Grammys, looking to shake 'boys club' reputation, invites 2,300 new voters

Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

More than 2,000 people in the music industry -- half of them women and half of them under the age of 40 -- have been invited to join the organization behind the Grammy Awards, which have been frequently criticized in recent years as a bastion of old-white-guy values.

The Recording Academy announced Thursday that it had offered membership to more than 2,300 "established music professionals from wide-ranging backgrounds, genres and disciplines" -- a significant uptick from 2019, when approximately 1,300 musicians, technicians and executives were invited to join the academy.

In a statement, the academy said the new class of invitees is 48% female and 32% from "traditionally underrepresented communities," including Black, Latino and Asian American people. That compares to a current membership of around 21,000 that the academy says is 26% female and 25% non-white.

"It's really a new era for us and a time of transformative change," Kelley Purcell, the academy's senior director of member outreach, said in an interview. "It's important for us to not only be reflective of what's happening in the music industry but also to be a leader and to set a positive example for the music industry."

The effort to expand the academy's ranks -- which is being headed up by Purcell and the group's first chief diversity and inclusion officer, Valeisha Butterfield Jones -- comes after a bruising few months in which the organization was described by its former leader, Deborah Dugan, as perpetuating a toxic boys club culture.

Dugan, the academy's first female chief executive, was ousted in an explosive scandal involving charges of discrimination and vote-rigging just weeks before January's annual Grammys ceremony. Her interim replacement, Harvey Mason Jr., has said he'll stay in the job at least through May, in part because the search for a permanent chief executive has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.


In a dramatic speech at a well-attended party the night before the Grammys, the veteran producer and executive Sean "Diddy" Combs complained to a roomful of insiders that the academy had long disrespected Black musicians and gave the group a year -- until the 2021 ceremony -- to "get this s-- together." Other artists such as Drake, Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator have described what they view as the Grammys' systemic marginalization of hip-hop and R&B.

Butterfield Jones, who took up her post in early May, said she welcomes the criticism.

"I believe that honesty and transparency is the only way that we're going to build trust, drive change and do the necessary work," said the executive, who formerly oversaw inclusion initiatives at Google.

Butterfield Jones said the academy based its targets for the new class of invited members on U.S. demographic data but that it's working to compile more specific information about the makeup of the music business, which is dominated creatively by people of color.


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