Of the endless problems with the Grammys, one of the most glaring blind spots revealed in the fallout from last year’s “step up” controversy was the historical lack of female producers and engineers in the nominations, as reflective of the industry overall. In fact, only 2 to 3 percent of the industry’s producers and engineers were found to be women, according to a 2018 study. As a corrective, the Grammys’ new diversity task force has announced plans to enforce something similar to Hollywood’s inclusion riders. Their new initiative asks that anyone responsible for hiring producers and engineers — be it a record label, artist, or A&R person — only make their final decision after considering a pool of candidates that includes at least two women. It also asks that more senior producers mentor more women.
While Hollywood’s version of inclusion riders, which came into the spotlight when Frances McDormand named-dropped them in her Oscar speech, involve contractual clauses for diversity on a film or TV project, the Recording Academy’s proposal sounds more like a strong recommendation rather than a rule. (Though record labels could enforce it in their policies if they, too, felt like stepping up.) To help make this initiative the new norm, the Grammys have created a database of female producers and engineers, so men can’t say they didn’t know where to find them. The initiative is backed by more than 200 in the music industry, including Ariana Grande, Cardi B, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Post Malone, Pink, and Katy Perry, who noted in a statement that she’s already way ahead of the Grammys — her studio is run by a female engineer.