Female Record Label Executives Call Grammys Organization "Out of Touch"

Six of music's most powerful women speak out about Grammy president Neil Portnow in an open letter obtained by The New York Times.
Queens, US
Photo by Dan MacMedan/WireImage

A week after this year's Grammys ceremony, Neil Portnow, the president of the Recording Academy, is still receiving criticism after he made comments suggesting women should "step up" if they want to win. Artists like Pink, Charli XCX, and Halsey have expressed outrage, and others are taking direct action to address the issues at hand.

Today, The New York Times obtained a letter signed by six of the most powerful female executives in the music industry. The letter sent to the Recording Academy's board of trustees holds signatures by Sylvia Rhone of Epic Records, Desiree Perez of Roc Nation, Julie Swidler of Sony Music, Julie Greenwald of Atlantic Records, and Michele Anthony and Jody Gerson of Universal Music Group. The women say Portnow is "woefully out of touch with today's music, the music business, and even more significantly, society."

As the Times points out, they aren't calling for his resignation, but see his comments as a larger problem of the Grammys infrastructure. "Neil Portnow's comments are not a reflection of being 'inarticulate' in a single interview," the group wrote. "They are, unfortunately, emblematic of a much larger issue with the Naras [National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences] organization as a whole on the broader set of inclusion issues across all demographics." The women want a fair review by the Academy's trustees, adding "as senior music executives with true commitment to the welfare of the organization and the music community, we hereby put ourselves forward for service."

Alessia Cara was the only woman to receive a Grammy during the televised broadcast, while SZA, who led the night with the most nominations left empty handed. Lorde turned down a joint performance slot and was the only woman highlighted in the Album of the Year category. According to a report by the Times, only 9.3 percent of nominees in the last six years have been women.

[Update February 5, 4:12 pm EST]: As of Monday afternoon, Portnow provided a response to the letter to The New York Times: "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. As we establish the details around our recently announced task force, we will be seek their input and guidance."

Kristin Corry is a staff writer at Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.