Front And Center: Daniella Peters, Director of Sales and Management at Rat Sound Systems Inc and SoundGirls Productions
By Justine Souchack
While she didn’t start her career in audio, Daniella Peters has proven herself to be a true music industry professional as the current director of sales and management at Rat Sound System, a sound equipment provider. In addition to that, Daniella is helping others grow their careers in audio as the co-founder of SoundGirls Productions. This nonprofit gives both women and men—and primarily young girls—opportunities is sound engineering by allowing them to shadow veteran engineers during a gig.
Daniella explains, “We’ve had over eight jobs so far, and it has been amazing in giving young women the opportunity for hands-on experience, as well as getting paid!” In this week’s Front & Center, Daniella talks about her passion for helping women in music and her work in both SoundGirls Productions and Rat Sound System.
For more information, check out her website.
The WiMN: You have worked in both the fashion industry and music—how have the two helped each other?
DP: Both industries are very similar in the ways they involve tight deadlines, managing expectations, keeping a cool temperament and attention to detail. Managing last minute changes, difficult personalities with diplomacy and calm is something that you learn in either one, but can transfer to the other.
On a larger scale organizing events for the fashion and non-profit industries was somewhat of a base for starting SoundGirls Productions. For several years, I was frequently asked by girlfriends producing the charity and fashion events what they’d need sound wise, and they’d always send me down to supervise the audiovisual part. I suddenly realized, why aren’t I actually providing audio myself? So I bought a small system and rented it out for the gigs I was attending anyway. It was wonderful for the organizers to be able to hire a woman, for these women based events.
A few years later, when Karrie Keyes (SoundGirls/Monitor Engineer for Pearl Jam) were brainstorming one evening and asked me if Rat Sound ever had smaller gigs that they were unable to do, could we maybe have SoundGirls do them? I told her about the charity gigs I was doing in LA and she thought they were a perfect fit, so we incorporated, and SoundGirls productions was born. Our goal is to provide a professional sound system rental to the client while providing work to engineers. Client willing, we pair an intern with the veteran engineer to give valuable support to the engineer and on the job experience for the intern.
The WiMN: How do you balance working in music, fashion and with nonprofits?
DP: Good question. It took me a while to find that balance and now, I feel I have figured a way that the non-profit work can be a wonderful way to contribute to the greater good, my social life too, and it can also be a perfect complement to the work we do with Rat Sound and Soundgirls Productions. I love women’s friendship and have met some incredible human beings who became my best friends doing nonprofit work. I also realized that a lot of nonprofits do fundraising events, so to help a nonprofit save money by providing either my services or other services I have access to for these events goes back into the pocket of the charity. It’s a win-win.
About a year ago, I felt burnt out. We all need to reevaluate at times and I realized it was because I was not doing a great job of work/life balance. On the outside, everything looked ok, but I still felt off, overwhelmed and edgy. Now I realize that maybe when we feel something is off, it’s because it is. I knew it was time to let go of certain things. After a lot of quiet reflection, I resigned from a couple of creative projects that I had had big dreams for, but in reality, were just costing me money and time. Funny thing is the minute I decided to give them up, within a day, the first job for SoundGirls Productions came through. I really feel there was something divine in the timing for that. SoundGirls Productions are both creative, philanthropic and were focused in the goal of giving the opportunity to all genders starting out in their careers in audio. It ticked all the boxes of the things that I thought I was going to be losing, who knew that it was just the start of something new?
The WiMN: What is it like working large festivals such as Coachella versus smaller events?
DP: Oh wow, on the outside so completely different. But then the lessons one learns on big gigs gives you the tools to troubleshoot anything that comes up on a smaller gig.
Coachella is such an incredible production and I am so grateful to have been able to play a part over the years though Rat Sound’s role as Sound Systems Provider. It’s truly an incredible festival. We have seen it grow from a small festival to the giant production it is now and it has been amazing to watch the insane attention to detail that the festival has from a production standpoint, it is run like a well-oiled machine.
But back to the big gigs versus small events; one thing I have realized over the years is that the reality (actually doing a job) is very different from the fantasy (what you imagine the job entails). I always thought it would be so amazing to work in production for large acts and travel the world. The actual reality is my personality is as such that I love consistency and structure in my life. I like to know when my next paycheck is coming, I love the home, family life and so the non-stop travel and intensity of being on the road is not something I particularly wish to do. The managerial side of Rat Sound and the SoundGirls Productions events in LA is more my speed, mostly because I love the people involved and I’m truly grateful for that gift.
The WiMN: Tell us about SoundGirls, how did you get involved?
DP: Karrie Keyes and Dave Rat gave me my job with Rat Sound over 17 years ago and I’ve been friends with Karrie ever since. In 2010, I had asked Karrie to come and speak on a panel for young women at a music career day at the Roxy Theatre in LA that I was hosting for the teen girls of LA non-profit Step Up Women’s Network. Shortly after that, Karrie had also just spoken on a women’s panel at AES and, over dinner, she asked me what I thought about creating such a similar organization for young women to network but with a focus on audio. She went for it. And with her focus and passion, she has truly touched a lot of women. Karrie, Tiffany Hendren (co-director) and Kirsty Gillmore (European co-director) of SoundGirls do an incredible job of providing education, support, and training to young women.
The WiMN: Have you ever felt discrimination for being a woman in your field?
DP: We are definitely the minority and get treated differently both in good and bad ways. That being said, no matter which industry you work in, there are going to be those who may rub you the wrong way, or talk down to you, I have had that happen from both men, and women. I have done a lot of work on trying to not take anything too personally. There are appropriate ways to handle most things in life and the right time presents itself in most cases. In our industry good relationships are key and I will do my utmost to nurture those relationships as that is where my next client or vendor may come from. You are going to gel who you gel with, and enjoy working with some more than others. Find your tribe who have your back and stick with them. Then you can handle with integrity and calm anything that comes at you for the rest of your life.
The WiMN: Do you have any advice for women looking to work in audio?
DP: Let’s see… Say yes to every opportunity! My first job came from running an errand to drop off an amplifier at a company and I found out that person was hiring for a receptionist! I went to any lengths to get that job—even though I felt I was overqualified at the time. It was very first my break into the music industry.
Be patient. It’s not always easy. There are times in my career I thought I’d be the lowest on the totem pole forever doing menial work in various aspects of the music industry just to make money. One day just rolled into the next, and I was getting rejections with every application I sent out. One day, out of the blue, I was given my first real break and I took it. it just takes one person to say yes. I read in a book one time by the author Cheryl Strayed, where she says “The useless days will add up to something. The shitty jobs. The hours of writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels. These things are your becoming.” That seems to be my story.