How the Recording Academy’s Diversity Task Force Report Relates to 2020 Grammy Nominations

In May 2018, Tina Tchen and 18 other individuals joined together to create the Recording Academy Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. The Task Force was created to examine the lack of gender and racial diversity within the Recording Academy and music industry.

On Dec. 12, 2019, the Task Force reported its findings. The report comes a little less than a month after the Recording Academy revealed the nominations for the 2020 Grammy Awards. So how do the findings in the report correlate to the diversity found in the 2020 Grammy nominees?

Grammy Diversity
Recording Academy president and CEO Deborah Dugan at the 62nd Grammy Awards Nominations | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

The Task Force investigated diversity in the Recording Academy and Grammy Awards

The Task Force began its investigation in May 2018. The Final Report released by the Task Force is 47 pages long. It can be found on the Recording Academy’s website.

The Task Force investigated the role of the national governance committees, nomination review committees, Board of Trustees, and the President/CEO of the Recording Academy. It found that although both the national governance committees and nomination review committees play a vital importance in the industry, they did not appropriately reflect diverse demographics.

“However, despite the indisputable importance of these committees, they have historically not included members that reflect the demographics of society at large,” reads the report.

The Task Force urged the Recording Academy to correct major gender disparity

The investigation found that “… between 2015 and 2018, 71% of the national governance committee members were men, while only 29% were female; and between 2015 and 2017, the members of the nomination review committees in the aggregate were 74% male, 26% female.”

The Task Force urged the Recording Academy to resolve this diversity issue before the next Grammy Awards cycle. This resulted in the “the individuals appointed as members of the nomination review committees for the 61st GRAMMY Awards were 51% female… the gender demographics of the national governance committees improved… to 52% male/48% female, and the national governance committee co-chairs were 50% male/50% female.”

The Task Force discovered a variety of existing obstacles for diversity in the music industry

After the investigation, the report detailed a number of problem areas within the music industry. The existing issues found include:

  • Underrepresentation of women in the music industry, particularly within the industry’s technical fields.
  • Prevalence of harassment, discrimination, and/or assault as a result of informal or isolated work environments.
  • Restriction of airtime or participation by female artists, particularly in country music.
  • Underrepresentation of individuals of lower socioeconomic means due to high costs of entry.
  • Lack of equal access to resources for disabled individuals.
  • Marginalization of certain ethnicities into particular roles or genres.
  • Phasing out of older generation music industry professionals.

The report went into detail for each separate issue, highlighting the origin of the problem and listing solutions.

For the marginalization of ethnicities issues, the report reads, “During the listening sessions, the Task Force heard consistent testimony from music industry professionals concerning the marginalization of certain ethnicities into specific roles or music genres, such as Asian-American artists being pressured into K-Pop and African-American executives only being present in the rap and hip-hop fields.”

The report lists solutions for the Recording Academy and music industry

The Task Force heavily criticized the Board of the Recording Academy, stating, “The Chapters essentially have become silos, and it has resulted in a Board that is not diverse, is not independent, and is perceived by some underrepresented members (and non-members in the music industry) as out of touch.”

In the 47-page report, the Task Force gave 18 recommended actions to improve diversity. According to the Recording Academy, it has already implemented 17 of those procedures, and is only holding off on changing its voting procedure.

Of the changes, the Task Force recommended the Recording Academy take necessary measures to ensure the national governance committees and nomination review committees are diverse in respect to race and gender.

The Task Force also recommended the Academy use a diverse slate for hiring employees, and to take applicants from the general public or an outside search firm. This would allow more “underrepresented voices” to be hired instead of hiring and eventually electing the same people.

Was there diversity in the 2020 Grammy Award nominations?

The Recording Academy announced the 2020 Grammy nominations on Nov. 20, 2019. The Grammy nominations came after the Task Force insisted the Recording Academy correct its gender disparity but before the Task Force released its final diversity report.

Women led the nominees, with Lizzo, Billie Eilish, H.E.R., and Ariana Grande earning a number of nominations. Lizzo earned a total of eight nominations, including all four nominations in the General Field consisting of Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist. Eilish was also nominated in those four categories.

Lil Nas X earned six nominations, and Rosalía made history “as the first nominee in the category that performs completely in Spanish” with her Best New Artist nomination.

The 2020 Grammy Award nominations showed a step in the right direction with a number of nominations for women, artists of color, and LGBTQ artists. However, the nominations still lagged behind when it came to acknowledging Asian artists, notably leaving out the Korean group BTS.

The 62nd annual Grammy Awards will air on Jan. 26, 2020. Alicia Keys will host. With this, Keys will become the first female Grammy host in 14 years, showing another way the Grammy Awards are only just starting to reflect the diversity changes.