Grammy Board Chief Calls Allegations of Nomination-Rigging ‘Just Not Right’

Jem Aswad

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Among the many allegations in ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan’s blockbuster legal complaint, the one that possibly cuts most to the heart of the institution — and is of most concern to artists and the public — is the allegation that the nominating process is “rigged.” The example in the complaint points to the 2019 Best Song category, where an unidentified artist who was represented by a board member moved from the bottom of the shortlist to be a finalist — over Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran — and she also has mentioned a jazz category.

After not addressing the allegation specifically for two days, on Thursday Academy awards officer Bill Freimuth issued a strongly worded denial of the allegations, saying in a statement to Variety, “Spurious allegations claiming members or committees use our process to push forward nominations for artists they have relationships with are categorically false, misleading and wrong. This process is strictly enforced with everyone involved and has no exceptions.”

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Today, Academy Board of Trustees Chair Harvey Mason, Jr., sent a letter to Academy members in which he claims the “accusations are deeply unsettling and are just not right.” Clearly aimed at the artist community, the letter, which claims the allegations are an attempt to “cheapen” their achievements, follows below in full.

It is worth noting that while Mason claims the Academy has “always been transparent about the process,” many elements of that process are not transparent, including, as Mason acknowledges, the identity of the individuals on the nominating committees.

“I’m sure you’ve all seen the misleading reports bringing our voting process into question. The accusations are deeply unsettling and are just not right. It’s not fair to all the amazing artists who have won GRAMMY awards in the past and the ones who will win them on Sunday. It’s also not fair to the artists and other people in our music community who volunteer countless hours on committees reviewing nominations. Don’t let anyone cheapen or take away from what you have achieved—and what you give to the industry in your service.

“Here are some actual facts about the process in case you are asked about it in the days ahead:

  • The rules for nominations and awards were not created by music industry executives.  There were created by you—the music makers.
  • We have always been transparent about the process—it is posted on our website for anyone to see and review.
  • The leadership of the Recording Academy is diverse.  Its officers are 50% female, the Executive Committee is 50% female, and the Board is 36% female.
  • The Nomination Review Committees are made up of a diverse group of current and relevant music creators with a high level of expertise in their respective genres.
  • As you know, there are strict rules in place to address any conflict of interest and no exceptions.
  • Should a committee member qualify for a GRAMMY, they are required to leave the room and are NOT allowed to be present for listening sessions, subsequent conversation or the vote to determine the nominees.
  • Committee members do not know the ranking of any entry and the voting is by secret ballot.
  • The committees are not confidential, but the committee members’ names are for the obvious reason of preventing lobbying from outside parties, therefore further protecting the integrity of the voting process.

“Thank you for your continued support and service to our music community, and for helping people understand this process.  We look forward to seeing you this weekend and celebrating our deserving winners on Music’s Biggest Night.”

 

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