Grammys President Neil Portnow Says ‘Women Need to Step Up’

Grammys (Recording Academy) president Neil Portnow
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The head of the Grammys says ‘women need to step up’ to win more awards.

Alessia Cara won Best New Artist at the Grammys last night.  But why aren’t there more women winners?  According to Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the Recording Academy, ‘women need to step up’ to grab more brass rings.

The Recording Academy, otherwise known as NARAS, oversees the annual Grammys awards show.

The comments came in a just-completed interview with Variety.

“It 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.  I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.”

Separately, Grammys producer Ken Erlich declined to address howls of protests related to the exclusion of women artists.

“It’s not for me to talk about,” Erlich responded. “I produce the TV show.”

Erlich was more specifically pressed on the issue of Lorde.  Despite a high-profile Album of the Year nomination, critics complained that the singer was passed over for an on-stage presentation.  “I don’t know if it was a mistake,” Erlich said.

“These shows are a matter of choices. We have a box and it gets full. She had a great album. There’s no way we can really deal with everybody.”

The comments from Portnow could be interpreted in different ways.  The ugly version sounds something like this: ‘why aren’t women better at making music?’  Indeed, Portnow may get broiled by a growing #GrammysSoMale protest movement.

Alternatively, Portnow may be pointing to a Grammys platform that is welcoming to all performers — as long as those performers recognize it exists.  The latter sounds like progress, and previous mega-winners like Adele and Taylor Swift support that interpretation.

Unfortunately, mega-winners like Swift weren’t around this year.  And that is likely to fuel this debate.



4 Responses

  1. rach

    If Portnow would get his head out of his ass, he’d realize there are PLENTY of women who have “stepped up” to be a part of the music industry. He’s a typical male chauvinist _____.

  2. Wendy Day

    Just want I want. Advice from an out of touch, older white man who runs an archaic organization that has little relevance in today’s music industry. I’ve been in the urban music industry (successfully) for 26 years and I’ve NEVER attended the Grammys or even watched them on TV. I don’t care what this guy, or NARAS thinks. They are completely irrelevant in urban music even if their voting base has finally discovered black music.

  3. Kev-o

    The Grammy’s are so irrelevant now. In addition, there’s certainly no shortage of female artists that should have won.

  4. gailstorm

    This isn’t really the place to lay blame. Anyone who releases material can join the Academy and vote. But next time you listen to mainstream radio count the male and female performers (including all band members) over, say, 10 songs. I’m betting it is a 9-1 ratio. Outside of the Grammys, what the Academy mostly does is fight big radio for royalties and promote music in schools.