equal industry. “Regardless of background, I aim to create a tolerant, equal environment. This involves dismantling barriers of pre-existing systems, prejudice, and discrimination. I am confident that we can foster a more innovative and healthier industry by actively promoting diversity, tolerance, and initiatives and providing equal opportunities,” she asserts.

Advice for Aspiring Women in Pro Audio

Song offers valuable advice for women aspiring to enter the pro audio industry. “Don’t think of yourself as a woman. Don’t think you can’t do it because you’re a woman. Think of yourself simply as a person with this job,” she advises. She emphasizes the importance of communication skills, a strong mentality, and quick situation handling as key skills for success in the industry.

Her journey is a powerful example of overcoming societal and personal barriers to achieve one’s dreams. As Song continues to break new ground in the pro audio industry, she remains a beacon of inspiration for women worldwide.

To follow Song’s journey and connect with her, visit her Instagram page.

Read last month’s Women in Pro Audio interview here.