The Recording Academy and the 2020 Grammys are a mess right now, following the revelations outlined in a recent EEOC complaint filed by former Grammy chief Deborah Dugan. The complaint described a number of problems within the Academy, including sexual harassment, racism, and rape allegations, among others. But ahead of the ceremony this Sunday, the Academy has chosen to respond to one severe allegation: that their voting process is corrupt.
Dugan’s complaint alleged that board members sit on secret voting committees, but those board members often have conflicting relationships with artists. It describes a situation in which an artist ranked “18 out of 20" in the Song of the Year category in 2019 actually sat on the Song of the Year committee and was represented by a member of the board.
Variety reports that Recording Academy Chief Awards Officer Bill Freimuth denies this allegation, writing that committee members are built in consultation with the President/CEO and Chief Awards Officer based on names submitted by every chapter in the Academy. He writes in the statement:
They are chosen weeks before the 1st round entry list is created so it is unknown whether any of the approved members will have been involved in a potential nomination. Because these committee members are at the top of their craft, and many members work with multiple artists, it is not unusual that some of the people in each room will end up with nominations from the first round. There are strict rules in place to address any conflict of interest. Should a committee member qualify for a GRAMMY, they are required to leave the room for the entire listening session and are NOT allowed to vote in that category. 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. Everything relating to the nomination and voting processes is set up with the intention of protecting the integrity of the awards in order to recognize and celebrate artists’ excellence.
Basically, the Grammys voting process as it’s currently structured sounds incestuous, considering it’s not unusual that committee members would be nominated for their work. But even that fact strikes at how insular and boring nominations must be if it’s not “unusual” for that to happen so often.