In our Synthfluencers series, we go behind the camera to meet some of the biggest YouTubers and content creators in the world of music technology. This month, we spoke to the Finnish producer, musician and Ableton expert behind the popular channel LNA Does Audio Stuff.
It’s no secret that the world of music production has a problem with gender balance. Study after study has highlighted the degree to which women have been excluded from the professional recording studio, and it’s been estimated that women and non-binary people make up only five percent of the wider music tech industry.
However, the past two decades have seen music production become vastly more accessible: now that anybody with a laptop can make music at home, bedroom producers and independent artists have begun to balance the scales, and platforms like YouTube and Twitch have provided a space for female content creators to reclaim music production as an endeavour that belongs to us all.
Leading that charge is Liina Turtonen, the producer, musician and YouTuber behind the channel LNA Does Audio Stuff. Dedicated to helping her viewers develop their skills and unleash their creative potential, Liina makes engaging and accessible videos that provide expert advice on everything from stock plugins to song arrangement.
While the core of her content is focused on tuition in Ableton Live, Liina’s channel has seen her live-stream the challenge of creating an album in a week, tour a professional mastering studio, and even walk the red carpet for the MPG Awards. Liina is a solo artist, too: releasing sparkling synth-pop under the name LNA, she illuminates the production process behind her music through in-depth tutorials.
We caught up with Liina to find out more about her journey towards becoming a synthfluencer, her affinity for Ableton and the challenges she’s faced as a woman in the music tech industry.
How did you get involved with music tech and music production initially?
“I have done music all my life, starting with violin at the age of five and going to music oriented schools. This meant years of choirs, orchestras and music-filled days all the way to my twenties. But this was mostly just classical music. I am originally from Finland, but when I was 21 years old, I went travelling and found myself in Glasgow.
“I worked in underground bars and clubs, where I was introduced to the world of electronic music. Suddenly I felt like I found music that I could relate to. I am neurodivergent, which means that some of the rules of classical music world did not really suit me, and I never felt like I suited it. But after seeing electronic musicians express a level of freedom and exploration in their music-making, I was instantly hooked.
“Another thing that made me excited about music tech and production was how suddenly it felt easy to me. I was really bad at school and as a dyslexic girl, STEM subjects were never something that was encouraged, and never even felt like a possibility for someone like me. So early on in life I created an identity of someone who would never be good at tech, as I truly believed I was not capable of it.
“That is why, when I found my new passion in Glasgow, I got curious about it and applied to study it at a university. Around five years ago I graduated with a Masters degree in music production from The University of York, and it has been my whole life since then. I proved to myself that the identity the school system and the world made me build for myself was not true at all, and actually, I am very much a STEM nerd. And I love every bit of it.”
Can you tell us about how you got started as a creator/influencer?
“After I graduated from my degree, I worked as tech assistant for a music retailer and then as a music production lecturer at Leeds Conservatoire. During these jobs, I realised how few women were doing very detailed and advanced music production tutorials. I felt like this was something I could do, so I took out my iPhone 6 and iMovie and I started filming.
“The first year of my YouTube was hit and miss, but I decided to post once a week, no matter what. Posting so regularly made me learn what type of content I want to post and what works for my followers. I posted once a week without fail for 3 and half years, making it my full-time career.”
What obstacles have you faced as a woman finding a path in the traditionally male-dominated sphere of music production and music technology?
“Nothing I have received in my career in audio (the initial idea of starting to study it, the knowledge, opportunities, connections, or earning enough money to make it a full-time career) has come to me without a constant surprise, work, courage or a fight. As a child, I never thought I could do technology or that I would be good at it.
“As a neurodivergent girl, STEM topics were automatically unavailable for me, not because someone told me so, but because the world made me think I would never be good at them. It took years of exploring, courage and practice to prove to myself that I can be a technical person, that I can learn it and I can even make it my career. So none of this was obvious, and even nowadays I struggle believing I am good enough for opportunities and that I deserve the work I receive.
“The biggest obstacles I have experienced otherwise is the constant need to prove to others, and myself, daily that I am capable in my work. For example, going into university and being one of the two women in the space of 15 men, it took courage to speak out or be the one going to the mixing desk in a class, instead of hiding at the back. This courage, and the energy it requires, is exhausting and often uncomfortable. It takes my whole headspace, taking power from the actual work as a music producer, or my learning and artistry.
