Public Internal Dispute at The Recording Academy Casts Shadow on The 2020 Grammy Awards

Grammy by Colby Sharp

Early each year, The Recording Academy hosts The Grammy Awards, a nationally televised ceremony that features live music performances and award presentations. Billed as “Music’s Biggest Night,” submitted candidates are nominated in various categories and selected by a vote of approximately 12,000 members of the academy.

Over the years, the awards have sometimes been the subject of criticism, with some believing the selection process to be based on commercial success rather than critical success, some considering the categories and selection criteria to be out of date with modern music trends, and others accusing the awards of racial and gender bias.

This year, controversy surrounds the awards again thanks to an internal dispute that became exposed following a public discrimination complaint filed by its CEO after being placed on leave by the Recording Academy. This comes less than a year after its former CEO Neil Portnow stepped down last year amid criticism concerning remarks he had made about female recording artists. Following his resignation, Deborah Dugan was appointed CEO, and in December she filed a HR complaint to report suffering harassment and discrimination at the job. She was placed on leave three weeks later, and in response, filed a complaint with the EEOC outlining a number of accusations, including sexual harassment, alleged rape of a female artist, and corruption.

In March 2018, the Academy launched a Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, which published recommendations for systemic changes to increase diversity among the voting members, who at the time were more than 70% male. While Academy attorneys have denied many of the accusations from the complaint, internally the task force urged its leadership to implement the recommendations they provided as soon as possible.

All of this drama has leeched attention away from the artists nominated for awards and set to perform on Sunday. Leading the nominations is Lizzo with eight, up for Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. Young talents Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X have their first nominations with six each, and veteran Grammy nominee Ariana Grande has five.

Grammy-nominated artist Lizzo by friedoxygen

The 2020 Grammy Awards will be held live at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and aired on CBS at 8 PM ET/5PM PT.