The Recording Academy has invited 900 women and/or people of color under the age of 39 to join as voting members, based on the recommendation of its Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion formed earlier this year.
The move is an effort to diversify its voting membership in the wake of the fierce criticism the Academy received earlier this year in the wake of outgoing chairman Neil Portnow’s ill-phrased comment to a Variety reporter that female executive and musicians need to “step up” in order to receive equal recognition, and the low percentage of female and minority 2018 Grammy winners. Portnow announced late in May that he will step down from his post next year.
According to the announcement, invites were extended to a broad range of music creators, including vocalists, songwriters, instrumentalists, producers, and engineers. Those who accept their invitations to join by Nov. 15 will have the opportunity to participate in the final round of voting for the 2019 Grammy Awards; those who join after Nov. 15 will be eligible to vote in next year’s awards cycle.
The Academy says it has also diversified the composition of its Nominations Review Committees, the 16 committees that select the final Grammy nominations in specialized categories. The Nominations Review Committees are now 51% female and 48% people of color; in 2017 they were 28% female and 37% people of color, according to the report.
Similarly, the eight National Governance Committees, which oversee such areas as membership and advocacy, raised their numbers of female members to 48% and people of color to 38%, up from 20% and 30%, respectively.
The Recording Academy says its total membership, including voting and associate members, is 22,000, of which 33% are female; however, just 21% of the 13,000 voting members are female. It added that 55% of the voting membership identifies as white, 28% as people of color and 17% declined to disclose, according to data the Academy provided to Billboard.
Task Force chair Tina Tchen, formerly chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, said the initiative is “a first step.
“The Recording Academy should reflect the scope and scale of the music industry and recognize the creative and artistic endeavors that enable it to thrive,” she continued. “Having a truly diverse membership is the foundation for any change. This initiative is one of the many ways the Task Force is encouraging change in practices while nurturing a more inclusive organization for Academy members today and for generations to come.”
She also said that she hopes to have the bulk of the Task Force’s work completed by May of 2019. “I have been hoping, and I remain still hopeful, that we started our work in May and that by the time we got to our year anniversary we’d be largely finished,” she told Billboard. “That’s the pacing that we’ve wanted to be on. This is not a longterm gig for all of us. But we haven’t set a firm deadline. We want to get the work done and we want to get it done right and we understand the urgency of getting it down quickly as well.”