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I Don’t See The So Called ‘Welcome Mat’ Being Rolled Out, Mr. Portnow

By Joanna Starling, Associate Music Producer at Ogilvy & Mather

After reading the Rolling Stone piece, “What Do the Grammys Have Against Women?” I’ve got some thoughts on Neil Portnow’s statement that he gave Variety.

At this year’s Grammy’s, female artists spoke out – some loudly (Janelle Monae, Alessia Cara) and downright triumphantly (Kesha) others softly (Lorde, Lady Gaga) for equality for women in the music industry. It’s no secret that there are monsters outside of Hollywood and the political sphere, but what intrigued me the most was how disconnected the Time’s Up movement felt at the Grammy’s. The white roses on the lapels to promote the advancement of women and opportunity for women were gravely overshadowed by the fact that very few women were being recognized. It was as if the artists were advocating for a movement the Recording Academy wasn’t – and historically isn’t – on board with.

If the past 5 years have granted women less than 10% of the overall Grammy nominations, I’m not sure I see the so called “welcome mat” being rolled out, Mr. Portnow.

The Recording Academy president, Neil Portnow, told Variety, “It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome.”

That night, only one woman was presented a Grammy on stage and the only female artist nominated for Album of the Year did not get to perform.

Here’s the thing. The argument that women need to “step up” and become leaders is invalid. They’ve been stepping up. It’s 2018. Women are running record labels, publishing companies, sync departments, major entertainment companies, and talent agencies. You name it, and a woman is doing it.

Don’t believe me? Here is Billboard’s Women in Music 2017, which profile 100 “women pushing the music industry forward.”


They are CEOs, Presidents, COOs, EVPs, Managers and a great deal of them are full time moms too (which, oh my gosh, have actual superstar status, right?!). I know this because they are my heroes, my friends and my coworkers. These women are going to shows with clients and leaving before the final songs to tuck their kids into bed. They are staying up late to do searches after kids are asleep. They are up before dawn to hop on a music briefing conference call before dropping children off at school.

So, don’t tell me that women need to “step up and be creative… and really try and be a part on the executive level”… maybe men need to widen their lens and recognize the work that their equals are accomplishing. I feel like male artists and many awesome men in the industry already do…why won’t the folks at the Academy? Don’t just profit from them. Cherish these women! Empower them, learn from them. I feel so lucky that I get to do so!!

Don’t tell them they need to do more; look at all they are already doing.


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