Hours before the 62nd annual Grammy Awards, the interim president of The Recording Academy sent a memo to the organization’s members outlining a plan aimed at increasing diversity in the academy and the industry at large.
“Six months ago, when I put my hat in the ring to be your chair, I did so because I believed that the Academy could do better — could be better,” Harvey Mason Jr., also chairman of the academy’s board of directors, wrote. “The music we create has always reflected the best of ourselves and our world. But what was true of music has historically not been true of the music business as a whole. Too often, or industry and Academy have alienated some of our own artists — in particular, through a lack of diversity that, in many cases, results in a culture that leans towards exclusion rather than inclusion.
” … In February 2018, we empowered a Diversity Task Force, led by Tina Tchen and made up of distinguished individuals from outside the Academy, to take a hard, independent look at our organization specifically and the music industry as a whole,” the memo continued. “They detailed the ways in which we were falling short, and laid out 18 recommendations for change.
“Since I took office, we as an organization have agreed to 17 of those 18 recommendations. I know some will feel that we’re not doing enough fast enough. I understand the urgency. For me personally, and for this organization, these immediate steps are a continuation of our ongoing work.
“But it’s not enough to pledge ourselves to change. We must take action. There is no excuse for waiting, especially when so many of our members have been tirelessly advocating for a bold new direction for so long.
“That’s why I’m proud to announce these new initiatives, initiatives developed in partnership with the Diversity Task Force and other champions of change.”
Mason said steps being taken by the Academy include;
— The Academy will hire a dedicated Diversity & Inclusion Officer who will be hired within the next 90 days.
— Establishment of a fellowship, funded by the Academy, that will be responsible for independent review and reporting of the progress of the Academy’s Diversity & Inclusion efforts.
— Creation of a fund to be distributed annually to different “women in music” organizations that will be managed by the D&I Officer.
— The Academy will “recommit to meeting all 18 of the Task Force Recommendations as outlined in the full report and in a manner that will endure, with the caveat that we will have a deeper exploration, along with the Task Force into voting processes for the Grammys.”
The Academy’s memo was met with almost immediate pushback from Doug Wigdor, an attorney for recently ousted Academy president/CEO Deborah Dugan.
“Harvey Mason’s public statement on the eve of the Grammys is all smoke and mirrors given that each of his so called new `initiatives’ had already been agreed to under the direction of Ms. Dugan,” Wigdor’s statement says, according to Variety. “If the past 10 days have shown anything, it is that the current chair is not the appropriate individual to effectuate meaningful change at the Academy. This is the same chair that put Ms. Dugan on leave because she was calling for increased diversity and the end to self-dealing and conflicts of interest. This is the same chair that has leaked attack after attack on Ms. Dugan to the media, and done everything in his power to defame and disparage her.
“Therefore, in order for there to be real change four things must happen immediately. First, there must be an independent and qualified professional chair and Board. Second, the Academy must agree to immediately suspend the conflict-rife nominating review committees. Third, there must be a truly independent investigation into the board’s relationships, self-dealings, and use of public nonprofit monies. Finally, the board must immediately reinstate Ms. Dugan as the CEO of the Recording Academy to oversee and effectuate such changes.”
Mason’s missive came on the heels of an awkward moment during Saturday night’s annual pre-Grammy bash in Beverly Hills, thrown by Clive Davis and the Recording Academy. As Mason looked on, producer and recording artist Sean “Diddy” Combs blasted the Grammys’ record on diversity while accepting the Salute to Industry Icons Award.
“Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys. So right now, this current situation, it’s not a revelation,” Combs said, adding, “I’m officially starting a clock. Y’all have 365 days to get your (expletive) together.”
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