Recording Academy president Neil Portnow's comments after Sunday's Grammy Awards when he said female musicians must "step up" for more representation in the industry following this year's heavily male-skewing roster of nominees, have sparked backlash from the music community. Now, a group of female record executives is calling for Portnow's resignation.
The letter, signed by over a dozen female execs, calls Portnow's comments "spectacularly wrong" and says he is "oblivious to the vast body of work created by and with women."
The letter goes on to list statistics of gender discrepancy in the recording industry, as well as at the Grammys themselves.
This year's Grammy nominations were dominated by male performers, sparking backlash online and giving rise to the hashtag #GrammysSoMale. The issue was further made worse by the fact that album of the year nominee Lorde, the only female artist nominated in the category, was not offered a solo performing slot at the night's event, unlike her male cohorts in the category. The British singer opted to skip performing altogether.
Earlier on Thursday, the Recording Academy announced that it was establishing an "independent task force" to identify gender bias in the organization and unconscious bias to promote women in the industry. "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," said Portnow. "We as an organization, and I as its leader, pledge our commitment to doing that."
On Wednesday, a Care2 petition was started seeking the ouster of Portnow. The petition now has over 13,000 signatures.
The letter calling for Portnow's resignation stated, "We step up every single day and have been doing so for a long time. The fact that you don’t realize this means it’s time for you to step down."
"We are here not to merely reprimand you," the letter continued, "but to shed light on why there is such an outcry over your comments and remind you of the challenges that women face in our country and, specifically, in the music industry. Your comments are another slap in the face to women, whether intended or not; whether taken out of context, or not. Needless to say, if you are not part of the solution, then you must accept that YOU are part of the problem. Time’s up, Neil."
Read the full letter, below.
Dear Mr. Neil Portnow,
The statement you made this week about women in music needing to “step up” was spectacularly wrong and insulting and, at its core, oblivious to the vast body of work created by and with women. Your attempt to backpedal only emphasizes your refusal to recognize us and our achievements. Your most recent remarks do not constitute recognition of women’s achievements, but rather a call for men to take action to “welcome” women. We do not await your welcome into the fraternity. We do not have to sing louder, jump higher or be nicer to prove ourselves.
We step up every single day and have been doing so for a long time. The fact that you don’t realize this means it’s time for you to step down.
Today we are stepping up and stepping in to demand your resignation.
The stringent requirements for members of NARAS to vote reflect the distorted, unequal balance of executives and creators in our industry. There is simply not enough opportunity and influence granted or accessible to women, people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ. We can continue to be puzzled as to why the Grammys do not fairly represent the world in which we live, or we can demand change so that all music creators and executives can flourish no matter their gender, color of their skin, background or sexual preference.
Let’s take a look some facts, most of which are courtesy of a recent report on Inclusion in Popular Music from USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism division:
In 2017, 83.2% of artists were men and 16.8% were women, a 6 year low for female artists. A total of 899 individuals were nominated for a Grammy Award between 2013 and 2018. A staggering 90.7% of these nominees were male and 9.3% were female. 10% of nominees for Record of the Year across a 6 year sample were female. Over the last six years, zero women have been nominated as producer of the year. Of the 600 top songs in 2017, of the 2,767 songwriters credited, 87.7% were male and 12.3% were female.
The top nine male songwriters claim almost 1/5th (19.2%) of the songs in the 6 year sample.
The gender ratio of male producers to female producers is 49 to 1. Only 2 of 651 producers were females from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. 42% of artists were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. The top male writer has 36 credits, the top female writer has 15 credits. Of the newly released Billboard Power 100, 18% were women. In publishing history, there has been only 1 female CEO and 1 male of color CEO. They currently hold these positions. The position of President of a Label, is currently only held by one woman of color. WOMEN COMPRISE 51% OF THE POPULATION.
We are here not to merely reprimand you, but to shed light on why there is such an outcry over your comments and remind you of the challenges that women face in our country and, specifically, in the music industry. Your comments are another slap in the face to women, whether intended or not; whether taken out of context, or not. Needless to say, if you are not part of the solution, then you must accept that YOU are part of the problem. Time’s up, Neil.
Marcie Allen, MAC Presents
Gillian Bar, Carroll Guido & Groffman, LLP
Renee Brodeur, Tmwrk
Rosemary Carroll, Carroll, Guido & Groffman, LLP
Kristen Foster, PMK-BNC
Jennifer Justice, Superfly Presents
Renee Karalian, Carroll, Guido & Groffman, LLP
Cara Lewis, Cara Lewis Group
Corrie Christopher Martin, Paradigm Talent Agency
Natalia Nastaskin, UTA
Elizabeth Paw, Carroll, Guido & Groffman, LLP
Carla Sacks, Sacks & Co.
Ty Stiklorius, Friends at Work
Lou Taylor, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group
Beka Tischker, Wide Eyed Entertainment
Marlene Tsuchii, CAA
Caron Veazey, Manager- Pharrell Williams
Katie Vinten, Warner Chappell
Marsha Vlasic, Artist Group International
Gita Williams, Saint Heron
Nicole Wyskoarko, Carroll, Guido & Groffman, LLP