Female music execs call for Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow to resign

Neil Portnow, Recording Academy president, apologized for his “poor choice of words” about potential bias at the Grammys.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times )

More than 20 female music industry executives have reportedly signed an open letter calling for the resignation of the Recording Academy’s chief, Neil Portnow.

It’s the latest response to not only the male-centric Grammy Awards show but Portnow’s subsequent remark during a news conference suggesting it was the responsibility of women to “step up.”

“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,” read the letter, which has been posted by Billboard and other media outlets.


“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.”

The signatories include executives at several powerful talent agencies, publicity firms, PR companies and artist managers. The Times reached out to several of the reported signees for further comment.

The letter also called for changes in the academy’s voting structure to better reflect the diversity of the music industry.

“The stringent requirements for members ... to vote reflect the distorted, unequal balance of executives and creators in our industry,” it read. “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.”


The Recording Academy simultaneously announced a task force to “overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community.”

“After hearing from many friends and colleagues,” Portnow said in a statement issued Thursday, “I understand the hurt that my poor choice of words following last Sunday’s Grammy telecast has caused.

“I also now realize that it’s about more than just my words,” he said. “Because those words, while not reflective of my beliefs, echo the real experience of too many women. I’d like to help make that right.”

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