The Recording Academy introduced the Producer & Engineer Inclusion Initiative as of February 1, 2019, a campaign to create more opportunities for female music producers and engineers.
Developed by the Recording Academy’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, the move comes in response to an extensive statistical analysis released January 25 by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, which found women to be marginalised and underrepresented in the industry, most notably in production roles. It stated that “female producers face an epidemic of invisibility when it comes to working in the top leadership positions.”
In fact, only 2 per cent of the songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list had female producers, and 3 per cent female engineers/mixers, on the liners.
The Inclusion Initiative has called on parties involved in the selection and hiring of producers and engineers to pledge they will consider at least two female candidates among their potential hires before making a decision. More than 200 producers, labels, agencies, management companies and other entities had already signed on by the time the Initiative was announced, along with artists including Justin Bieber, Cardi B, Common, Andra Day, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, John Legend, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Pink, Post Malone, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. Since then, the number of signatories has risen to more than 400.
The 16-member Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion is chaired by Tina Tchen. Tchen is a partner at the law firm Buckley Sandler and was previously an assistant to President Barack Obama, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama.
The Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion was created last May in the wake of multiple controversies that the Recording Academy faced. At the time, the Recording Academy was receiving backlash for its 2018 Grammy Awards telecast, which hardly represented any female performers or award winners. With a comment that put him under fire, Neil Portnow, CEO of the Recording Academy, suggested backstage that the absence ultimately meant women needed to “step up”— later conceding that it was a “poor choice of words.”
The Inclusion Initiative also asks producers to consider the challenges women face upon entering the male-dominated recording industry when taking on beginners for mentoring. The report advised that “in more technical roles (e.g., producing, mixing, engineering), obstacles may exist for females related to pursing math, science or other STEM fields.”
The report also suggested that future music industry inclusion research should track educational programmes that train young musicians, executives and engineers, and additionally the pool of talent that emerges from those schools.
Tchen elaborated: “The music industry is at a crossroads and progress won’t happen on its own. There is no magic bullet to shift a status quo that has existed for centuries, but we see this Initiative as an important step. We know that change requires real commitment to intentional hiring and to providing young women with consistent training and mentorship. We aren’t here to tell anyone who to hire, but we have seen repeatedly that the simple act of making sure diverse candidates are always seen and considered makes it more likely that women will get the opportunities they previously have been denied. It’s one step everyone can take that could go a long way to catalysing important change that is overdue in this industry.”