Grammys eliminate secret nomination committees in the wake of controversial snub of The Weeknd

When the Recording Academy announced on Friday that it was ending the secret and highly controversial committees that shape nominations for the annual Grammy Awards, many in the music industry interpreted the move as a response to widespread outcry by. The Weeknd’s exclusion from this year’s ceremony.

According to the acting executive director of the academy, that is not correct. “It’s a long road to transformative change like this,” Harvey Mason Jr. told The Times in an interview, adding that the academy convened a task force last summer to examine the committees, a lot. before nominations for the 63rd Grammy Awards were revealed in March. “It is not something that happens quickly or in reaction to an event.”

In fact, the academy had come under fire for years for its nomination process, which relied on small anonymous groups of industry insiders to oversee, and at times amend, the Grammy ballot beginning with the initial elections of the thousands of academy voters. Nomination review committees, as they were officially known, were introduced in 1989 apparently to ensure that nominations were properly categorized and accurately reflected the state of music in a given year.

But over time, the work of the committees began to be seen as evidence of a troubled system in which insiders rewarded their friends and punished their enemies. More recently, several high-profile black artists, including Drake, Frank Ocean, and Sean “Diddy” Combs, suggested that Grammy nominations are tinged with institutional racism because hip-hop and R&B artists, though recognized in genre categories , are routinely overlooked for more prestigious awards like Album, Record, and Song of the Year.

The complaints grew louder in 2020 after Deborah Dugan, a former leader of the academy, made explosive accusations of discrimination and vote rigging in a lawsuit related to her expulsion from the organization. Then The Weeknd, one of the biggest pop stars, was dismissed despite the success of his album “After Hours” and his hit single “Blinding Lights.”

In a tweet after the nominations were announced in November, the singer said the Grammys were “corrupt” and that the academy owed “transparency to me, my fans and the industry.” Later, he claimed that he planned to boycott the ceremony in the future, specifically blaming the “secret committees” in a statement to the New York Times.

When asked how he would respond to criticism that the academy’s slow movements arise when the entity is forced to do so, Mason replied: “I would say that change happens when our members decide that it is time. Our members submit proposals and then people vote on them. It is what the membership wants, asks and votes ”.

The reaction in the music business was largely positive, with many saying that the removal of the committees by the academy was a long debt. However, others expressed skepticism that conflicts of interest within the organization will suddenly disappear from the voting process.

“I think Harvey is doing the right thing; I think it’s a step in the right direction, “said Lenny Beer, editor-in-chief of the trade magazine Hits, who wrote a passionate post last November, concluding that The Weeknd had been” deliberately excluded “from this year’s nominations. . “I hope these changes turn out to be real and true. I’ll believe it when I see it. ” A representative for The Weeknd did not respond to a request for comment.

On the skepticism, Mason commented: “Some people will probably never be satisfied”, insisting that the nomination process will be straightforward from now on: “Our 12,000 members will vote, and the eight who get the most votes will be the nominees” in the four main categories for Album, Recording and Song of the Year, as well as Best New Artist. In the dozens of genre categories at the Grammys, the top five votes will be the nominees, he said. “There is no way or opportunity to adjust the number,” he added.

Recording Academy Acting Executive Director Harvey Mason Jr.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The elimination of the committees was one of several rule changes the academy announced on Friday, along with a reduction from 15 to 10 in the number of gender awards members can vote for and a reorganization of so-called artisan categories – which honor production, covers and the like – in two fields (review committees will continue to shape nominations in those categories).

The entity also noted that two new awards, for Best Global Musical Performance and Best Urban Music Album, will be awarded for the first time at the 64th Grammys, scheduled for January 31, 2022. The recordings eligible for consideration must have been edited. between September 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021.

Mason remarked that he is pleased with the warm criticism of this year’s ceremony, which resulted in major triumphs for Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Megan Thee Stallion and Billie Eilish, and that it marked executive producer Ben Winston’s debut as the show’s creative director afterward. 40 years old with Ken Ehrlich at the helm.

“It was not an easy program to produce and it was not economical either,” Mason said, referring to the protocols for COVID-19, which affected virtually every aspect of transmission. But he approved of the “intimate quality” of the show and was eager to see what Winston and his team would do under more normal circumstances.

Audience for this year’s CBS telecast set a record low of 9.2 million viewers, a drop of more than 50.6% from the previous year, a trend in line with nearly all major awards shows of the current cycle. .

Next year’s Grammy ceremony is unlikely to be held under Mason’s direction. The executive, who assumed his position on an interim basis after Dugan’s departure, indicated that the search for the next leader for the entity has “several great finalists”, and hopes that the academy will meet its goal of having a new CEO by the end May or early June.

“Surprisingly,” he remarked, “I think we will achieve it on time.”

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Grammys eliminate secret nomination committees in the wake of controversial snub of The Weeknd