Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow is considering canceling his appearance at Pollstar Live next week following the furor created over his “step up” comments and a letter signed by some of the top female booking agents, managers and executives in music business telling Portnow “time’s up” and encouraging him to resign.
The furor comes in the wake of Portnow’s comments after this year’s Grammys, where eight of the nine televised awards of the evening went to male artists. After the event, Portnow told reporters backstage that improving the prospects of female artists “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…. [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome.”
Sources tell Amplify Portnow is leaning toward canceling his participation in a panel with Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich and Grammy Museum Executive Director Scott Goldman following the publication of a letter signed by 21 female music executives including Corrie Christopher Martin with Paradigm Talent Agency, Natalia Nastaskin from UTA, Marlene Tsuchii from CAA and Marsha Vlasic with Artist Group International. Several of the signees of the letter are also planning to attend the LA event, some as panelists, and the optics of having an all-male panel discussing “music’s biggest night” might not be a great idea for the embattled Portnow.
Amplify has also learned that the letter from the 21 executives was circulated among the signees via email, with an agreement not to speak to the media about it’s comments, allowing the letter to speak for itself. According to our sources, several female record label executives considered signing the letter but ultimately opted not to put their names on the document, which calls on Portnow to resign.
“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,” the letter reads. “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.”
Hoping to calm the furor, Portnow announced in a letter Thursday that he would establish an independent task force to review “where we can do more to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community.” Despite the controversy, Portnow still has the full support of the Recording Academy’s board, according to Billboard.
Below is the letter written by the 21 female music executives calling for Portnow to resign.
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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