TURMOIL is unfolding at the Recording Academy – just 10 days before the Grammy Awards – after CEO Deborah Dugan was ousted amid rumors of a “coup”.
In a statement to Variety, a spokesperson said Dugan – the Recording Academy’s new, progressive and first female president – has been put on “administrative leave” in light of “concerns” including “a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the team.”
“The Board has also retained two independent third-party investigators to conduct independent investigations of the allegations,” the statement said.
Dugan’s mysterious removal ahead of the 62nd Grammy Awards on January 26 has thrown the Academy into disarray. Just days ago Dugan, who joined the Academy in August after a long career as a music industry executive, tweeted of her excitement about her first Grammy Awards as president and CEO.
Insiders have told Variety that Dugan’s discharge just five months into the job was a “coup” carried out by long-time employees and board members who thought the 61-year-old was shaking things up too much in a company resistant to change.
“Who are most of the senior executives in the Academy and the board? Older people resistant to change,” a source said.
“It was too much change for them, too soon.”
Another insider said, “She may have been asking questions like ‘Why is the board so large?’ and ‘Why are we spending so much money’ … there are people who had been there for years who knew they were going to be let go, and who knew they would not get a job that paid as well anywhere else.”
In recent years the Recording Academy has been accused of lacking diversity and being out-of-touch. Major artists like Frank Ocean and Kanye West have boycotted the awards ceremony in protest of repeated failure to adequately acknowledge Hip Hop, Rap and R&B artists, and the Academy has been accused of a terrible track record when it comes to nominating and awarding female artists.
Former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow ultimately stepped down in 2019 after responding to accusations of sexism within the organization by claiming that “women need to step up.”
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times published the day before her removal was announced, Dugan said “Everything’s being examined [at the Academy]. What are our values in 2020? Are we doing the best we can in music education?”
Board chair Harvey Mason, Jr. is stepping in as interim president and CEO. Variety reports that in an email he assured Academy board members “the Grammy Awards and all related activities will go forward as planned.”
This year’s Grammys is set to feature performances by Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Demi Lovato, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, Tyler, the Creator, Run-DMC, Rosalía, H.E.R. and Lizzo, who is the top nominee with eight.
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