The Recording Academy sent a letter to its members this week to counter recent reports that the Grammys have traditionally favorited men over women. Shortly before the awards show last month, a study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reported that only 9.3 percent of Grammy nominees from 2013 to 2018 were female and that a mere 6.1 percent of Album of the Year nominees were women.
“When we read the headlines, ‘Only 9 percent of Grammy nominees are women,’ we were troubled,” Academy organizers wrote in the letter. “Could we really be that far behind the rest of the industry? … The Recording Academy Board takes gender parity and inclusion very seriously. We are establishing a task force to review every aspect of what we do to ensure that our commitment to diversity is reflected in our organization and community.”
The organization’s letter said that the headlines about the lack of female representation spurred it to conduct an internal review. It took umbrage with the USC Annenberg report looking closely at only five of its 84 categories (Best New Artist, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Album Of The Year, and Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical) and presented its own numbers, which it said were more in line with the rest of the industry.
It notes that 17 percent of nominees across all of its categories over the same period as the study have been women versus a 12 percent “industry index.” The Recording Academy calculated this index using the Annenberg study data across six years and 600 popular songs for performers and songwriters and across three years and 300 popular songs for producers. “To calculate a total industry average across all three creator segments (performers, songwriters, and producers), we analyzed figures from the three years in which complete data sets were available (2012, 2015, 2017),” the academy said in their letter.
It also found that zero percent of its non-classical producer nominees have been women and that eight percent of Record of the Year and six percent of Album of the Year nominees were female, with a note that “this is largely because most nominees in these categories are producers and engineers, who are almost exclusively male.” Best New Artist and Song of the Year nominees came in at 36 percent and 21 percent women, respectively, compared to 22 percent industry index for Best New Artist and 12 percent for Song of the Year.
The letter offered data that suggested that 21 percent of all voting members of the organization, as of 2018, were women and 11 percent of voters in the producers and engineers’ wing were female, though it said its data was incomplete. These numbers, it said, were in line with, and in some cases better than, the industry averages that the USC Annenberg study reported.
After the awards show, the Recording Academy’s president, Neil Portnow, told Variety that “women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level … [They need] to step up, because I think they would be welcome.” Portnow later walked back his comment, saying, “I wasn’t as articulate as I should have been.” But in light of the statement, Pink, Sheryl Crow and others subsequently criticized him and the Recording Academy for what they felt was a lack of gender diversification at the show. In the new email to members, the Academy admitted Portnow’s comments were a “poor choice of words.”
The Academy conceded that while its numbers were better than the industry average, the stats could be better. “The gender composition of our membership and nominations reflect that of the music community, according to the study,” the letter stated. “But it’s not enough to reflect the community. We must be leaders in moving our industry toward greater inclusion and representation. Women are 50 percent of our world. We need their voice and presence at every level.”