Recording Academy’s Diversity & Inclusion Task Force Releases Official Report, Recommendations

The Recording Academy has announced it will implement recommendations outlined by the Recording Academy Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, which were detailed in a report released Thursday (Dec. 12). Those recommendations include restructuring its Board of Trustees to ensure that music creators from the broadest range of ages, backgrounds, genders, genres, crafts and regions are fully represented within the organization’s leadership.

The Task Force, led by Tina Tchen, offered a report outlining several recommendations relating to the Recording Academy’s operations and internal policies, to organizational structure, nominee committee procedures, voting procedures and nomination qualifications. The full Recording Academy Diversity and Inclusion Task Force Report can be found here.

One of the key Task Force recommendations is that the Academy implement a ranked choice voting system to determine Grammy Award nominees and winners in key categories including Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. A ranked choice system allows voters to rank candidates on a ballot in order of preference and is designed to ensure as many voters as possible will help elect a candidate they support. After the first round of votes are tabulated if a candidate wins a majority of first preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. However, if no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes for that losing candidate are discarded, and the second-preference vote of each person who voted for the failed candidate are lifted and redistributed to their next-preferred candidate. A new tally is then conducted with the failed candidate out of the running. The process is repeated until a single candidate wins a majority of the first-preference votes. The Academy stated it will continue to research the report’s recommendation to change portions of the Grammy Award voting process to a ranked-choice system.

The Task Force also recommends the Academy better engage and involve the Professional Members in Academy operations and governance. As the Grammys are the only peer-based award in the music industry, Professional members–including long-time music industry execs who do not themselves create music–do note vote on the Grammy Awards. Professional members can only make up 20% of the Governors in a given Chapter and are not eligible to serve on any National Committee other than the Membership Committee (and on that committee can only be one of three additional members) and cannot hold a number of key leadership positions at the Chapter and national levels. However, the Professional Members are more demographically diverse than Voting Members. In October 2019, while female only made 22% of the Academy’s voting members, females make up 38% of the Academy’s Professional members. The Professional Membership is also more racially diverse.

The Task Force asked that the Academy take steps to clarify that under its new membership rules, the 12-credit qualification is not a rigid requirement, but instead a rebuttable presumption that prospective members can overcome through letters of recommendation, career substantiation and other qualities, in an effort to attract a more diverse membership body.

Recording Academy Progress

The Recording Academy has already made progress toward implementing 17 of the 18 reforms set forth by the Task Force, including ensuring gender parity on Awards and Governance committees, publicly reporting on the demographic composition of its workforce across different levels of seniority, and increasing outreach to diverse communities, which include key initiatives for female producers and engineers.

The report stated that in 2018, shortly following the formation of the Task Force, only 20% of Recording Academy voters were female. The racial diversity numbers were only slightly better, with significant underrepresentation in the Asian-American and Hispanic communities. 40% of the academy’s voting members are producers and engineers, while the percentage of female producers and engineers that are also academy voters is 12 percent. That year, the Recording Academy took steps to increase the diversity of Recording Academy voters. 946 potential new members were invited to join the academy in an effort to increase diversity among its voters; 200 of those accepted the invitation. In 2019, the Recording Academy invited 1,340 potential new members to join; 743 of those accepted the invitation. As of October 2019, 22% of the Recording Academy’s voters are female.

The report also found that from 2015-2018 the Recording Academy’s National Governance Committees were 71% male and 29% female, while from 2015-2017, the Nomination Review Committees were 74% male and 26% female. These numbers have improved, as for the 61st Grammy Awards, the individuals appointed as members of the nominations review committees were 51% female, while the gender demographics for the national governance committees heading into the 61st Grammy Awards were 52% male and 48% female, with the national governance committee co-chairs being an even 50/50 split in gender demographics.

However, the Task Force sees that there is still work to be done with the Board of Trustees. Between 2012 and the present, the Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees has been 68% male and 69% Caucasian; the board is currently 65% male and 63% Caucasian. The Task Force offered a recommendation that the Academy take steps to ensure that the Board of Trustees assume responsibility for reviewing the Academy’s progress on issues of diversity and inclusion and incorporate responsibility and accountability for these issues in the Board’s governance function, either though either through the creation of a new national governance committee focused exclusively on issues of diversity and inclusion or by placing this responsibility within an existing committee.

“The mission of the Recording Academy is to serve and advocate for music creators from all genres and of all genders and generations,” said Recording Academy President/CEO Deborah Dugan. “We have recently made tremendous progress and I’m proud to report that our leadership team is currently 50 percent female and that the 2019 Academy membership class is the most diverse in our history. However, there is still work to be done. We are deeply committed to continuing to implement the Task Force’s recommendations and building a community that is truly representative of our diverse and dynamic creators.”

“Over the course of the last year and a half, the Task Force dedicated hundreds of hours of their time to conduct a thorough analysis of how the Recording Academy could do better to create a diverse and inclusive environment for all workers and music creators. We owe a debt of gratitude to the impressive lineup of leaders from throughout the music industry who served on the Task Force for their tireless commitment to changing the Academy, and the industry, for the better,” said Tchen. “We are also so grateful for the full cooperation and participation of the Recording Academy at every step, and are encouraged by the commitment to change they announced today.”

Members of the Task Force include chairperson Tina Tchen (President/CEO of Time’s Up), as well as Stephanie Alexa (VP Finance, UMG Nashville), recording artist Cam, Beth Laird (CEO/Owner, Creative Nation), Michele Anthony (EVP, UMG), Shakari Boles aka TRAKGIRL, recording artist Common, recording artist Andra Day, journalist Giselle Fernandez, recording artist Jimmy Jam, Debra Lee (President/CEO, Leading Women Defined Foundation/Chair/CEO Emeritus, BET Networks), Rebecca Leon (Co-founder/CEO, Lionfish Entertainment), Elisabeth Matthews (CEO, ASCAP), Dr. Stacy Smith (Founder and Director, USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative), Ty Stiklorious (Founder and CEO, Friends at Work), Julie Swidler (EVP of Business Affairs and General Counsel, Sony Music Entertainment), Dean Wilson (CEO, SEVEN20), and Terri Winston (Executive Director, Women’s Audio Mission).

The Recording Academy will have the task force reconvene in one year to assess progress on the initiatives.

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Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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