The Recording Academy, Online Courses, grammy

The Recording Academy Announces New DREAM Initiative To Empower Underrepresented Music Creators

The Recording Academy's CEO, Harvey Mason Jr., spoke exclusively to BLACK ENTERPRISE about the organization's mission to increase diversity and representation in the music industry

The Recording Academy, the organization that presents the annual Grammy Awards, is taking another step toward progress and inclusion with the announcement of its new DREAM Initiative.

DREAM — an acronym for Diversity Reimagined by Engaging All Musicmakers — was created by the academy’s DEI team to support and empower music creators who identify as Black Americans, women, LGBTQIA+, Pan-Asian, Latinx, Indigenous, disabled, and/or Gen Z. In addition to spotlighting their contributions to the music industry, the Recording Academy established member resource groups to uplift music professionals within those eight communities.

The Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason, Jr.
Source: The Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason, Jr. (Photo By Michael Kovac- Recording Academy)

“[It’s] something we’re really proud of,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. told BLACK ENTERPRISE in an exclusive interview. “The point of it is to make sure that we’re listening, we’re learning, we’re interacting with different groups, and…we’re hearing from some people that didn’t always have their voice heard.”

Mason says the academy is committed to addressing past injustices and creating safe spaces for underrepresented music creators.

“We’re trying to do a better job,” he said.

To better understand and represent these groups, the 65-year-old organization will facilitate interactive listening sessions to engage with diverse music creators.

“We invite each group to sit with us and to sit with the members of the leadership team and the staff at the Academy, and tell us everything,” says Mason. “Tell us the good, tell us the bad. Tell us the things we could be doing better. Tell us the things we’re missing. We need these groups to pull our coattails a little bit when there’s things that we need to pay attention to.”

Since Mason’s appointment as CEO, the organization has focused on ensuring that all genres and communities are represented and honored.

“We have enough people feeling left out. We have enough people in groups feeling like they’re scratching to get heard. And that’s not how it’s supposed to be. It’s not how it’s supposed to be in anything, but specifically around music,” he says.

Mason was tapped to serve as interim CEO of the academy after his predecessor, Deborah Duggan, was suspended in January 2020. In a scathing legal complaint, the former president and CEO alleged that academy members engaged in unethical voting practices that favored artists they were personally interested in. Duggan also called the academy a “boys club” dominated by white men. She was terminated in March 2020 for misconduct. She and the academy settled for an undisclosed amount in 2021, according to Variety. That same year, Mason was appointed as permanent CEO, and the Recording Academy eliminated its secret voting committees that had existed for nearly 30 years.

Under Mason’s leadership, the academy has made significant transformation efforts in response to the long-standing criticism of its lack of racial and gender diversity.

“Women, people of color, and individuals of other traditionally underrepresented communities have joined the Academy in record numbers,” said the organization in a statement to BE, citing an increase in membership among people of color and women. Membership among people of color has risen from 24% to 38%, while the percentage of women members jumped from 26% to 30% since 2019. The Recording Academy says it’s on its way to reaching 2,500 women voting members by 2025. Furthermore, 60% of the 2023-2024 board of trustees are people of color, and 45% are women.

Additionally, the academy has launched dozens of new initiatives and partnerships, including the Black Music Collective, Women in the Mix Study, GLAAD Partnership, and the HBCU Love Tour

Outside of leading the Recording Academy, Mason is a decorated record producer who’s penned and produced songs for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Elton John. Mason also produced the LeBron James movie More Than a Game and Aretha Franklin’s 2021 biopic Respect starring Jennifer Hudson. He says he’s grateful that the academy allows him to continue to work on major film and music projects while running the prestigious music institution.

Watch Harvey Mason, Jr.’s interview on The New Norm With Selena Hill below.