For all that the 2018 Grammys did well, the show had one major flaw: the treatment of women. Only one woman won an award in any of the major categories (Alessia Cara for Best New Artist); no women were nominated for Record of the Year; Lorde was only woman nominated for Album of the Year, and she didn’t even get a chance to perform by herself (every other Album of the Year nominee was offered the chance to perform). Soon after the show was over, things got markedly worse.
Recording Academy boss Neil Portnow told Variety that the lack of representation was because 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” need “to step up.” His remarks were wildly offensive and many called for him to step down, so the Recording Academy responded by creating a task force to “tackle gender bias.” Now, the Recording Academy has a new strategy to address its obvious gender issue: a letter to its members.
The letter uses statistics from a USC Annenberg study on the music industry to make the case that even though in many areas the Academy’s female representation is actually above the industry averages, they admit it’s not enough. “We must be leaders in moving our industry toward greater inclusion and representation,” the letter reads. “Women are 50 percent of our world. We need their voice and presence at every level.”
The letter also mentions the task force for “female advancement” and promises further action, but not not specify what exactly will happen or when.
Excerpts of the letter, which was addressed to Academy members, were obtained by Variety. In it, the Academy acknowledges that “a poor choice of words” was partly to blame for the “national conversation about gender bias at the Recording Academy,” likely referring to Portnow's remarks. The letter goes on to state that “the Recording Academy Board takes gender parity and inclusion very seriously” and that their task force will “review every aspect of what we do to ensure that our commitment to diversity is reflected in our organization and community.” They also promise to share more information about the task force in coming weeks.
“When we read the headlines, ‘only 9 percent of Grammy nominees are women,’ we were troubled,” the letter read. “Could we really be that far behind the rest of the industry?”
The letter then details some of the statistics found in the USC report. The study looks at five out of the Grammys' 84 categories: Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. The results are as follows: 22 percent of the performers are women; 12 percent of songwriters are women; and 2 percent of producers are women; women comprise 12 percent of the total music creator population.
In addition, the letter points to the following figures, also from the USC study:
When it comes to the Academy’s membership, 21 percent of their estimated voting membership are women (compared to a 12 percent industry index) and 11 percent of their Producers & Engineers Wing members are women (compared to 2 percent industry index).
“Part of music’s power is its ability to raise awareness around important cultural issues and effect change,” the Academy’s letter reads. “It is in this spirit that we move forward.”