Grammys Organizer Boosts Member Diversity Efforts

The Recording Academy will revamp its membership process, putting new emphasis on diversity. The move comes after a controversy involving this year's Grammy Awards ceremony, but the organization says it's part of a long-term effort to make larger changes.

First the organization behind the Oscars put increasing focus on diversity in its membership and nominations, and now it’s the Grammys’ turn.

The Recording Academy, which puts on the annual Grammy Awards show, recently announced a plan to create a membership model driven by its community, with the goal of increasing diversity. Membership in the Recording Academy is by invitation only, and under the new model,  prospective members can be nominated with two professional recommendations from the industry. Those submissions will be reviewed annually by a 25-member peer review panel who will consider a series of criteria, including musical craft, genre, and diversity.

Laura Segura Mueller, the organization’s vice president of membership and industry relations, noted that the awards themselves are handled using a similar peer-review process, and the membership revamp “reinforces that peer-driven commitment to excellence.”

“Our new membership model puts the power in the hands of the music community and is designed to build an active, representative membership base that reflects our broader culture,” she said in a news release last week. “By changing the process to Recording Academy membership, we remain committed to setting a positive example for the music industry as a whole.”

The move comes after a controversy involving the organization’s president and chief executive, Neil Portnow, who ruffled some feathers in comments he made after this year’s Grammy ceremony in January. The televised portion of the show was criticized for featuring very few women artists. Portnow, who said women need to “step up” in the industry, announced in May that he would be departing the organization in 2019.

Since then, the Recording Academy has prioritized its diversity efforts, including launching a task force to help improve diversity in the 2019 Grammy Awards. Recommendations include an expansion of the “big four” awards categories. (The chairwoman of that task force, former White House aide Tina Tchen, spoke at the 2018 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition earlier this year.)

Speaking to Billboard, the Recording Academy’s Mueller said these efforts are part of a long-running campaign to improve diversity—though she noted that the controversy earlier this year was a factor.

“The Recording Academy is committed to not only being responsive in the situation that we’re dealing with currently, but it’s also an opportunity for us to work with industry leaders and affect historic change in attitudes on the long term,” she said.

(Handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!