The Recording Academy Invites 2,300 New Members Into Its Ranks
Following on its new diversity initiatives in collaboration with Color of Change, the Recording Academy announced on Thursday morning its latest class of members.
The organization sent invitations to 2,300 artists, songwriters, producers and other music professionals to join the organization in 2020. Academy members can vote in the annual Grammy Awards, submit their work for Grammy consideration, and propose changes to Academy rules. (Of the 2,300, 79% are eligible to vote in the Grammys. The other 21% are music professionals and don’t get a vote.)
The Academy says the new class is 48% female, and comprises 21% of people of African American and African descent, 8% identifying as Hispanic, and 3% Asian American/Pacific Islanders. Last year’s new members were 49% female, and 41% of the members were “from underrepresented backgrounds,” according to numbers released at the time.
“Building out our membership body is a process that encourages inclusivity from start to finish, and it’s a privilege to extend invitations to the 2020 class of invitees that represent the wide-ranging backgrounds and crafts that makes the music industry so unique,” Kelley Purcell, the Academy’s senior director of member outreach, said in a statement. “These individuals will become the driving force behind the Recording Academy, and it’s encouraging to see how our membership continues to evolve each year as we take steps toward building a more inclusive and vibrant community.”
Overall, according to a diversity task force report in December, the Academy is roughly one-third female, and a quarter of its members are from underrepresented communities. The organization said in December that, based off the recommendations from the task force led by the Time’s Up organizer and lawyer Tina Tchen, it would aim to double its female membership — adding 2,500 more women — by 2025.
Since the beginning of the year, the organization has been under much scrutiny. In January, it ousted its new CEO (and first-ever female CEO) Deborah Dugan, who said in a federal complaint that the Academy had engaged in a pattern of misconduct, corruption, and harassment. After the Academy removed Dugan from the post she’d occupied for not even a year, industry insiders called upon the group to introduce more transparency into its structure and diversify its ranks. The music industry’s issues of racism and bias in general have intensified in recent months, following the police killing of George Floyd and other black victims.
Valeisha Butterfield Jones, the Academy’s new diversity chief, told Rolling Stone this week that a major goal is to get the voter base looking more like the actual music community. “It’s about having honest and transparent conversations about where we’ve been,” she said. “but more importantly where we’re headed. We want to build with everyone.”
On Thursday, Academy chair and interim president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. acknowledged the Academy still has more to do. “While this progress signifies meaningful impact, there’s still more work to be done,” Mason Jr. said. “We’ll continue to fight to achieve inclusive representation across gender, race, age, national origin, sexual orientation, and beyond within our community. Furthermore, we’re excited to see how the contributions of the incoming new member class will help inspire meaningful change within the music industry.”
Toward the end of June, the Academy and Grammy.com editor-in-chief Justin Joseph held a virtual discussion featuring new members like Reggaeton singer Ozuna along with veteran members like John Legend, who serves on the membership committee for the Los Angeles chapter.
“Make sure that we’re building up our Chapters with folks who are making music, who are a diverse representation of our creative community,” Legend said to peers during that discussion. “We can literally be the change that we want to see in the Academy.”
The newly invited members have to accept the invitation by September 15th to be eligible to vote for the upcoming Grammys, which are currently scheduled for January 31st, 2021.