‘Beats By Girlz’: The Org. Empowering Next Gen. Women & Gender-Expansive People In Music Tech

Beats by Girlz artist Dani Murcia

According to recent figures, less than 3% of music producers are women, reflecting a massive disparity in the music industry when it comes to tech and production. This is not just a sexism issue for the music world, it is also a pipeline problem when not enough young women are seeing themselves reflected in key music production roles, and are therefore not being encouraged to study this field at the same rate as men.

So how does change happen? At the grassroots level, activism in the form of breaking down the barriers is key, which is what a number of organizations are doing globally, in an effort to change the status quo.

One of these organizations is Beats by Girlz, founded in 2013 by Erin Barra, Director of Popular Music at Arizona State University and former Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music. Beats By Girlz now has over 35 chapters across the world which represent 15 countries across 4 continents.

Beats By Girlz is empowering the next generation of women and gender-expansive people through music and technology. Their mission is to envision a future in the industry where traditionally marginalized gender identities are able to visualize and realize their full potential. They do this by giving members access to the tools, resources, education, and community necessary to foster growth.

They kicked off 2023 by launching a new season of their BBG.tv digital series, sponsored by Paramount. The goal for BBG.tv is to showcase women & gender-expansive people of color in the Beats By Girlz community, as well as empower viewers by displaying how people like them are using music, production, and technology to live and work.

For the second season, Beats by Girlz wanted to create a series of videos to highlight producers and artists in NYC. They interviewed 5 female and gender-expansive producers on their experiences, challenges and inspirations in creating music, and each artist led 2 tutorials on techniques they use in their music making.

We recently had the chance to speak with each of the featured artists – JWords (she/her) is a producer, composer and an Afro Latina woman breaking boundaries in black electronic music; Dani Murcia (she/they) is a songwriter, producer and educator, creating unique worlds through lush harmonies and haunting melodies; Ushka (she/her) is a Sri Lankan born, Thailand raised activist, cultural organizer, and DJ based in Brooklyn; Lamb (she/they) is a musician, composer, choreographer, and director exploring Blackness as the break that might rupture our attachments to Worlds, territories and Man; and Rosana Cabán (she/her) is a Puerto Rican born, Brooklyn-based artist and producer. She uses sound, sculpture and performance as mediums to probe problematic binaries.

Read on to learn how Beats by Girlz is impacting the artists and how they see themselves playing a role in disrupting and contributing to the music industry at large.


Where did your music career begin?

I’d say it started back home in Miami around 2016. I was performing my songs at local venues and because of that, my friends from college encouraged and helped me record my first EP that was released in 2017 before heading to Berklee. I was also posting a bunch of videos on Instagram at that moment and both the videos and the EP gained some good traction. Because of that, by the time I got to Berklee I had a bunch of online friends who helped me book shows in NYC and Boston. It just kept going from there! 

Why did you decide to get involved with BBG.tv?

I love BBG! I teach and co-lead our NYC chapter and just love everything that we do, stand for, and all the connections we make with young and adult artists and creatives. I also thought about how often I’ll search for music production tricks or tutorials and 95% of the videos I find are from white cis-het men.

Representation has been important for me in my journey, so I do think it’s time we have more options and just show the world like hey, you can look and be any which way and still know and do all the same things. And you can still get hired for all the same jobs. We are more than capable. 

What have been your biggest challenges, and biggest triumphs in your career so far?

One of the biggest challenges for me so far has been the dance and balance between making art and making money. I started making music because I had to, it was a way for me to cope with big emotions. I started sharing music because I saw that when I did, people connected with it and felt empowered to share their own stories with me and others. Luckily, I’ve been able to continue to make music and turn it into a career, but it’s not always easy to survive off of it when people want things done for free or just take a really long time to pay artists.

It also feels like I have to continually produce in order to stay ‘relevant’ and make a livable wage. But the way I make art is not like that. The biggest triumph is that even with all that, I’ve still been able to stay true to my intention, without compromising what or how I create, without giving in to the pressures and the changing industry, and that I get to do it all alongside my wonderfully talented friends. We’ve been able to play and sell out legendary venues including Carnegie Hall and Public Records while still delivering our most honest selves and messages.

Beats by Girlz artist LAMB


Where did your music career begin?

