On Thursday, the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammys, announced a task force to investigate where they “can do more to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community.” The announcement came only days after the president of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, said women needed to “step up” in the industry if they wanted to find success. Portnow’s bone-headed comments inspired an online petition to have him step down from his position. At the time of writing this, the document has collected over 12,000 signatures. Is this task force too little too late?
Portnow announced the new initiative in a letter (via the Recording Academy):
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.
President/CEO of the Recording Academy
But what will this task force, so dedicated to the discrimination of women in the music industry, actually accomplish?
The Grammys don’t directly hold any power over record labels, nor are they tasked to police the industry. The organization could deny recognizing artists who face allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment. They could take away Grammy awards from winners who don’t represent the award or the music community well enough. They could also establish a bar that labels must meet to show they are working on diversifying the industry and making sure those in it are working in an inclusive, safe space. They could.
We’ll first have to wait and see what the task force reveals, but this could be an important moment of change and self-reflection in the industry, if done correctly. Let’s hold them to it.