Saturday, April 13, 2024

Female Record Execs Write Letter Criticizing Academy Chief– But Why Aren’t They Promoting Female Artists?


Listen, I don’t get it.

Ben Sisario writes in the New York Times online this morning that six female record company execs have sent a letter to NARAS criticizing Neil Portnow. He said, blithely, that female artists should “step up” in the business. It was a toss off, but now everyone is blaming him for everything.

“Neil Portnow’s comments are not a reflection of being ‘inarticulate’ in a single interview. They are, unfortunately, emblematic of a much larger issue with the Naras organization as a whole on the broader set of inclusion issues across all demographics,” the women wrote. They are: Michele Anthony, an executive vice president at the Universal Music Group; Jody Gerson, the chief executive of Universal’s publishing arm; Julie Greenwald, the co-chairman of Atlantic Records; Sylvia Rhone, the president of Epic Records; Julie Swidler, the general counsel of Sony Music; and Desiree Perez, the chief operating officer of Roc Nation.

They’re all talented women who wield a lot of power at their companies and in the business. But it’s their responsibility to sign and promote female acts. NARAS doesn’t put out records. It has nothing to do with the labels at that level. This is the same as two years ago during #Oscarsowhite when the Motion Picture Academy was being blamed for so few black nominees. Again, they had nothing to do with it. It was the filmmakers who weren’t making those movies.

In all these articles and letters the point is made that there have been fewer female Grammy nominees in the last six years. As I wrote last week, this is because to streamline the Grammys and make them “PC,” gender distinctions were removed. This eliminated three big awards for women. The answer is to bring them back– Best Pop, R&B, Country Female Vocal– and then the percentages will revert to the previous years.

One more note: over the weekend, 90s pop almost-star Fiona Apple wore a t shirt that read “Kneel Portnow.” I had to laugh– is Fiona Apple blaming her uncommercial career on the head of NARAS? That’s not going to fly. I learned a long time ago– artists who don’t have big careers have themselves to blame nine out of ten times.

Fiona Apple never got with the program. After one hit with “Criminal,” she released music sporadically, and when she did the albums had long unpronounceable names. (She’s put out just four albums in over 20 years. Hello?) Male or female, the record business like any other takes work. I look at Sheryl Crow, for example, as someone who stood her ground but realized it’s the business in ‘music business’ that keeps you going.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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