Grammys Pledge More Diversity Under New Leadership A task force on diversity and inclusivity led by Time's Up executive Tina Tchen made sweeping recommendations that could transform the Recording Academy.
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Grammys Pledge More Diversity Under New Leadership

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Grammys Pledge More Diversity Under New Leadership

Grammys Pledge More Diversity Under New Leadership

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Two years ago, the Grammys faced a moment of reckoning. Its then-leader Neil Portnow said that women had to, quote, "step up" in order to be recognized in the music industry. He is gone now, and the Recording Academy, which gives out the Grammys, released a report today on how it plans to change its culture. NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas has more.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Last year, the Recording Academy tapped Tina Tchen to head a task force to examine how the Grammys work and who does that work. Tchen is also the president and CEO of Time's Up. She spoke to NPR by phone from Vietnam, where she was traveling with former President Obama. Tchen says that, for starters, the Grammys need to have many more women at the table as voters.

TINA TCHEN: Research tells us that when you have diverse people, you make better decisions collectively. It doesn't just mean more women nominees. It means you're making that collective better decision because you have diverse viewpoints in the room.

DEBORAH DUGAN: We've known as an industry for a long time that we have a monumental problem with gender issues.

TSIOULCAS: That's Deborah Dugan, the new CEO and president of the Recording Academy. She points out that right now only about 22% of Grammy voters are women.

DUGAN: We have set goals, for example, in our membership to double the amount of women by 2025.

TSIOULCAS: The task force report calls for the academy to diversify its administration and the influential nominating committees that have a huge say in the nominees and winners you see in the Grammy telecast. Tina Tchen says that when she came in, she anticipated at least some resistance to new ideas.

TCHEN: We weren't sure how the Recording Academy was going to receive it because it is a 60-year-old organization.

TSIOULCAS: And, Tchen says, the structures currently in place were adopted decades ago. The report also recommends the academy adopt a policy of publicly disclosing its demographic makeup. Dugan says she's committed to transparency.

DUGAN: Making processes simple, understandable - so we're examining everything - absolutely everything - to say, with this new lens, how could we be?

TSIOULCAS: Earlier this year, after the task force was launched, the academy created a program to increase opportunities for female producers and recording engineers in the industry. The academy doesn't have jurisdiction over record labels or artists' businesses, but the second half of the task force report also addresses issues beyond the academy. Dugan and Tchen hope that the recommendations will be reflected in the Grammys themselves. And, Tchen argues, they could even have resonance beyond the music industry.

TCHEN: Music translates and changes our broader culture, right? It sets the standard for folks that, you know, kids want to be and listen to. And if they can see, you know, women artists and people who look like them making music and being Grammy nominees, that has a ripple effect across our entire culture that's huge.

TSIOULCAS: And the Recording Academy's new leader Deborah Dugan says the changes she wants to affect are already being mirrored in some of this year's Grammy nominees.

DUGAN: The nominees themselves are unapologetically themselves. And so when you have a Lizzo, a Billie Eilish, you realize that there's no defining just bringing yourself to the table. And none of us is equal until all of us are equal.

TSIOULCAS: The Recording Academy has agreed to try to implement 17 of the report's 18 recommendations.

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN")

BILLIE EILISH: (Singing) You should see me in a crown. I'm going to run this nothing town. Watch me make them bow one by one by one.

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