Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Takes Swipes at Recording Academy’s Diversity Efforts

The Recording Academy’s Women in the Mix initiative was launched in 2019 whereby 650 music professionals pledged to consider at least two women in the selection process every time a producer or engineer is hired. The goal was to increase abysmal representation by women in studios.

The tweet would seem to reference a survey, open until Sept. 20, which is part of a broader partnership between the academy, Berklee College of Music Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship and Arizona State University, that launched in March with an analysis of gender representation within the 63rd Grammy Awards. The goal of the study is to help guide diversity, equity and inclusion objectives within the Recording Academy and the industry at large.

The Annenberg Inclusive Initiative’s tweet appears to refer back to data in the fourth annual edition of its Inclusion in the Recording studio report issued March 8, conducted by Stacy Smith, USC associate professor and founder of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and the Initiative, with funding from Spotify.

That report, which is based solely on Billboard’s Hot 100 Year-End Charts, analyzed the progress of the Women in the Mix program. “Only four women producers were credited on the 2020 Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart — none of whom worked with one of the 38 pledge-takers who had a song on the chart,” the report stated. “Moreover, Ariana Grande was the sole pledge-taker to work with a woman engineer — herself — of those who appeared on the chart. While women producers and engineers may have worked on less popular songs as a result of this initiative, the pledges and support did not influence the percentage of women producers on the year-end chart.”

That same study found that women accounted for only 2.6% of the producers for the Billboard Hot 100 songs. The annual Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reports have provided a benchmark–though limited to the most popular songs– to measure the progress by women in certain sectors of the industry.

When the Recording Academy announced the new partnership, then interim president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr., acknowledged the Women in Mix initiative had not yielded the hoped for results and the survey would hopefully help provide guidance.

“Two years ago, we started our Women in the Mix initiative with the primary goal of raising awareness and had an overwhelming initial response, garnering support from more than 650 of the most influential music people, executives and organizations,” said Mason. “While we are hopeful that we will still see benefit from that effort, we haven’t seen enough progress to date. In order to accelerate our goals, we are excited to partner with the Berklee College of Music and Arizona State University on this study. The results of the research will serve as a guide for much-needed reforms in the industry at-large.”

The Annenberg Inclusive Initiative tagged The Weeknd in the tweet, a not-so-subtle reference to The Weeknd’s ongoing feud with the Recording Academy after, despite the tremendous success of “Blinding Lights,” he received no nominations for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards.

Annenberg then followed with another tweet, stating “They said they would self evaluate. The music industry problems are already documented by multiple groups. This is a way to deflect on the focus on @RecordingAcad diversity problems.”

The Recording Academy has acknowledged its diversity issues and has responded with a number of initiatives, including hiring its first chief diversity and inclusion office last year in Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, who has since been promoted to co-president with Panay Pantos, under Mason, who assumed the official CEO position in June.

The academy has also been on a mission to diversity its membership, including inviting 2,710 new members to join the academy this year. According to the Academy, 55% of the invitees were fro “traditionally underrepresented groups.” This year, for the first time, people of color make up the majority of the Recording Academy’s board of trustees, accounting for 53%.

Neither Smith nor the Recording Academy immediately responded to requests for comment.

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