Portnow has apologized for his comments, in which he said to Variety Sunday night that “it has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.”
In a subsequent statement, he explained: "Last night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year's GRAMMY Awards. Regrettably, I used two words, “step up,” that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make," he said in the statement. "Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced. We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor, and empower them. Our community will be richer for it. I regret that I wasn't as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought. I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone."
Because the IDs of the people who've signed the petition are presented as only first names and last initials, it is unclear if any of them were prominent female musicians or any of the stars who've publicly called Portnow out over the past few days -- which include Kelly Clarkson, Iggy Azalea, Katy Perry, Pink, Halsey and Charli XCX.
One prominent artist who did attach their name to the Step Down petition was singer/songwriter Vanessa Carlton, who tweeted about it on Wednesday morning (Jan. 31), writing, "Attention everyone, especially musicians: Step up. And sign the petition to have Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy/Grammy's, to step down."
Portnow, 70, a former vice president of the West Coast division of Jive Records and staffer at RCA Records, Arista and EMI America, has been the president of the Recording Academy since 2002; a spokesperson for the Recording Academy could not be reached for comment at press time.