If getting a seat at the table is the first step, the Grammys just took one giant step towards amplifying the voices of women and minorities that could mark a major difference in who wins awards and who gets nominated at the 2019 ceremony.
The Recording Academy announced today that they are issuing invitations to 900 new members in an effort to "build a membership that reflects the diverse creative community." Many of the invitees, selected in conjunction with the Academy's Diversity Task Force headed by Tina Tchen, were sent personal invitations from several task force members, the Academy said in a press release.
The newly invited members of the Academy are reported to cover a variety of backgrounds and "representing a diversity of music genres, ethnicities, gender, and age groups."
The new members will be allowed to participate in the final round of voting for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, which happen early in 2019, if they join by a November 15 deadline. If not, they will get to vote for the 2020 awards.
But the really big news that will potentially make a giant change in who we see represented at the awards is in regards to the nominating committees. The press release goes on to say that the Academy and the Diversity Task Force reviewed the Nominations Review Committees and National Governance Committees. Their major change? "This year, the composition of the Nominations Review Committees is 51% female and 48% people of colour; last year, those figures were 28% female and 37% people of colour."
After last year's awards and Neil Portnow's unfortunate comment that women should "step up" if they want more Grammy wins and nominations, multiple sources who sit on various Grammy nominations committees told Refinery29 that they were frustrated during the nominations process by how safe the other committee members wanted to play things. One source on the Nominations Review Committee for the big four awards, a committee the Academy still does not publicly admit exists, voiced concerns that their voice was drowned out by white men. With more diverse voices reviewing who is nominated, both in highly visible awards and in all of the Academy's rap and hip hop categories which that have long been troubled by out-of-touch nominations, the Grammys take a huge step away from their troubled past of under representing both women and minorities.
"Our invite initiative is a first step to reach out to the diverse, talented individuals who make up the music community," Tchen said in a statement. "The Recording Academy should reflect the scope and scale of the music industry and recognise the creative and artistic endeavours that enable it to thrive. Having a truly diverse membership is the foundation for any change. This initiative is one of the many ways the Task Force is encouraging change in practices while nurturing a more inclusive organisation for Academy members today and for generations to come."
Additionally, the Academy will institute a new membership process starting in 2019. They are starting a Peer Review Board for new member applications. Previously, one simply needed to meet the criteria for album credits and pay a fee to vote.