Vince Gill loosely addressed recent criticism surrounding the lack of female representation at the Grammy Awards. The 21-time Grammy winner spoke to a New York crowd before a benefit concert honoring the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“I look at it kind of trying to see the whole field, you know,” Gill said. “And I think the Grammys will go on and the country artists will feel slighted. Or maybe the classical people will feel slighted. It’s impossible to pull something off like that and not leave a few people by the wayside.”
The Recording Academy, which produces the Grammy Awards, came under fire after president Neil Portnow responded to a question about the lack of female winners by saying women needed to “step up.” Several prominent musicians then suggested Portnow step down for what many perceived as a “tone deaf” comment.
While Gill didn’t directly mention those comments, he offered his own take. “We don’t care about genres, of color of skin, or gender, or anything,” Gill says. “We just love playing music with great people and that’s all.”
The Larger Point
While nobody doubts Gill’s intentions, his comments miss the larger point. The music industry continues to be an unkind place for many women. It’s not enough to simply say that some people will always be left “by the wayside.” It’s acknowledging that women and people of color are hands down more likely to be discouraged from even entering the industry (and Recording Academy) in the first place.
The Recording Academy recently addressed the issue in two separate letters to members. In the first email, the Academy rebutted an oft-cited study showing that women comprised only 9% of the Grammy nominees. For starters, that study only involved five categories over the past nine years.
However, the full picture isn’t much more promising. 17% of nominees across all 84 categories are women. This number is much higher than the 12% of women currently in the industry, according to the Recording Academy. “But it’s not enough to reflect the community,” the Recording Academy says. “We must be leaders in moving our industry toward greater inclusion and representation.”
A second note to members addressed the call for Portnow to step down. While noting the Academy itself features many women in prominent roles, the note also said the body must strive to improve diversity in music. “Our Academy and our industry must do a better job honoring and demonstrating our commitment to cultural, gender and genre diversity, in all aspects of our work,” the note says.
The Recording Academy performs many vital functions within the music community. Let’s hope another one becomes making a concerted effort to attract and make welcome a more diverse body of industry professionals — at all stages of career development.