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Diversity of women and people of colour skyrockets in the Emmys Music Branch

The push for diversity that is trying to make a difference in many countries across the globe has fallen in the Emmys’ music branch too. Recently, the Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics has made significant progress, as voters nominated a record number of people of colour and a near-record number of women so far in 2020.

Indeed, more than 26% of all nominees in the seven music categories were non-white, up from 15.5% last year and from 22% the year before. Women constituted nearly 25% of all nominees, a slight dip from last year’s 26% but a marked improvement since the 2018 total of 18%.

For only the second time in Emmy history, at least one person of colour was nominated in every music category -16 of the 61 total- which also happened in 2018. Six of the seven had at least one female nominee -15 of 6, and the Television Academy executives find these statistics heartening and promising for a more diverse future.

Image credit Courtesy of Lee Harcourt/Variety Media

Old-timer spectators instantly noted the positive impact that the two newest music categories had, both for music supervision, in its fourth year, and documentary scores, in its second, as they are far more female-friendly than the male-dominated categories that preceded, particularly when it comes to composing.

“There are, frankly, more people of colour and females working on shows that are getting recognition,” says TV Academy governor Jeff Russo. “The cream rises to the top, and when there is really good work, it gets recognized.”

The statement may be oversimplifying this year’s results, however, considering how the current national conversation about issues of race has impacted every facet of entertainment so far in 2020, also inspired by the protests that the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis triggered.

“People are doing a lot of self-evaluation this year,” also added documentary-score nominee Amanda Jones, a co-founder of the Composers Diversity Collective, whose credits include BET’s critically praised series “Twenties.” She claimed that the higher profile created by her group, as well as the Alliance for Women Film Composers, has also contributed to the rise in numbers of the above statistics.

Nonetheless, AWFC founder Laura Karpman agrees. She referred to the TV Academy, Motion Picture Academy, and Recording Academy, saying that “we made a specific plan to increase our membership in these organizations”.

“This diversity [organizations] are very important,” enhances Jones. “The studios can tap into these groups as a resource for staffing shows. The more progress we see, the more conversations we’ll have surrounding this topic.”

Michael Abels, co-founder and president of the Composers Diversity Collective, currently about 50 members strong, joined the conversations, stating: “Just in the last two years, a lot of people have been getting hired from our group on projects of various levels of visibility. To the extent that people know we’re out there, and we’re no longer outliers but part of the conversation, then we all feel like everyone’s getting a fair shot.”

Donald Glover wins the Emmy for lead actor in a comedy series on Sunday night. Image credit Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

TV Academy governor Rickey Minor, a double Emmy nominee this year as music director for both the Kennedy Center Honors and the Oscar Cast, underlined how the showings have improved as a result of “more women and people of colour getting opportunities; therefore, you’re seeing the numbers go up.”

Rickey Minor also co-chairs the Academy’s Diversity Committee. He is convinced that this is the result of “the new regime of people coming into power positions. They are looking for diverse stories that reflect the world, and those projects call for someone who may have experience in helping to tell those stories.”

Indeed, when Minor become governor in 2014, he and fellow governor Michael Levine tried to make a difference by altering the status quo, rebalancing the music peer-group executive committee by creating a more diverse environment with more women and people of colour to the, therefore making key decisions about music Emmys.

Now, many of the town’s top music supervisors are women, and it’s been counted that about 100 directors joined the TV Academy when the music branch opened its doors to that discipline five years ago. Importantly, women composers are much more prominent in the documentary world than in big-budget feature scoring.

Even the men counterparts seem all for it. “Hollywood needs to continue telling stories that reflect the true American experience, and that experience is the story of immigrants,” explained composer-songwriter Siddhartha Khosla, who has been nominated this year for “This Is Us”. “It’s appropriate to see these numbers. Whether it’s enough, I don’t think we’re there yet, and I think we’ve got work to do,” he added.

Nicholas Britell, also nominated this year for “Succession”, declared: “It’s a good start, but that said, there’s still so much farther to go. I’m happy to see the improvement. But there’s a long road ahead.”

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