Top Female Execs at Major Record Labels Call Grammys "Woefully Out of Touch"

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Neil Portnow

The letter was signed by Universal Music Group executive vp Michele Anthony, Atlantic Records co-chairman Julie Greenwald, Epic Records president Sylvia Rhone, Sony general counsel Julie Swidler and Roc Nation COO Desiree Perez.

A group of powerful female music industry executives have condemned the Grammys in a new joint letter.

The document, sent to the Recording Academy's board of trustees and obtained by The New York Times, calls the organization “woefully out of touch with today’s music, the music business, and even more significantly, society” and calls for the Academy, which presents the Grammys, to be more inclusive and transparent.

The letter is signed by six top female executives at major record labels and music publishers: Universal Music Group executive vp Michele Anthony, Atlantic Records co-chairman Julie Greenwald, Epic Records president Sylvia Rhone, Sony general counsel Julie Swidler and Roc Nation COO Desiree Perez.

The missive follows Recording Academy president Neil Portnow drawing criticism for saying that women in music need to "step up" in comments backstage at last week's awards show, which was already under fire for its few female nominees.

While a dozen female industry execs called for Portnow to resign in a separate letter last week, the new letter does not.

But the women say Portnow's remarks are a reflection of "a much larger issue," indicating that his second statement on Jan. 29, walking back his comments, was not being strong enough.

“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 [National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences] organization as a whole on the broader set of inclusion issues across all demographics," the women write.

The Grammys took place as the music industry had remained relatively untouched by the wave of sexual harassment and assault claims that swept through Hollywood and other fields. Also, just days before the Grammys, a report was released highlighting the lack of representation for music industry women.

Last week, the Recording Academy said it would be establishing an "independent task force" to identify gender bias in the organization and unconscious bias to promote women in the industry.

"I appreciate that the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed in our industry, and share in the urgency to attack it head on," Portnow said in announcing that initiative. "We as an organization, and I as its leader, pledge our commitment to doing that."

Portnow responded Monday 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."

Feb. 5, 1 p.m. Updated with Portnow statement.

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