“This takes us to my professional life, where I have on purpose decided to work often by myself instead of collaborating or working in studios with others. Sadly, this means I do less networking and get less opportunities, as I am not showing up to the industry spaces. Now with more confidence in my skills and the understanding that I do not always have to prove myself to others, I have started to reach towards more collaborations and working in bigger studios. But only with people whom I know or with whom I am sure I will feel comfortable enough to fully focus on the work.
“I also do feel like this same issue relates to my YouTube channel. As a woman, who is also relatively feminine, I understand there is an unconscious bias when people choose which videos to watch. It is something that is ingrained to all of us. When I see a man talking about audio in a serious tone, there is automatically more credibility in his speech, making me trust that the information is correct and high level. When you then compare that to someone like me, who is girly in my mannerisms and how I look, I need to really prove that the information is high level.
“This shows in my video comment sections, where often people are surprised how much I know or that I am even doing tutorials. They did not expect me to deliver that level of education or know the topics on such a deep level, or they often think I do videos only for beginners or younger people. Therefore, I do believe this reflects in my subscriber amount and views, limiting how fast I can grow as a creator and what opportunities I will receive.
“Again, it is possible that some men feel similar things and some women do not relate to my experiences. This is why, it could be more beneficial if this discussion would be more about masculinity and femininity in the industry, rather than about women and men. This would then also include the experiences of other gender minorities and the obstacles they face in the industry. There are certain understandings on what we relate to masculine representation and what we consider part of being feminine. For example, I found that after shaving my hair off I was treated differently in studio spaces, compared to now when I have longer hair.”
What do you believe needs to change in order to improve gender equality within music technology and the music industry?
“We should focus more on audio spaces, making them comfortable, accessible and open for everyone regardless of their gender or representation. People in authoritative positions need to be the ones taking action and take responsibility that these places change and stay kind and accessible. This makes sure that everyone can focus on the job and creativity, not being scared or needing emotional energy just to exist in the space.
“Audio spaces should be open for vulnerability and those “stupid questions” regardless of your gender. The “macho” culture in audio, where we compete on who knows the most and who has the best gear, does not benefit anyone, it only takes away from our confidence and creativity. And it makes it extremely unapproachable for those people who come from feminine identity, or the people who have never even thought they could do STEM-subjects before.
“This battle for equality is not only for women and other gender minorities to fight, but it is everyone’s responsibility. Together we can make a positive change. In the past couple of years, there has already been a major shift in the industry for the better, and I am sure we will see a more diverse industry in the years to come.”
Do you have a ‘day job’ alongside running your channel? If so, is it difficult to balance the two?
“I have now been doing content creation and music production as my full-time career for three years. In the early days of the channel I worked part-time as a music production lecturer at Leeds Conservatoire. I was scared to take the leap at the time, but it was fully worth it, as now I am doing my dream job every single day.
“Alongside my YouTube channel, I also work as a sound designer for different companies, such as the Tin Arts dance company. I create and perform my own music, I work as a producer and songwriter for other artists, I run a beautiful Patreon community, I am an Ableton Certified trainer leading workshops, courses and lectures, and I have been writing my debut book for Routledge, which will come out in the next year.”
Walk us through the production process behind your new single, Runway.
“Runway came from a fun challenge my friend gave me. She is a massive Eurovision fan, so she wanted me to enter the Finnish Eurovision song contest in 2023. I had four days before submission and I happened to be in a pub waiting for a friend. So I took out my laptop, ordered a beer and sketched Runway in one hour.
“The track was intentionally made very Eurovision-sounding, whilst focusing on my unique sound as an artist. The next four days I created the whole track, recorded the vocals and did a quick pre-mix and master. Runway was not sadly selected by the judges, but I loved the track and wanted to release it anyway. The next couple of months I worked on it some more, adding details and grafted it properly. It ended up being a fun, empowering, bilingual EDM tune that has plenty of power.
“The track is different from some of my other work, but I wanted to practise letting my artistry take the direction it wants, without thinking about what my brand should be. The whole process took only four days to make it - I think it was so quick because I was just enjoying the process and letting the outcome happen, without controlling it too much.
“For so many years I tried to find my place on YouTube and the music industry, putting pressure to come across a certain way or make music that people would accept. None of this made me feel more fulfilled as an artist, but more nervous and creatively blocked. Now I want to focus on making content and music that I truly enjoy making, that inspires me and makes me feel something, without focusing on others opinions. This thought is fitting, as this is what Runway is all about: the confidence to be 100% yourself in the judging eyes (and ears) of others.”
What’s the most challenging thing about being a synthfluencer?
