Quantcast

UMGN PREXY REBUKES GRAMMYS' MUSGRAVES DECISION

The booting of Kacey Musgravesstar-crossed (Interscope/Mercury Nashville) from the Grammys’ country categories has incensed Universal Music Group Nashville President Cindy Mabe. In a letter to Harvey Mason Jr. that HITS acquired, she calls the decision “inconsistent” and wonders whose agenda is being served.

“Taking her out of the country category actually does harm to a format struggling with change and inclusivity overall," Mabe writes. "The idea that a handful of people, including competitors, who would benefit from Kacey not being in the country category are deciding what is country only exacerbates the problem. The system is broken and, sadly, not just for Kacey Musgraves but for our entire genre because of how these decisions are made for music’s biggest stage. Building roadblocks for artists who dare to fight the system is so dangerous and against everything I think the Grammys stand for. But that’s where we are today.”

Musgraves has won six Grammys, five of which are in country categories. Her last album, 2019’s Golden Hour, won Album of the Year as well as Country Album of the Year.

Mabe points out that the same team made both records: producers Ian Fitchuk, Daniel Tashian and Musgraves, plus mixer Shawn Everett. Fitchuk, Tashian and Musgraves wrote 11 of the 15 songs on star-crossed and roughly half of the 13 songs on Golden Hour.

Billboard broke the story.

Here is Mabe's letter in full.

Dear Harvey,

I am writing as a follow-up to our recent conversation about the determination to exclude Kacey Musgraves’ album star-crossed from the Grammys country albums category. I am a big believer in the Grammys as an organization and have witnessed the power of its platform to transform artists’ careers and reflect, amplify and change the culture. That certainly has happened for Kacey Musgraves over the last seven years, with wins in 2014 for Country Album of the Year for Same Trailer Different Park and again in 2019 for Golden Hour as well as overall Album of the Year. The Grammys have been a destination of artist discovery and for Kacey it’s a place where her musical history was written.

As a prime stakeholder in country music, I would really like to frame what’s happening in our genre right now and help you and the Grammys to fully understand the importance of Kacey Musgraves to country music and why this decision is so much more than an entry point for an awards show. Taking her out of the country category actually does harm to a format struggling with change and inclusivity overall. For the past several years, the stories around country music have been the stories of country radio and the limitations put on women’s voices or diversity of any kind from our key artists, their perspectives or their sound. The numbers speak and are a matter of public record, with women making up only 10 percent of all country airplay. This year alone country music has been mired in the controversy surrounding one of the format's biggest artists, Morgan Wallen, who used a racial slur and grew fans and audience from it. THIS IS NOT ALL THAT WE ARE. Under the surface are the artists that change it all and they are led by the example of Kacey Musgraves.

Kacey is a beacon in a format ready to push back on the idea that there is more than one way to succeed, that there is more than one sound and perspective for what country music is and, most importantly, who it speaks to. While that might not sound radical, I’ll remind you that our world believes you are either on country radio or you aren’t country. Kacey Musgraves is a revolution and if she can create her own path, others can, too. She has taken the lead role of lighting the way of success in a format that has been so restricted by the rules of who’s allowed in and what they can sing about. Artists like Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne and Mickey Guyton continuously site Kacey’s career path and music as an inspiration. Guyton, my own artist, has struggled for 10 years to be heard. It took the example of Kacey creating her own path by living out her own truth in country music for Mickey to see what was possible and follow suit, laying out her perspective as a Black woman in America singing country music and re-writing history on your show last year.

Universal Music Group Nashville has launched every major-label album Kacey Musgraves has put out. She has always forged her own path. She has stayed true to herself and has never taken a different stance on how she framed this album from the last ones. Sonically, it’s got more country instrumentation than Golden Hour, which won Country Album of the Year in 2019. To compare Golden Hour to star-crossed, both albums were produced by Ian Fitchuk, Daniel Tashian and Kacey Musgraves. Both albums were mixed by Shawn Everett. On Golden Hour, Ian, Daniel and Kacey wrote seven of the 13 songs and on star-crossed, they wrote 11 of the 15. The albums complete each other, with Golden Hour telling the story of falling in love and star-crossed telling the story of the breakup. There is no departure in sound. This album was consistently classified as country throughout its metadata and overall labeling across DSP accounts and partners. star-crossed appeared on every major country playlist of every DSP. It’s being played on SXM The Highway and CMT and was covered by every country media outlet at release. This decision from the country committee to not accept star-crossed into the country albums category is inconsistent and calls into question the other agendas that were part of this decision.

That takes us to the process. The idea that a handful of people, including competitors, who would benefit from Kacey not being in the country category are deciding what is country only exacerbates the problem. The system is broken and, sadly, not just for Kacey Musgraves but for our entire genre because of how these decisions are made for music’s biggest stage. Building roadblocks for artists who dare to fight the system is so dangerous and against everything I think the Grammys stand for. But that’s where we are today. 

I haven’t slept all weekend because I’m really sad for our format. I’m sad for fans of our music and the ramifications of how we’ll continue to define success in country music. This short-sighted, biased decision will send ripples throughout our format to continue to ensure that the message is sent that country music can only be for the limited few who enjoy the same perspective. 

Thank you for listening to my concerns. 

Sincerely,

Cindy Mabe
President, Universal Music Group Nashville

THIS IS ANOTHER STORY ABOUT ADELE BREAKING RECORDS
Big news from the Spot. (10/15a)
KACEYGATE: ESQUIRE EVISCERATES THE GRAMMYS
This is getting ridiculous (10/14a)
ADELE BY THE NUMBERS: ALBUMS, SINGLES RTD
It all adds up. (10/13a)
GRAMMY CHEW: A ROTY/SOTY PLAYLIST
(20 FOR 16)
Beer and Glickman collaborate on the Spot. (10/13a)
30 HAS A DATE
Your Thanksgiving weekend soundtrack (10/14a)
ADELE ADELE ADELE
Adele; Adele Adele?
ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE
A... dele?
ADELE ADELE
Adele Adele; Adele.
ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE
(Adele.)
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)