The New York Times recently obtained a letter sent to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences by a group of powerful women in the music industry. The letter criticizes the Grammys for being “woefully out of touch” with music and society, and calls on the Academy to be more inclusive.
The signers are as follows: Universal Music Group Executive Vice President Michele Anthony; Atlantic Records’ co-chairman Julie Greenwald; Epic Records President Sylvia Rhone; Sony general counsel Julie Swidler and Roc Nation COO Desiree Perez. Each of these women holds a powerful seat within a powerful business; the Academy—and rightly so—has no choice but to listen.
The Academy’s president, Neil Portnow, drew criticism in a different letter for comments overheard backstage at the Grammys about women needing to “step up,” if they want to be nominated. The first letter, citing too few female nominees and his backstage remarks, demanded Portnow step down. The most recent letter, signed by slightly fewer industry executives does not.
“Neil Portnow’s comments are not a reflection of being ‘inarticulate’ in a single interview. They are, unfortunately, emblematic of a much larger issue with the [National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences] organization as a whole on the broader set of inclusion issues across all demographics,” the letter reads.
Though the music world hasn’t been as roiled by sexual harassment as other entertainment industries, The Grammys reminded everyone that women are underrepresented in music. The Recording Academy promised to establish an ‘independent task force’ to address gender bias—both conscious and not—within the organization.
“I appreciate that the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed in our industry, and share in the urgency to attack it head on,” Portnow said when he announced the initiative. He added, “we as an organization, and I as its leader, pledge our commitment to doing that.”