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Grammy Awards Nominating Is Marred by Insider Deals, Ousted CEO’s Complaint Alleges

Amid the multiple claims in former Recording Academy boss Deborah Dugan’s blockbuster complaint against the organization is a section that is deeply critical of the Grammy Awards nominating processes and essentially accuses it of insider dealing and corruption. Its allegations, if true, suggest worst-case scenarios, many involving the Board of Trustees that ultimately controls the Academy and the Awards, and may explain some of the more unexpected nomination choices over the years.

The Grammy Awards nominees are chosen by “secret committees” of experts and selected from the thousands of recordings released each year. Their process has never been transparent, and greater transparency is something that Dugan, organizations that work closely with the Grammys, and industry executives and fans have long desired.

The complaint notes that, “The nomination review committees… the members of which are chosen by Bill Freimuth, the Head of Awards, along with the Board Chair (the members of which are shrouded in secrecy) … play a specific role with respect to the selection of Grammy Awards nominees.”

It claims:

*That some board members on the “secret committees” represent or have relationships with nominated artists;
*That the Board uses these committees as an opportunity to push forward artists with whom they have relationships;
*That the Board also manipulates the nominations process to ensure that certain songs or albums are nominated when the producer of the Grammys (Ken Ehrlich) wants a particular song performed during the show;
*That the Board is permitted to simply add in artists for nominations who did not even make the initial 20-artist list;
*That the Board has selected artists who are under consideration for a nomination to sit on the committee that is voting for the category for which that have been nominated. As a result, one artist who initially ranked 18 out of 20 in the 2019 “Song of the Year” category ended up with a nomination — over Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande.

It goes on to slam the lack of diversity in the committees, noting that between 2015 and 2018, 71% of the national governance committee members were men, while only 29% were female; and between 2015 and 2017, the members of the nomination review committees in the aggregate were 74% male, 26% female. It also notes that “between 2012 and the present, the Board has been approximately 68% male and 69% Caucasian.”

The Academy’s initial response, which is below, does not address any of the allegations in the complaint and reiterates its previous accusations against Dugan.

“It is curious that Ms. Dugan never raised these grave allegations until a week after legal claims were made against her personally by a female employee who alleged Ms. Dugan had created a ‘toxic and intolerable’ work environment and engaged in ‘abusive and bullying conduct,'” it reads. “When Ms. Dugan did raise her “concerns” to HR, she specifically instructed HR “not to take any action” in response.

“Nonetheless, we immediately launched independent investigations to review both Ms. Dugan’s potential misconduct and her subsequent allegations. Both of these investigations remain ongoing. Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave only after offering to step down and demanding $22 million from the Academy, which is a not-for-profit organization. Our loyalty will always be to the 25,000 members of the recording industry.  We regret that Music’s Biggest Night is being stolen from them by Ms. Dugan’s actions and we are working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”



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