Recording Academy acting head Harvey Mason Jr. had a lot to say to his constituents Thursday in a pair of confidential memos that immediately and inevitably leaked. Take a look at two of the most bizarre memos of all time in their entirety.

Exhibit A:

Dear Elected Leaders of the Recording Academy:

As someone who has been a volunteer with the Recording Academy for a long time, I know how critically important you are to the Academy’s mission, never more so than in challenging times like these.

I also realize that it can be difficult to care deeply about the Academy and want to help but feel a bit out of the loop. So I am writing to update you on what is happening, while also asking you to bear in mind that, because sensitive employment matters are involved, and there are ongoing legal proceedings, there are many things we cannot discuss even though you may be reading about them in the media. Our confidentiality restrictions as an organization must be maintained even if they are not honored by others. With that in mind, please remember that the Academy’s media policy for elected leaders requires that all dealings with the press or other consumer or trade-facing media must be handled by or managed under the guidance of the Recording Academy’s Communications department. Should you be contacted by any representative of the media and asked to provide commentary on behalf of the Recording Academy, please refer that representative directly to Andie Cox, Managing Director, Communications: [email protected].

It is difficult to read unfair criticism of the Academy in the media, but our reticence to respond should not be misinterpreted. We are confident that when we are able to share all the facts, our members, the industry, and the public will understand that all our actions have been appropriate and in the interest of making progress towards our shared goals of diversity, inclusion, and our mission to recognize musical excellence, advocate for the well-being of music makers, and ensure that music remains an indelible part of our culture.

Still, you are in effect on the front lines with our members and the public and need to be able to answer the questions you are being asked and counter the misconceptions that have been created. So, I want to emphasize a few key things, and you may share these points with our members and others:

  • We made Deborah Dugan the President/CEO of the Academy with the highest hopes. Unfortunately, issues arose. Sometimes this happens in an organization. But it is clear to us that the allegations she has made are either completely untrue or grossly misleading.
  • The Academy had expressed a number of concerns to Ms. Dugan about her performance and had worked with Ms. Dugan to try to correct them. Those specific concerns are being addressed in a confidential forum, to which she is entitled under Ms. Dugan’s employment contract, though in the interests of transparency we have offered to waive the confidentiality of any arbitration proceeding in this matter. So, while I would like to tell you more about that, I cannot at this time.
  • The sexual harassment allegation she has made is being taken very seriously and is being independently investigated.
  • Her outrageous assertion that the Grammys are “rigged” is utterly false. We do realize that the nomination and voting process needs to be better understood so we have taken steps to make it more public and to educate people about how it works to preserve fairness and protect Nominations Review Committee members from lobbying and pressure. In addition, as always, our awards process will be reviewed at the upcoming April Awards and Nominations Committee meeting.
  • Perhaps of greatest interest to the music industry and the public is that our commitment to a transformative agenda remains firm, and this situation will not deter or distract us from making progress towards our goals. Among other things, we are implementing 17 of the 18 recommendations of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, led by Tina Tchen, and considering adoption of the 18th recommendation. We will shortly be reconvening the group to review our progress.

On behalf of the Academy and as a fellow volunteer, I want to thank you for everything you do, and especially for the steadfast support you are providing to the Academy at this moment. Together, we are advancing our agenda of reform in support of music and the people who make it.


Harvey Mason jr.
Chair of the Board and Interim President/CEO

"The suggestion that Deb was hindered by the Academy’s resistance to change is simply untrue, and we are continuing on the path of change even during this time."

Exhibit B:


Deborah Dugan

What is Deb’s current status?
Deb Dugan is currently on administrative leave. Board Chair Harvey Mason jr. is acting as President/CEO.

What steps are being taken to resolve the matter?
While the Academy is open to a negotiated resolution of the matter, we have begun the arbitration process called for in Deb’s employment agreement. In the interest of transparency, we have offered to waive the confidentiality that usually surrounds the arbitration process.

Why has it come to this?
We hired her to be President/CEO with the highest hopes, and as sometimes happens in an organization issues arose. It would be inappropriate and a violation of our confidentiality restrictions to go into details regarding Deb’s performance. We can say, however, that some of her public statements are clearly incompatible with the role of the President/CEO of this organization, including her false and damaging claims about the integrity of the Grammy Awards process.

Is the Academy simply resistant to change?
The Academy remains fully committed to a transformative agenda, including implementation of 17 of the 18 the recommendations of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. In fact, we will be shortly reconvening the Task Force to review our progress. The suggestion that Deb was hindered by the Academy’s resistance to change is simply untrue, and we are continuing on the path of change even during this time.

What about the sexual harassment allegation she made?
We take that allegation very seriously and it is being independently investigated by a law firm with no previous ties to the Academy.

Speaking of law firms, how do we answer her claim that the Academy’s legal fees are excessive?
Viewed as a percentage of the size of deals our lawyers negotiated, our legal fees are well in line with industry standards While hiring a full time in-house counsel would not eliminate the need for the use of expert law firms and could actually increase overall legal costs, the Academy was and remains willing to consider doing so if it will result in a savings to the Academy.

Are we conducting a search for a new CEO?
We cannot begin a search until the situation with the current CEO is resolved.

The Grammys

Are the Grammy procedures fair?
The Grammy nominating and voting procedures have been developed and refined over the years to ensure that qualified people are voting on matters within their expertise, and to protect those nominators and voters from lobbying and pressure. It has become clear that it needs to be better understood, so we have taken steps to make it more public and to educate people about how it works and why it is designed as it is.

Detailed information and FAQs about the Grammy process may be found at https://www.grammy.com/recording-academy/faq#overview.

Are we making any changes to the GRAMMY procedures?
We administer the Grammy  Awards system on behalf of the music community, so when we hear feedback—good or bad—we take it to heart. Because this is a peer-driven process, we rely on music professionals to get involved and be an active part of the discussion about what changes need to happen and why. As a result, the awards process evolves every year, driven by music makers and genre experts who offer proposals to amend our rules based on the specific needs of their community.

We accept these proposals throughout the year and vote on them each spring in our annual Awards and Nominations Meetings to determine any adjustments we need to make. Proposals are due March 1 and this year’s meeting is happening in April. Additionally, our leadership is looking at all of our processes to make sure that it’s the best it can be. We take pride in ensuring we’re creating and maintaining a system that’s secure and fair. We will do our best to think about every loophole and caveat, and develop safeguards to maintain integrity in the process.

Diversity and inclusion

What progress have we made in acting on the recommendations of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force?
We’re making good progress, including:

  • We hope to hire a diversity and inclusion officer at the executive level by late April.
  • We will establish and fund a university fellowship to monitor the Academy’s compliance around diversity and inclusion issues.
  • We are creating a fund to be distributed annually to different “women in music” organizations. It will be managed by the diversity and inclusion officer.
  • We are considering amending our governance documents to incorporate diversity and inclusion in various ways.

You can see a summary of our progress at https://www.grammy.com/recording-academy/pressroom/diversity-inclusion.

What is the Task Force’s role going forward?
We plan to meet with the Task Force soon so that we can collectively review our progress and discuss ideas for moving forward.

What next?

What can we expect to happen next?
While we attempt to resolve the CEO issue, it is important that the work of the Academy, the activity of our chapters and our progress towards transformation continue. Hopefully we will have some news soon.

How can we help?
Keep engaged in the great work you are doing, which is so important and appreciated.

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