Calls for Neil Portnow’s resignation prompt new apology, “independent task force” from Recording Academy

Grammy head has come under fire for saying female musicians need to "step up" if they want to win more awards

Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, arrives at the Lifetime Achievement and Trustees Awards presentation at the Ka Theater in the MGM Grand Hotel on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

    On Sunday night, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow reacted to the Grammy Awards’ near shut-out of female artists by saying women weren’t doing enough to earn the same accolades as their male counterparts. “[They need] to step up, because I think they would be welcome,” said Portnow at the time, perhaps not realizing the weight of a phrase like “I think” in that statement. In the wake of his statement, artists like Pink, Charli XCX, and Sheryl Crow have criticized Portnow, resulting him saying that his comments were “taken out of context.”

    Today, The Hollywood Reporter shared a letter signed by more than a dozen female record executives asking for Portnow’s resignation. “We step up every single day and have been doing so for a long time,” reads the letter. “The fact that you don’t realize this means it’s time for you to step down.”

    (Read: The Grammys Fall Back on Past Traditions: Racism, Misogyny, and Irrelevancy)

    The letter goes on to note how “[the] top nine male songwriters claim almost 1/5th (19.2%) of the songs in [a] 6 year sample.” It also calls his comments “spectacularly wrong  and insulting and, at its core, oblivious to the vast body of work created by and with women.”


    “We do not await your welcome into the fraternity,” it continues. “We do not have to sing louder, jump higher or be nicer to prove ourselves.”

    Now, Portnow has released a second apology. “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.”

    Additionally, the Recording Academy will be “establishing an independent task force to review every aspect of what we do as an organization and identify where we can more to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community,” Portnow explained.

    Read the full statement below:

    There is no mention as to whether or not Portnow will be stepping down from his post.

    Read the full letter from the female record executives 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.

    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

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