The Time’s Up movement came to the Grammy Awards on Jan. 28. Taking the stage on music’s biggest night, Janelle Monae proclaimed that women “come in peace, but we mean business.” In response to criticism of the male-dominated awards show — Alessia Cara was the only woman to win a major category during the broadcast — Recording Academy president Neil Portnow claimed that women need to “step up” if they want more recognition. Facing criticism from many — including Grammy winner Pink — Portnow walked back on the comments on Jan. 30, saying he used words that “do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make.” Since then, various women in the music industry have signed a letter calling on Portnow to step aside.
On Thursday, 38 male executives spoke out in solidarity with their female colleagues. In a letter signed by talent agents, managers, and lawyers within the music industry, a group of men have called on Portnow to take “more significant and robust action” to answer the call to end gender disparity. Among the signees were Randy Jackson, producer and former American Idol judge, and Scooter Braun, manager of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.
The collective statement cites a study from USC Annenberg in noting, “From 2013 to 2018, of almost 900 Grammy nominations, 90 percent were male and less than 10 percent were female.” Out of the 84 categories included at the Grammy Awards, the study in question, “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?“, examined only the Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Producer of the Year, and Best New Artist Grammy categories from 2013-18. Of those, 90.7 percent of the honorees were male, though the 899 total nominees researched comprised the individuals and band members recognized for the award and not the entire engineer or production teams behind them. Even then, the study confirmed a stark contrast between the number of men and women recognized at the Grammys.
The letter further called for the Recording Academy to dedicate itself “to transforming its member base to truly mirror the rich gender and cultural diversity of our community. NARAS should reveal the diversity (and/or the lack thereof) of its voting members and make necessary changes to the population of the Academy to better reflect the diverse music business voices the organization is meant to serve.”
The Recording Academy did not immediately provide EW with a comment about the letter. Read it in full below.
Dear Mr. Neil Portnow and all members of The Recording Academy:
We are writing to stand alongside and in solidarity with the women who penned letters to you regarding gender disparity and ask that more significant and robust action be taken by The Recording Academy to answer their call.
From 2013 to 2018, of almost 900 Grammy nominations, 90 percent were male and less than 10 percent were female.
NARAS is meant to reflect all of the music industry and be “by the people and for the people”. Structural flaws in the makeup of The Recording Academy itself have led to systemic issues in the selection of nominees and winners for the awards. Now is the time for NARAS to lead and be transparent and dedicated to transforming its member base to truly mirror the rich gender and cultural diversity of our community. NARAS should reveal the diversity (and/or the lack thereof) of its voting members and make necessary changes to the population of the Academy to better reflect the diverse music business voices the organization is meant to serve.
We realize the entire music industry, ourselves included, has significant work to do to achieve gender and ethnic diversity. If NARAS aspires to be an authentic representation of our music industry, then now is the time for The Recording Academy to lead through balanced inclusivity. The Recording Academy has a responsibility to take aggressive steps in order to move forward for the greater good of our creative community.
We have faith that NARAS will rise to the task.
Chris Anokute, Young Forever, Inc.
Dave Ayers, Big Deal Music
Joshua Binder, Davis Shapiro Lewit et al
Scooter Braun, SB Projects
Cliff Burnstein, Q Prime
Steve Bursky, Foundations Music
Rich Cohen, LoyalT Management
Matt Colon, Deckstar
Jaddan Comerford, Unified Music Group
Pat Corcoran, Haight Brand
Phil Costello, Red Light Management
Marty Diamond, Paradigm Talent Agency
Dan Friedman, Equative Thinking
Eric Greenspan, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light LLP
Elliot Groffman, Carroll Guido & Groffman LLP
Michael Guido, Carroll Guido & Groffman LLP
Randy Jackson, 1963 Entertainment
Evet Jean, Opulent AM
Kenny MacPherson, Big Deal Music
Billy Mann, Manncom Creative Partners
Peter Mensch, Q Prime
Brian Message, ATC Management
Ian Montone, Monotone, Inc.
Craig Newman, ATC Management
Scott Rodger, Maverick
Aaron Rosenberg, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light LLP
Anthony Saleh, Emagen
Rich Schaefer, LoyalT Management
Brian Schwartz, 7S Management
Dalton Sim, Nettwerk Management
Drew Simmons, Foundations Music
Chris Tetzeli, 7S Management
Justin Tranter, JSFG Publishing
Jake Udell, TH3RD BRAIN
Tom Windish, Paradigm Talent Agency
Henny Yegezu, Equative Thinking
Jeremy Zimmer, United Talent Agency