Chlöe Bailey is best known as a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, but she’s proven just as talented on the boards, earning the Powerhouse Producer Award at the inaugural Girls Make Beats gala on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
In her acceptance speech, Bailey acknowledged the female music producers who paved the way for her, including fellow honoree Missy Elliott.
“Representation matters,” Bailey told the crowd assembled at the Avalon Hollywood, name-checking Elliott, Imogen Heap, Björk, Merrill Garbus and Grimes. “They showed me how to be a fearless woman and a badass producer all at the same time.”
Bailey also acknowledged the importance of organizations like Girls Make Beats, a nonprofit founded in 2012 to empower young women to become music producers, audio engineers and DJs.
“The honor is not one of a personal accomplishment. It is an honor because I know young girls and women need to see it before they believe it,” Bailey said. “It is because of you that hundreds of girls will get needed scholarships that will unlock previously sealed fastened shut doors to their future.”
(More specifically, the organization’s goal for the inaugural gala, held at the Avalon Hollywood, was to raise money scholarships benefitting 300 girls from underserved communities.)
“Stereotypes create stigma, so it is up to us to change that narrative. To the young women who hear this message, do not let anyone tell you that your art is lesser than,” Bailey added, referring to the lack of female representation in producing and engineering, and the prevalent — if sometimes unspoken — belief that those jobs are intended only for men.
The Girls Make Beats gala celebrated the 50th anniversary of hip-hop and honored women trailblazers of the genre, saluting Elliott with the Diamond Impact Award and up-and-coming rap duo Flyana Boss with the Next Generation Wave Maker Award, while Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. was awarded the Champion Ally prize for his continued support of the nonprofit’s mission.
Elliott could not be present due to her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Friday night, but she sent in a video expressing her gratitude and encouraging young women in the industry to persevere amidst inevitable highs and lows.
“I just wanna tell all you girls out there, whether [you’re] DJing, rapping, keep going,” Elliott began. “There’s going to be ups and downs in whatever you do. That’s just the way life is, but you just keep striving. I’ve had ups and downs myself, and I am here receiving this award.”
Perseverance is not only important for success in the music industry, but it’s the way to live life. “If you stop, you might be cutting off your blessing too early, so keep going. Keep striving,” Elliott advised. “Hopefully I see y’all collecting y’all flowers and y’all bouquets.”
As part of the fundraising efforts, the event also featured an auction and Mason found himself in a bidding war with another guest, both offering $1,000 for a Girls Make Beats student’s beat. As part of the deal, the winner would own the masters and half the publishing rights to the track — but Mason shocked the crowd when he stood up and rejected the terms of the agreement.
“Hold on. One caveat — we can’t be taking the master from that producer,” Mason said, turning to the teen, “We’re going to split the master and you’re going to keep the publishing. Don’t give up your master!”
His words of warning reflected an important fact: Only 2.8% of music producers are women — per an Annenberg Inclusion study cited by Girls Make Beats throughout the event – so ownership of one’s intellectual property remains a pertinent topic shaped by the music industry’s uneven gender dynamics. In his acceptance speech, Mason emphasized the talent that women bring to the table, calling out persisting gender inequity.
“Chlöe talked a little bit about having to walk into rooms and not be able to be proud or be confident. I’m married to a girl who makes beats,” Mason said, referring to his wife, singer-songwriter Britt Burton. “I’ve heard stories from her about going into sessions and having to deal with that uncomfortable feeling. And I’ve also worked with other women that are here, so I know the power and the talent of women.”
Based on that intimate understanding, Mason made a declaration: “You have my personal commitment, you have the commitment of the Recording Academy. We are all at your service. We are here to support. Because as long as we don’t have more girls [and] more women in our industry, we’re missing so much talent, so much creativity, so much excellence. And we have to continue to work to improve that.”
To end the evening, Girls Make Beats members launched into a musical performance, dancing and chanting “Girls! Who runnin’ it? Girls! We runnin’ it!,” which echoed through the venue and energized the audience for their drive home.