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Female music execs call Grammys "woefully out of touch" in joint letter

(Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

A little more than a week after National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president Neil Portnow told women musicians, engineers, and producers that they need to “step up” if they ever hope to equal—let alone eclipse—the artistic majesty that is Ed Sheeran and win some Grammys, a group of six top female record executives and music publishers have sent a scathing letter to the group that says perhaps, rather than women stepping up, it would be appropriate for Portnow and his colleagues to sit the fuck down.

That’s paraphrasing, of course, as the actual letter penned by the group—which includes Universal Music EVP Michele Anthony, Universal Publishing CEO Jody Gerson, Atlantic Records co-chair Julie Greenwald, Epic Records president Sylvia Rhone, Sony Music general counsel Julie Swidler, and Roc Nation COO Desiree Perez—is worded much more professionally than that. It even stops short of calling on Portnow to resign, as The New York Times reports. Instead, it calls the NARAS board of trustees “woefully out of touch with today’s music, the music business, and even more significantly, society,” adding, “Neil Portnow’s comments are not a reflection of being ‘inarticulate’ in a single interview. They are, unfortunately, emblematic of a much larger issue with the Naras organization as a whole on the broader set of inclusion issues across all demographics.”


Adding weight to the women’s statement, they state that the letter is written on behalf of their companies—which happen to include three of the music industry’s most powerful conglomerates—as well as them as individuals. And while the letter does not call for Portnow’s head stuffed inside the horn of a gigantic Grammy, it does indicate that these six women, and the companies they run, will be closely observing the progress of the internal anti-bias task force NARAS established last week. Witness this gloriously worded calling of the organization’s bluff:“as senior music executives with true commitment to the welfare of the organization and the music community, we hereby put ourselves forward for service.” In other words: “Here we are, stepping up, just like you suggested, Neil. What about you?”

For his part, Portnow remains milquetoast, saying in a statement: “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 seek their input and guidance.”

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