Grammys Staging Explainer

The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards took place on Sunday but despite the excitement that the night always brings, the recent controversy surrounding the awards loomed in the background.

The Recording Academy, which hosts the event, is currently in a dispute with its former CEO and president, Deborah Dugan.

Dugan, who was the first female president of the Academy, was put on administrative leave on January 16, just over a week before the awards ceremony took place.

Dugan was in charge of the Academy for just under 6 months, and since being placed on administrative leave, has written a 44-page complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as well as appearing on Good Morning America last Thursday, the 23rd of January to shed some light about the industry within the organisation.

According to Time Magazine, Dugan has accused the Academy of retaliation, voting irregularities and of being “abusive.”

She was previously the CEO of an organisation called Red, which is a non-profit company that aims to get rid of the AIDS virus worldwide, founded by Bobby Shriver and Bono.

Her change of job to CEO of the Academy came as the previous CEO Neil Portnow became embroiled in a rape accusation and ultimately stepped down from his position in July of last year following the end of his contract.

Dugan was determined to fight the gender inequality within the Academy, but found herself conflicting with two influential members of the Academy - Joel Katz and Claudine Little.

Katz represents the Grammy awards during any legal dilemmas as he is an incredibly powerful lawyer within the music industry. Before Dugan was hired by the Academy, she said that she went for a meal with Katz, who allegedly attempted to kiss her and made inappropriate comments towards her, which he “emphatically denies.”

Little, who was previously Neil Portnows assistant, also clashed with Dugan during her time as CEO. Dugan claimed in a complaint that Little had little knowledge of how to use a form of a calendar and noted that she had received complaints about her behaviour in the past, most notably from Barbra Streisand’s executive producer. 

Following this, Little made accusations that Dugan was verbally abusing her and made her workplace a “hostile environment,” according to a report by Time Magazine.

As a result of this claim, the Recording Academy issued a statement which announced Deborah Dugan’s change of position.

Her outspokenness regarding the awards has aimed a focus back on the issues of gender imbalance and inequality within the music industry, which is something that has become a topic in the spotlight in recent years. 

Two years ago, a study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reported that over the last six years of the Grammy awards, just 9 percent of the near-total 900 people nominated for awards were female artists.

This study not only supports Dugans claim of a gender imbalance and inequality, but has become increasingly troubling for the Academy during a time of built-up controversy.

During her interview on Good Morning America last Thursday, Deborah not only discussed the lack of variation, but also brought up an issue of unfairness by implying that the awards are rigged.

She stated that “there are incidents of conflict of interest that taint the results,” on the show. Since this statement, the Academy has denied any such issue.

In her complaint to the EEOC, she claimed that there was favouritism involved in the nomination process of the awards, noting that a nominated artist was allowed to be a part of the nomination committee for the “Song of the Year” award in 2019, depsite being ranked 18 out of 20 in the category.

In her complaint, she added that the same artist that was nominated was represented by a member of the nomination board, according to Vox.

Dugan clarified that her issue is not with the awards show itself, but rather with the Academy and their operation system, which has led to neglect of artists, favouritism, and gender imbalance over a number of years.

Despite the controversy, the 62nd Grammy’s went ahead with no fault, however, it will be interesting to see over the coming 12 months if the awards system changes under new management, and if so, then how.