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After Grammy nominations outcry, Recording Academy steps up efforts to support Black musicians

David Oliver
USA TODAY

In its latest effort to promote diversity, the Recording Academy released a new guide to help the music industry be more proactive when it comes to racial justice. This comes as the academy and its Grammy Awards have faced backlash from the Black community for a lack of inclusion and transparency. 

Earlier this year, Sean "Diddy" Combs criticized the academy and the music industry at large during his speech as the Industry Icon award winner at the Clive Davis pre-Grammy Gala. 

"Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be," he said. "For years we've allowed institutions that have never had our best interests at heart to judge us, and that stops right now." 

Since then, The Recording Academy has tried to round out its membership with a diversity push, launched the Black Music Collective and hired a diversity and inclusion officer. Now, the academy has partnered with Color of Change, a civil rights advocacy group, to create the #ChangeMusic roadmap. The guide lays out actions the music industry can take to improve its treatment of Black people. Among them:

  • Invest in Black talent and careers (supporting retention and training)
  • Commit to transparency regarding Black representation (third-party and public-facing diversity audit; yearly reporting of pay gaps)
  • Partner with the Black community (working with Black-owned and Black-led businesses, plus partnering with brands that have anti-racist values)
  • Support civic advocacy (giving employees paid time off to vote in national elections)
  • Invest in Black safety (supporting calls to reexamine police in Black communities and criminal justice structural issues)
Honoree Sean "Diddy" Combs speaks onstage during the Pre-Grammy Gala and Grammy Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Sean "Diddy" Combs on Jan. 25, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.

More: As Grammys face misconduct allegations and Diddy decries exclusion, CEO issues diversity plan

The academy announced its partnership with Color of Change in July and gave a first look at its #ChangeMusic Roadmap project at an October summit.

"The roadmap is intended to serve as an important tool to support the changes we must urgently make together in music," Harvey Mason Jr., chair & interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy, said in a statement. "This is a new era of the Recording Academy and we won’t stop until the work is done. The Recording Academy and Color of Change invite our peers and partners to join us on this transformational journey."

This is the second industry-wide racial justice roadmap; Color of Change worked with Michael B. Jordan on a #ChangeHollywood roadmap.

"To honor and amplify Black artists’ past, present, and future contributions, the music industry must tear down the barriers that have been up for far too long. #ChangeMusic is our first step," Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, said in the same statement.

The Recording Academy recognized the Black community with Grammy nominations in November in major categories – Beyoncé got nine, the most for any nominee, including record of the year and song of the year for "Black Parade." Hip-hop chart-toppers Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby and Roddy Ricch were recognized with record of the year nods. 

The Weeknd, however, was noticeably left out despite his chart-topping hit "Blinding Lights." He wrote on Twitter in the wake of the snub: "The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency..." 

Mason responded to The Weeknd in a statement obtained by USA TODAY that he, too, was surprised by the Weeknd's shutout. But he denied any wrongdoing by the organization or the process in the "unusual and competitive year," which saw a record number of submissions.

"Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists," said Mason. 

Nicki Minaj joined the fray at the time as well. "Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade - went on to inspire a generation," Minaj wrote on Twitter after the nominations. "They gave it to the white man Bon Iver."

A deeper look at nominations:Grammy nominations show Recording Academy has made progress on diversity goals – but not enough

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