“I was going to say that it is all the hate comments you get, but actually I don’t think that’s on top. The hardest part is not letting the industry or the comments affect your creative decisions or your confidence in yourself. Being this exposed to others all the time can make you very self-conscious as a person and an artist. It can easily make you question yourself as a person, your personality or how you look.
“In the past four years of me doing this, I have burned out from being under the pressure of posting every week, and feeling like everything I have created is worth nothing if my subscriber amount does not grow as much as someone else’s. The constant feedback from the statistics of YouTube is the hardest thing to experience. It can feel like a constant measurement of your value, but in fact, it has nothing to do with reality.
“I have needed to work on myself, to work on how I deal with validation and learn to define the word “success” clearer. Now I am in a place where these aspects of the job do not control my life anymore. I have found balance and ways to manage my mental health, focusing on what brings me happiness and what success really means to me.”
What’s your favourite video that you’ve ever made?
“It is hard to pick from them as I have many favourites, but I think doing the 12 Days Of Creativity video series last December was one of the most challenging but rewarding experiences. I made a track in 12 steps and challenged others to do it as well during December - you can still do it now if you want. It was overwhelming to see how many people had fun with it, found it inspirational and finished a track in just a couple of weeks! I also made a track I wish to work on some more and hopefully release this year.”
What’s your favourite video that another creator has made?
“Alice Yalcin Efe’s video on ‘How to Recreate Any Sound’ is so brilliant!”
You’re an avid user of Ableton Live. What is it that you like about this DAW?
“I love how it has endless possibilities. Already Ableton Live is geared well for anyone using just default devices and packs, without needing to buy too many external plugins. But with Max for Live integration, Live becomes this hub of creativity with endless possibilities for production, live performance and sound design.
“Just recently I have been exploring interactive sound design options, and for example, with M4L plus conductive materials like copper tape, I have been able to create systems that enable a dancer to create sound with movement. That is why, with Live, the excitement comes from the fact that the more you know about it, the more you realize how much more there is to know.”
What are your top three plugins?
“I have recently been enjoying the Baby Audio plugin bundle. Comeback Kid and TAIP are brilliant - I like them all, but those two are in every project I have. From Roland Cloud I love using Juno-106. It just sounds amazing.”
What’s the last bit of gear you bought that absolutely blew your mind?
“I recently bought the Nord Drum 3P drum synth, it’s a brilliant and simple piece of gear. I am not a drummer, but this allows me to interact with rhythm and drums outside the box in an organic and interactive way. I also love using it for creating bass lines, lifts and drops.”
If you had to get rid of everything in your studio forever except three pieces of gear, what would you choose and why?
“First one to stay would need to be my Ableton Push 2. I have loved it since I first got one a long time ago, and it’s the most-used piece of equipment in my studio. I use it for production, live performance and sound design work. I am so obsessed that I even wrote my masters dissertation about it and how it affects our creativity.”
“Secondly, I need to keep my violin. It is over 100 years old and it used to belong to my grandfather and his father. My Genelec studio monitors are definitely staying. They are a relatively new addition to my setup but they have opened my eyes to completely new possibilities in studio monitoring and the accuracy of hearing music. Absolutely in love with them.”
What developments, inventions or new products in music technology are you excited for in 2023 and beyond?
“I am currently very interested in interactive interface design and anything that improves HCI (Human-computer interaction) design. I feel like in recent years, for example, MPE technology has been integrated in many more devices, creating new possibilities for expression and the improvement of our creative workflows.
“I think this year we will see some new and exciting developments in the area. I would like to see faster ways to connect between devices and the computer so that our workflow doesn’t get disrupted by the opening of apps, routing and setup. There is plenty of direct integration already happening with Ableton Live, but I would like to see how this can be developed and improved further.”
What advice would you give to anybody looking to get into becoming a creator/influencer within the music tech space?
“If you start sharing content online, make sure to share it because you absolutely love doing what you do in the video. Do not share it for validation, but to share your excitement with others. Also, generally, quality over quantity is always better, but sometimes you need to do quantity so you know what quality looks like. So be patient and kind to yourself in the process.”
What are your plans for the channel in 2023?
“This year is going to be a bit different for myself and my channel. Firstly I am focusing on educational content to be taught through my own music and artistry. This allows me to focus more on my passions, whilst sharing the authentic process to my followers. I am also going to get more into hardware synths and modular synthesis. I have spent so many years in the box, but now it is time to lose all my money and dive further into the world of knobs and cables. Very excited about this!”