An benevolent crew made up of some of the most powerful women in music have penned an open letter condemning remarks made by Neil Portnow.
[Women] who want to be musicians, engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level [need] to step up.
The Grammy chief made the comments after last week’s ceremony saw a number of its female nominees miss out on major wins.
He issued this statement after facing fire.
Sunday night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year’s Grammy Awards. Regrettably, I used two words, ‘step up,’ that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make. Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced.
Today, a group of the industry’s power players have stepped up to slam him.
Marcie Allen, founder of music-sponsorship and activation agency MAC Presents said…
Neil Portnow and the Academy are the ones who need to step up . Women stepped up creatively bigtime in the past year — just look at Lorde, Kesha, SZA, St. Vincent, Taylor Swift, Pink, Cardi B. It’s nice to see a lot of these accomplishments recognized in the nominations but it feels like there’s something else holding women back structurally from succeeding in the music business. There are still only two female heads or co-heads at major labels [Epic president Sylvia Rhone and Atlantic co-chairman/COO Julie Greenwald], there’s one female chairman at major publishing company [Universal CEO Jody Gerson], two female SVPs in creative roles at a major promoter [Ali Harnell and Debra Rathwell of AEG Presents] and zero female radio-programming chiefs at a national level, now that [former Z-100/iHeartRadio exec] Sharon Dastur has gone over to Republic Records.
John Legend‘s manager Ty Stiklorius added…
I didn’t go to the Grammys this year — I gave my seats to two of the founders of the Women’s March, who are also founders of the Women’s Resistance Choir. I watched it at home with my daughter and cried my eyes out during Kesha’s performance with the Women’s Resistance Choir.
I am disappointed by remarks like Neil’s. Clearly many do not understand how women have stepped up — but get felt up, shut up, beat up and passed up in the process of trying to get anywhere in the music business. Recording studio environments aren’t always safe for women and there’s no accountability. Every woman writer and producer I know has been harassed, assaulted or left out of the room altogether — and we wonder why, out of the top 100 songs on Spotify, only 9% of the writers are women?”
A letter addressed to the Recording Academy’s esteemed board of trustees and signed by six of the industry’s most powerful female executives reads…
Every one of the important institutions in music have all needed to evolve, be self-reflective and change with the times,” the letter reads. “Some have been slower than others to change, but it has been happening throughout the industry. No one can afford to be out of touch. We have been held accountable by our artists, songwriters and fans. We need to reflect the core values of what an inclusive and diverse culture of music is all about – and serve as a model of leadership across the broader society.
[The Academy], which purports to represent every area of the music ecosystem (e.g., artists, producers, songwriters, engineers) should be leaders in this evolution, and yet it has shown itself to be the opposite,” the letter continues. “We ask you, as a Board, to take this message from those who have devoted their lives to music seriously. 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 [Academy] organization as a whole on the broader set of inclusion issues across all demographics – from the make-up of the voting membership and its transparency, to production of the show, to the organization’s hiring practices and more. To be clear, if [the Academy] seeks to reflect music’s diverse community then it must ‘step up’ and be accountable to it.
We have seen media reports that a task force is being organized. The only way to drive real progress is to ensure that the task force is diverse in its membership, isn’t limited in its scope to review issues of inclusion, and has the ability to effect meaningful change at every level of” the Academy, the letter concludes. “Assuming that is the case, and as senior music executives with true commitment to the welfare of the organization and the music community, we hereby put ourselves forward for service. We are also ready to meet with members of the [Academy] board of trustees to start discussing what additional steps might be taken, beginning now, to make inroads on the issues of inclusion and diversity.