It’s been over 72 hours since six of the US music industry’s most powerful female executives called out the organization behind the Grammys for being “woefully out of touch” – and offered to help fix it.
Our spies tell us that at least some of this group have been left seriously underwhelmed by the subsequent response, and lack of urgency, shown by the Recording Academy’s trustees.
In a letter sent on Monday (Feb 5), addressed to the board of the Recording Academy, the six execs made a specific request regarding a new so-called diversity ‘task force’ previously announced by Grammys chief Neil Portnow.
“the fact that the response came from Neil and not the trustees, to whom the letter was addressed, implies that the trustees are merely a rubber stamp for Neil, and that the ‘task force’ is nothing more than window dressing.”
Major label source
The group commented that “as senior music executives with true commitment to the welfare of the organization and the music community, we hereby put ourselves forward for service”.
They noted their keenness to “meet with members of the Recording Academy board of trustees… beginning now, to make inroads on the issues of inclusion and diversity”.
We hear that the opportunity for such discussions has not yet been forthcoming – and fears are growing that the ‘task force’ will in fact end up as “window dressing” following a regrettable few weeks for the Academy.
According to Portnow, the objective of the ‘task force’ is “overcoming the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community”.
However, we’re told that a formal invitation onto this ‘task force’ — or any concrete details of its make-up – are yet to arrive in the inboxes of the six women who undersigned Monday’s letter: Jody Gerson (CEO/Chairman of Universal Music Publishing Group), Julie Greenwald (Atlantic Records COO/Chairman), Sylvia Rhone (President, Epic Records), Julie Swidler (EVP/General Counsel, Sony Music), Michele Anthony (EVP, Universal Music Group) and Desiree Perez (COO of Roc Nation).
We’re also told that Neil Portnow’s comments to media subsequent to the letter’s publication on Monday (Feb 5) haven’t exactly gone down a storm.
“We appreciate the points raised in this letter and welcome the opportunity to work with these executives to address the issues of inclusion, representation, fairness, and diversity in our community,” said Portnow. “As we establish the details around our recently announced task force, we will seek their input and guidance.”
“Guess what? This issue won’t just blow over.”
Major label source
A US-based senior executive at one of the major labels told MBW today: “These are top executives, who sent a constructive message looking to work hand-in-hand with the Academy to create meaningful change, and what came back was a brush-off.
“Even worse, the fact that the response came from Neil and not the trustees, to whom the letter was addressed, implies that the trustees are merely a rubber stamp for Neil, and that the ‘task force’ is nothing more than window dressing.
“Guess what? This issue won’t just blow over. The trustees’ unwillingness to engage combined with Neil’s blow-off has actually deepened the resolve of the labels, publishers and artists they represent to pursue real change.”
Criticism of the Grammys began before the ceremony even took place last month (January 28), after a report suggested that the Recording Academy had declined to offer Album Of the Year nominee Lorde the chance to perform her own song on the televised segment of the show.
This criticism then increased dramatically when Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow used a much-debated phrase during an interview – in which he called on female executives and musicians to “step up” to prominent roles in the industry.
Last week, a separate letter, co-signed by other senior executives in the US industry, outwardly called for the resignation of Neil Portnow.
That missive was signed by the likes of John Legend’s manager Ty Stiklorius and Pharrell Williams’ manager Caron Veazey, in addition to Warner/Chappell VP Katie Vinten, MAC Presents founder Marcie Allen, agents such as Cara Lewis, Natalia Nastaskin and Marsha Vlasic, and attorneys Rosemary Carroll, Renee Karalian and Gillian Bar.
Addressed directly to Portnow, it read: “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.”
[Pictured L-R: Jody Gerson, Julie Greenwald, Sylvia Rhone and Michele Anthony]Music Business Worldwide