Over the last few years, advocating for diversity and representation has become the center of conversation in the upper echelons of the music and film industries. Whether it’s through a lack of representation in nominees and winners, or campaigns like #OscarsSoWhite, the organizations that govern Hollywood and the music business are finally facing pressure from the public to show a commitment to women and people of color.
The Oscars have already made significant efforts to address these concerns (this year alone, they invited 928 new members from 59 countries). Now it seems like their counterparts in music are finally catching up.
Today, the Recording Academy of Arts & Sciences announced an initiative to invite 900 new members to its voting body. According to Billboard, the organization sent invitations to all kinds of music creators, including songwriters, producers, vocalists, and beyond. They are exclusively women and people of color under the age of 39.
The Recording Academy adopted this approach after a series of controversies prompted them to create a Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion earlier this year. Back in January, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow infamously said women artists need to “step up” if they want equal recognition in the industry, which subsequently led to his decision to step down from his role in 2019.
The Task Force recommended the Academy identify implicit bias in the nomination and voting process and take greater initiatives to support women and people of color in the industry. As Billboard reports, the 13,000 members of the voting body are 55 percent white and 28 percent people of color (17 percent declined to disclose). This outreach effort is just an early step in making transformative change, as chair Tina Tchen told Billboard. “We are hoping this will be part of getting the artists to be part of the change that we want to have, which is to diversify the leadership of the industry through the Recording Academy by having all diverse artists participating in the process.” And if new members join by November 15, they can vote in the 2019 Grammys, which are set to take place in February.
It’s not clear how this initiative will affect Latino artists and creators, since the Latin Grammys have a separate governing body known as LARAS. But LARAS only presides over music whose lyrics are 51 percent in Spanish, which has long been a point of contention for U.S. Latinos who make bilingual or fully English-language music.
At the very least, this initiative is a step in the right direction, though enduring change is still elusive.