I started experimenting with music production in high school using a school laptop. Some kids would make mashups of songs with artists like Lana Del Rey and Big Sean using Garageband and then post them to SoundCloud. At the time, I was really into FKA twigs, Kelela, and everything Arca produced. I was also privately competitive; so, I started making my own beats. For a long time, I didn’t know you could play MIDI notes into your computer to create original melodies; so, I worked strictly with loops. I became especially comfortable with manipulating digital audio and warping samples. 

Why did you decide to get involved with BBG.tv?

I got involved through my work as a workshop leader at Building Beats. I love teaching, and I love building an artist community through skill sharing. BBG.tv provided a great platform to do both, particularly in the context of gender oppressed individuals who are often denied the opportunity to learn; faced with harassment in educational and professional settings; or made uncomfortable about their place in music.

How does identity and race play a role in the artistry and music you create?

My friends and my community inspire my work most. They challenge my work the most, both on an artistic and conceptual level. I’ve felt most empowered to create art with my Black queer/trans peers, and I’ve also felt most safe to express myself in their company.

Beats by Girlz artist Rosana Caban


Where did your music career begin? 

I started playing in bands in high school which feels like the beginning. I also went to music school at Berklee College of Music and started interning shortly after at Circle House Studios in Miami, which felt like another beginning. I moved to New York City after working at Circle House and left music for a while to take on a full time job in a completely unrelated field because I couldn’t find any decent work as a musician.

I was brought back into the music industry by working for Tom Tom Magazine, and in a lot of ways that was the actual beginning of my career. For me it was the start of being a part of a community of women and GNC beat makers and drummers who all felt “othered” within the music industry. 

Why did you decide to get involved with BBG.tv? 

I believe in the mission.

Why is it important to you to disrupt and examine problematic binaries through your artistry? 

I feel uncomfortable with the proliferation of everyone using the word “female” insead of “woman” because it feels like a very binary term. No one casually says “trans female”, they say “trans woman” so it feels like a dark, subconscious way to continue to be exclusionary of everyone by forcing our language to dictate binaries while continuing to invalidate and ignore gender nonconforming people.

Addressing and confronting language, or systems feels like an act of disruption and I hope it forces us to consider “why” the system is there in the first place. 

The terminology I use of  “examining problematic binaries” is something I specifically describe within the context of my installation and sound art works and in that context, I can talk about this for days. My music is a whole other entity and it’s harder to fit those ideas lyrically into pop music, but it’s something I will forever be examining and thinking about as a person. If it bleeds into my work, great!

Beats by Girlz artist Ushka


Where did your music career begin?

My music career began when I started slowly making public appearances as a DJ in 2010 and eventually becoming a resident DJ at a party I ran for six years called iBomba. Prior to djing, I was frequently at clubs, as it was a sanctuary and refuge for me. At the time, there weren’t that many women, non-binary, and queer folks DJing and I wanted to be part of a shift. 

Why did you decide to get involved with BBG.tv?

BBG TV asked to interview me about my work and I happily obliged. Initiatives like Beats by Girlz are super important to empower young folks to be able to take on music. Particularly in electronic music, femmes are still marginalized as the art form is considered “technical.” It’s hugely sexist and patriarchal to assume that femmes and women-identified folks can’t be in technical fields. I think that teaching femmes, non-binary, and trans folks how to produce and make their own music is a super empowering thing. 

How does activism and culture play a role in your music career today?

I’m an immigrant rights and climate justice activist. I incorporate social activism into my DJing through fundraisers, political education, and productions. 

Beats by Girlz artist JWords


Where did your music career begin?

My career began in 2013. I took piano classes in High School. In 2015, I started making beats!

How did you get involved with BBG.tv?

I got involved through Krithi Rao. We both worked at Building Beats.

Why is it important to you to break down gender barriers in the music industry?

It’s important to me because I felt like I wasn’t [a part of things] for so long and realized that I have to make the change I wish to see. So I started producing more, teaching more femmes how to produce and just started building a world for us to exist in.

Learn more about Beats by Girlz via the website and join your local chapter. Follow Beats by Girls on Instagram, Youtube, TikTok and Spotify.

Beats by Girlz artist Dani Murcia

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