7 Questions with Kelley Purcell

Kelley Purcell is the VP, Membership & Industry Relations for the Recording Academy. With this being Awards season, we at Music Industry Quarterly thought it would be timely to discuss the innerworkings of the Recording Academy and its membership. We reached out to Kelley, who obliged us with some informative answers.

Describe your role with the Recording Academy, and what’s a typical day like for you?

As the Vice President of Membership & Industry Relations for the Recording Academy, I am responsible for overseeing all aspects of membership outreach and engagement, peer review, member account services, and the Academy’s Chapter systems, including regional and local teams, Chapter events and programming, and all facets of Chapter service. There’s honestly no such thing as a typical day! Serving our members comes with new and exciting initiatives each day as the industry continues to evolve.

For those who may not know, how does one become a member of the Recording Academy?

Like the GRAMMY Awards, Recording Academy membership is community-driven and peer-reviewed on an annual cycle. To be considered for a membership invitation, there are two steps to the submission process:

  • First, a candidate must obtain two strong recommendations from music industry peers that highlight their current contributions to the music industry.
  • Second, after recommendations are received by the Academy, the candidate can tell us more about their career by filling out an online career profile.

All submission materials must be received by the Academy no later than March 1 to be considered for that year’s class. Visit www.grammy.com/join to learn more and start the process.

There’s been a change in recent years with the vetting process when it comes to membership.  What prompted the move?

In November 2018, the Recording Academy implemented a community-driven and peer-reviewed membership model in an ongoing effort to foster a more representative and active membership body. This evolved model puts the power in the hands of music professionals to recommend who among their peers they think should be a member and will help ensure the Academy represents the breadth and depth of talent synonymous with the recording industry. The GRAMMY Awards are already renowned for being a peer-awarded honor, and now our membership model also reinforces that peer-driven commitment to excellence. This has been one of many steps the Recording Academy has taken to effect meaningful change in the organization.

Diversity and inclusion have been hot button themes in recent years. How have those themes affected your approach to the job, and what’s your proudest accomplishment?

Because membership is the lifeblood of the Academy and impacts everything we do, we are committed to ensuring that our membership is a true reflection of the diverse music community and our broader culture. My department works closely with the Academy’s DE&I team, led by our co-President, Valeisha Butterfield Jones and our Vice President of DE&I, Ryan Butler, as well as the Academy’s Peer Review Panel, to ensure that each membership class brings us closer to a more diverse and representative membership body overall. I’m proud to say that our most recent classes have been the most diverse groups of new members the Academy has ever seen in its 64-year history.

What’s been the biggest misconception about the Grammys or Recording Academy membership, and how have you worked to turn those misconceptions around?

Through consistent dialogue and outreach, my colleagues and I work daily to ensure that all members of the music community know that the Recording Academy is only as strong as its membership base. When people join and become engaged in all the Academy does, it only strengthens the organization and all that it can do to move our industry forward.  Every member’s voice counts, and we are stronger together.

Are there any initiatives or special projects that you’re personally involved in or excited about that you’d like to mention?

It’s thrilling for me to see our music community come back together after the last two devastating years of COVID. I’m excited by the role our Membership & Industry Relations Department plays in helping to foster that sense of community year-round. And of course, the entire organization pulls together to produce our annual celebration of music creators – the GRAMMYs! I hope all will tune in on Sunday, April 3.

There are so many aspects of my job that I enjoy, it’s hard to narrow it down! Those who know me know that I’m big on community. As mentioned above, my department works to foster a sense of community amongst our members year-round, and my heart swells with joy when I get to see members that may not have otherwise known each other connect while engaging in a Recording Academy initiative. I’m also passionate about ensuring that every member of the Recording Academy understands that their membership can make a difference. Whether that’s participating in the GRAMMY awards process, advocating for the rights of the music community in Washington D.C., raising money for MusiCares, standing up for music education, or becoming the next generation of elected leaders for the Academy and the industry-at-large, our membership body plays a huge role in shaping the music industry that we want to see. I’ve seen firsthand the impact our members make when they raise their voices in support of the music community. It’s particularly rewarding when both aspects of community and advocacy intersect, and it’s all a part of what wakes me up every morning to do my job.

Interview Conducted by David Mitchell