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Women In Tech: Agnes Chung On AI, Metadata And Gender Politics

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The technology sector has experienced gender imbalance since the time the industry came into existence. In a series of articles, The Music Void will be introducing women leaders in tech.

 

The latest article on MusicTech highlighted the key issues, such as the scarce work opportunities for women and non-binary producers and engineers, revealed by the Fix the Mix report. The data was extracted from the bulk of 1100 songs featured on Grammy-winning albums, Spotify and leading Top-50 charts. According to the statistics, only 11.2 per cent of women and non-binary people are credited on top releases. While this number applies to electronic and folk music, other genres such as metal have 0 per cent of credits attributed to these groups.

Just as women sound engineers and producers, women leaders in the tech industry have been under-represented, overshadowed by their male counterparts. Yet, many have start-ups and do jobs that require very specific tech skills. As one of our interviewees, PiL’s bassist Jah Wobble said, “Women are better with tech, in my experience, more patient and actually more capable with being logical”.

Hamburg-based Agnes Chung is a senior director of AI & Search at musicube by Songtradr. “David Hoga and I founded musicube in 2019”, Chung tells The Music Void. “We saw there was a lot of metadata where AI could be useful. So this is a very specific view on AI because we see it as a supportive rather than a creative tool. We view AI as a supportive system”.

As a B2B business, musicube assisted labels, publishers and distributors who possess a huge music catalogue and don’t know what kind of music they have there. The company developed and trained an AI so it could identify the mood and genre of songs, thus creating a transparent structure.

“In the meantime, we got acquired by Songtradr, a company dealing with licensing, a B2B platform, and, therefore, we are now developing and training the AI for their catalogue”, says Chung. “But we still have the opportunity to suggest our customers or clients to use our API or just to send us audio files”.

With a degree in musicology and computer science, Agnes Chung has been an expert in metadata and has explored the connection between data and music for more than 15 years. Yet, she admits that awkward gender politics sometimes distract people from one’s achievements. “My first panel was in 2017, and I had been asked by a host to join a discussion on metadata just because they needed a woman among speakers”, Chung tells The Music Void. “By then, I’d been working on metadata for several years, so I definitely had expert knowledge. But somehow, the first question was not “Oh, you are an expert in
metadata, can you join us?” as they needed a woman on stage in the first place”.

Chung adds: “I think it’s definitely getting better though and it’s definitely encouraging for other women to see women panellists at the conferences tackling tech-related topics. That’s why I always participate when they invite me, no matter how they formulate it”.

Profile

Agnes Chung co-founded musicube with David Hoga in December 2019 to revolutionise music discovery. More than 15 years as a project manager in the music industry (including at PHONONET and MPN) have shown her that there is much more to music discovery. Together with her team, she is uncovering the relationship between data and music and is training her own artificial intelligence so that any question about music could be answered with the right playlist.

More information about Songtradr and musicube on their respective profiles here and here.

Author

  • Irina Shtreis

    Irina Shtreis is a music writer, researcher and musician. Her byline has appeared in British publications such as MOJO magazine, The Quietus and Louder Than War. Irina has been a news editor of the latter since 2020.

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