Recording Academy Welcomes ‘Nearly 2,000 Diverse’ New Members

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The Recording Academy welcomed its new member class of “nearly 2,000 diverse music creators and professionals” at an online session on Friday (Sept. 9) in which CEO Harvey Mason Jr. spoke and answered seven pre-selected questions.

The Academy reports that 47% of this year’s new members are under the age of 40; 44% are from “traditionally underrepresented communities” (referred to elsewhere in the report as people of color); and 32% are women.

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The new members had an option of “prefer not to disclose” on key demographic categories. That option was chosen most frequently on the question of ethnicity. 24% of new members checked “prefer not to disclose” on the ethnicity question. An additional 3% checked “prefer to self-describe.” By way of comparison, on the gender question, 16% checked “prefer not to disclose.” On the age question, 13% checked “prefer not to say.”

In terms of self-reported ethnicity, the new member class is 33% white/Caucasian; 25% Black/African American; 24% prefer not to disclose; 10% Hispanic/Latin; 4% AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islander], 3% prefer to self describe; 1% Middle Eastern/North African; and less than 1% Indigenous/Alaskan native.

In terms of genre, the new member class most frequently cited pop as their area of focus, with 33% selecting that genre, followed by (in order) R&B (22%), jazz (19%), alternative (19%), rock (17%), American roots (16%), rap (15%), world music (15%), classical (15%), dance/electronic (13%), contemporary instrumental (13%), gospel/Christian (11%), other (10%), country (9%), Latin (9%), film/TV/media (9%), new age (7%), musical/show (6%), reggae (6%), children’s (4%) and spoken word (3%). Comedy was chosen by less than 1%. (Numbers don’t add up to 100% because members could choose more than one genre.)

The Recording Academy prepared an infographic that contains full details on the new member class in terms of gender, age and ethnicity.

The Academy had invited 2,700 members to join, of whom nearly 2,000 accepted. The invitations were announced on June 30. The deadline to accept was July 12.

The 2022 class marks four years since the Academy transitioned to a community-driven and peer-reviewed annual cycle to create, in its words, “a more diverse and engaged membership base representative of the evolving musical landscape.”

Since implementing the new model in 2019, the number of women members has increased by 19%, while membership among traditionally underrepresented communities has increased by 38%. Women now account for 31% of the Academy’s membership, while people from traditionally underrepresented communities account for 33%.

The Recording Academy has added 1,913 women to its voting membership since 2019 and is now 77% of the way to reaching its stated goal of adding 2,500 women voting members by 2025.

“After years of listening, learning and putting in the work, we’re beginning to see results of our efforts to diversify the Academy’s membership come to life,” Mason said in a statement. “Our members are the lifeblood of this organization, powering everything we do from the inside out. When we have diverse people representing all corners of the industry contributing unique perspectives, progress is achieved at a rapid pace. The journey is just beginning, and I can’t wait to work alongside our new and existing members to build on the Academy’s commitment to effecting real, meaningful change.”

During his membership address, Mason expounded on the diversity efforts. He noted that while there has been a 38% increase in people of color over the past four years, there has been a 100% increase in the number of Black members, a detail that wasn’t in the press statement.

“You’re the fourth class to enter the Academy since we transition to our community-driven and peer-reviewed annual membership cycle with a commitment to reflect the ever-evolving music landscape,” he said. “We now actively recruit prospective members and we extend invitations to people who will help us have a more diverse,engaged and relevant membership base. We strive for diversity not merely to give certain groups of people or musical genres space at the table [that has been] historically denied them — though that’s definitely part of our motivation. The truth is whenever you have diverse inputs into a decision-making process, you tend to arrive at better outcomes…

“Our voting membership is what drives our awards and we have to have the right membership in order to make sure our awards are relevant and accurate. You have to make sure we get this right. We’re doing everything we can to make sure our membership is qualified and understands the process.”

Mason also pointed to specific initiatives in recent years. “In those same three years, we launched the Women in the Mix initiative designed to amplify the lived experiences of women working in music. We’ve also launched the Black Music Collective, dedicated to the inclusion and advancement of Black music and its creators…We’ve entered into new, meaningful partnerships with organizations with GLAAD and Color of Change.”

Mason also touted the five new Grammy categories that are being added this year, including songwriter of the year, non-classical; the new special merit award, best song for social change; and the Academy’s efforts on behalf of the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act in California and the RAP Act on the federal level that would restrict the use of rap lyrics and other creative works in court.

“Silencing creative expression is a violation against all music creators and singling out rap as a genre is an explicit bias we cannot tolerate,” Mason said. “We’ve activated as an organization and we’ve been very loud about this issue.”

The Recording Academy is now accepting recommendations for best song for social change. On Friday (Sept. 9), it posted a page offering more information about the award, along with a submission form. The submission deadline is Oct. 7. The recipient will be chosen by what the Academy calls a “blue ribbon committee.”

Mason also mentioned that Sept. 9 is the deadline for Academy members to register for District Advocate Day, at which members of the Recording Academy can visit with their members of Congress. The event takes place on Oct. 6. Members can register at Advocate.RecordingAcademy.com.

Aside from submitting product for Grammy Awards consideration and voting in the Grammy Awards process, members may vote in chapter elections, propose amendments to Grammy Awards rules, and run for a Recording Academy board position or committee. Here’s a page from the Recording Academy’s site with more information on membership process and requirements.

The Recording Academy released quotes from 14 new members, including Gayle, who had a No. 3 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 earlier this year with “ABCDEFU,” and is thought to be a Grammy contender in key categories. “I’m so excited to have the opportunity to be a new member with such legendary and groundbreaking ironic creatives,” she said. “To join this community is an honor and I already feel so welcomed.”

Mason wore a black T-shirt and a Grammy-branded baseball cap for his address. The casual look may have been prompted in part by the heat wave that has broiled Southern California for the past week.

Mason opened his remarks on a light note, noting that he joined the Academy 21 years ago for one main reason. “I realized I could vote for myself,” he said. “I thought maybe one extra vote might just push me over the edge to winning some hardware.”

By that standard, Mason’s decision to join has not been justified. He has received five nominations since 2000, but has yet to win. (He left that part out of his remarks.)

 

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