Recording Academy Announces Task Force After Uproar Over Women "Step Up" Comment

By Karen Bliss 2/1/18 |

Cyndi Lauper — screenshot from Grammy 2018 interview.

Following upsetting and out-of-touch comments Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow made after the Grammy Awards Sunday night (Jan. 28), calling for women to “step up” if they want to be executives in the music industry, he has released an official statement “to the music community.” It's his second statement about the remarks.

In addition to acknowledging “the hurt that my poor choice of words” caused and insisting they are “not reflective of my beliefs,” he announced that the Recording Academy — the member-lead U.S. organization of music industry professionals —behind the Grammys will put together an independent task force to review and identify “where we can do more to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community.”

Portnow made his original remarks to Variety Sunday evening, after the Grammy’s, when asked about the poor representation of females on the televised show.

“It has to begin with… 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…,” he said. “[They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.”

His words caused a fury. “Women in music don’t need to ‘step up,'" Pink wrote and posted online, "- women have been stepping since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside. Women OWNED music this year. They’ve been KILLING IT. And every year before this. When we celebrate and honor the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women STEP UP every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal, and what it looks like to be fair.”

Artist Vanessa Carlton shared the link to a petition asking him to step down. "Attention everyone, especially musicians," she wrote on Twitter. "Step up. And sign the petition to have Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy/Grammy's, to step down. We are close to our goal of 10000 votes. Pass along."

On Tuesday, Portnow’s representative released a statement clarifying his comments.

“[Sunday] night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year's Grammy Awards,” it read. “Regrettably, I used two words, ‘step up,’ that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make. I regret that I wasn't as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought. I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone.”

The full statement issued today by the Recording Academy is below:

To The Music Community—

After hearing from many friends and colleagues, I understand the hurt that my poor choice of words following last Sunday’s GRAMMY telecast has caused. I also now realize that it’s about more than just my words. Because those words, while not reflective of my beliefs, echo the real experience of too many women. I’d like to help make that right.  

The Recording Academy is establishing an independent task force to review every aspect of what we do as an organization and identify where we can do more to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community. We will also place ourselves under a microscope and tackle whatever truths are revealed. 

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 organization, and I as its leader, pledge our commitment to doing that. We will share more information about the steps we are taking in the coming weeks. 

Neil Portnow
President/CEO of the Recording Academy




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