Grammys head under pressure to step down as dozens of female record executives condemn 'step up' comments

'We step up every single day and have been doing so for a long time'

Jack Shepherd@JackJShepherd
Friday 02 February 2018 09:51

This year’s Grammys were a controversial affair, many feeling the winners — only one female took home a major award — were not particularly representative of the current state of music.

Outside of the ceremony itself, there was yet further criticism. Recording Academy president Neil Portnow remarked that female musicians need to “step up” to compete.

A fierce backlash has ensued, various artists complaining about the remarks, both directly (P!nk) and subversively (Lorde). Since then, a group of female record executives have co-signed a letter calling for Portnow to resign.

“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,” reads the letter.

“We step up every single day and have been doing so for a long time. The fact that you don’t realise this means it’s time for you to step down.”

The letter then offers some staggering statistics about the industry and the Grammys, concluding with the comment: “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.

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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

Meanwhile, the Recording Academy has announced the establishment of an "independent task force” that will dedicate itself to identifying gender bias and promoting women in the industry.

Portnow said in a statement: ”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. We as an organisation, and I as its leader, pledge our commitment to doing that.

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