Women In MusicTech #2 : Nathalie Birocheau, CEO Ircam Amplify
As music and sound are undergoing a digital revolution, Nathalie Birocheau co-founded and has been managing Ircam Amplify for the past two years. Ircam Amplify is an entity that provides industries with the fundamental learnings of the renowned Ircam – Institute for Research and Coordination of Acoustics and Music – founded in 1977 by Pierre Boulez.
This 36 years of age engineer started her career in a prominent consulting firm before joining Radio France, where she worked on revamping the Maison de la Radio and then on creating the global media franceinfo.
A Centrale-Supélec engineering school alumna now manages a dozen people whose mission is to answer the market’s needs in the field of sound and music innovation. Her clients include record companies, the film industry, insurance companies, the automotive industry as well as the luxury and retail sectors.
What is Ircam Amplify ?
Ircam - Institute for Research and Coordination of Acoustics and Music - is a world-renowned French institution. Attached to the Centre Pompidou, it has three main missions: pluridisciplinary research on music and sound, contemporary musical creation and sound professions training.
Ircam Amplify is the commercial subsidiary, created in 2019, with the aim of deploying and promoting the technologies and know-how developed within Ircam to industry. Whilst Ircam focuses on research and innovation, Ircam Amplify is oriented towards the needs of the market, the uses of its clients and the public at large.
There are very few women in top executive positions in the music industry!
I’m an engineer, I come from a rather technical and manly background so I’m used to it. Although the music industry is an important part of my activity, I also have to deal with other types of industries. There are even more male-dominated sectors like automobile or robotics, where you hardly see any women. Even if there has been progress in recent years, there are still many challenges to help the younger generations contemplate it as a career path. project themselves.
Although the music industry is an important part of my activity, I also (have to) deal with other (type of ) industries. There are even more male-dominated sectors like automobile or robotics, where you hardly see any women
To face these challenges, you have to open up to the world right?
Yes, as early as you can. It’s us adults’ responsibility to breathe into the younger generations the desire to learn and curiosity. I come from a family of three sisters and all of us are engineers! Our parents always urged us to have fun while learning maths and physics, whether we were having breakfast and during car trips or vacations. Explaining to a child how an airplane flies or why days are shorter in winter is physics, and it’s not boring, rather a way to understand how the world works. An open mind is an essential quality.
When you feel a topic seems way too complicated, you have to keep at it. Regardless of gender, any brain can understand how an algorithm works, even it may seem difficult at first.
Is it math that eventually lead you to the music tech industry?
My father used to tell me to “do math, this will help you at problem solving and understanding this world better!” STEM allows you to structure your thinking. I’m no longer working in a technical profession but this experience helps me tackle any challenges, come up with scenarios, have an analytical mind and ability to summarize enabling me to deal with a large number of topics in the same time and to make the best possible decisions at any given time. As an engineer, I always think in terms of finding solutions., which is fundamental in my day-to-day assignments.
You may doubt or question yourself, have a hard time because you’re the only woman in a meeting with 10 men who do not necessarily want to hear you saying you don’t see things in the same way than they do. In these situations, it’s very important to talk, look out for allies and support around you.
What advice would you give a young woman who wants to work in this industry?
Don’t be shy about finding support. You may doubt or question yourself, have a hard time because you’re the only woman in a meeting with 10 men who do not necessarily want to hear you saying you don’t see things in the same way than they do. In these situations, it’s very important to talk, look out for allies and support around you.
Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to rely on women supervisors who were very careful to make me feel like I belonged, that my voice was heard and respected. Some men have supported me too, and they have played an essential role in the overall equation. Sometimes you have to hustle in order to stand out, but when you are confident about yourself and what you bring to the table, dare to be bold!
You also have to listen. Don’t be afraid to go after people who are in this music industry, who have practical jobs, to understand what they do and what is at stake on their sector. Think about how you can be useful with your experience, your personality, your qualities and your flaws from there. Meet as many people as possible and forge your own solid opinion. This is what I was advised a few years ago when I asked myself these same questions.
Can we do better?
I am deliberately optimistic and convinced that every woman has a place in the music industry, and in the industry as a whole, technical professions included. Women bring a different outlook on things. I’m very mindful of mixing profiles in teams – especially in tech – that I set up within Ircam Amplify, because that is the key. We are talking about the balance between women and men, but it’s not only that: the more viewpoints you mix, the more diversity and different ways to see the world there are, the better we become.