|WEDNESDAY 22 JANUARY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Deborah Dugan, the ousted CEO of Grammy organiser the US Recording Academy, yesterday filed formal legal proceedings against her employer with the LA office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission... [READ MORE]|
Ousted Recording Academy CEO goes nuclear in legal filing alleging sexual harassment, rape claims, corruption, misogyny and vote fixing
The 46 page document contains a long list of serious allegations against the Academy, its board, its governance, its attorneys and its former boss, as well as revelations about the process by which artists are nominated for Grammy Awards. If only half of Dugan's allegations are true, it could seriously jeopardise the future of the music industry organisation and its annual awards event.
The legal filing is the latest in the back and forth of statements between Dugan and the Recording Academy, which began last week with the latter announcing that it had put the former on "administrative leave". In that announcement, the Academy claimed that it had sidelined its CEO following allegations of misconduct by another senior female member of staff.
Dugan's lawyer quickly hit back by insisting that "what has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told", while promising that his client would "expose what happens when you 'step up' at the Recording Academy". That 'step up' remark referenced, of course, the controversial comments made by Dugan's predecessor Neil Portnow when responding to the lack of gender diversity at the 2018 Grammy Awards.
Following the statement from Dugan's lawyer, reports circulated that her "administrative leave" actually followed an email that she had sent to a senior colleague late last year outlining various concerns about the governance of the Academy, including allegations of corruption regarding expenditure and the Grammys voting process. The implication was that Dugan was being pushed out by the Academy's board and executive committee because they didn't want the corruption to be exposed or dealt with.
The current Chair of the Academy's board, Harvey Mason Jr, then responded via an open letter. He admitted that Dugan had raised various concerns about the organisation late last year and that said concerns were being investigated. But, he argued, the CEO only raised those concerns once she knew that the board was formally looking into the allegations of misconduct that had been made against her. Those allegations, he said, included that Dugan had been 'abusive and bullying' in relation to a colleague.
For good measure, Mason said that Dugan had offered to go quietly, and to not cause any fuss about the issues she had raised, if the Academy paid her millions of dollars. Although Dugan's letter wasn't specific on how many millions, a source at the Academy seemingly started telling media and industry contacts that it was $22 million.
Which brings us to Dugan's legal filing. Her document contains so many serious allegations, it's hard to know where to start.
It begins with a brief history of all the times the Recording Academy and its Grammy Awards have been criticised for a lack of diversity, up to and including Portnow's controversial remarks in 2018. It then outlines how the organisation set up a diversity taskforce in the wake of that controversy, and also explains how Dugan was head-hunted to become the Academy's first female CEO.
The filing stresses that Dugan was initially reluctant to leave her previous job and relocate to LA, but that she ultimately decided to rise to the challenge of helping an organisation rife with diversity issues to address those problems.
Then the allegations begin, which include all of the following...
1. That the Academy's board has approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to themselves for work that was "either unnecessary or that was already being performed by outside vendors".
2. That the Academy pays ridiculous legal fees each year to two lawyers who have close links to members of the board.
3. That one of those lawyers, Joel Katz, took Dugan out to dinner before she'd even formally started to work for the Academy, that he made numerous sexist remarks, and suggested they should "spend time together" visiting his many homes, even after she made it clear she wasn't interested in a relationship of that kind.
4. That the Academy's board urged her to re-hire her predecessor Portnow on a $750,000 consultancy before subsequently revealing that he had been accused of rape by a female artist - an allegation that had been covered up and which, Dugan says, "was, upon information and belief, the real reason his contract was not renewed".
5. That Dugan wasn't invited to a presentation of the findings of the diversity taskforce and that, when she showed up anyway, one board member's reaction to said presentation was "this is bullshit".
6. That despite supposedly hiring Dugan to deal with the Academy's very public diversity issues, the board and executive committee rejected most of her proposed solutions to the problem, keen to keep the "boy's club" culture they themselves benefited from.
7. That the "senior female member of staff" who made a complaint against Dugan was, in fact, Portnow's former Executive Assistant Claudine Little, who the new CEO reckoned wasn't qualified to do the job.
8. That Little's complaints had been blown out of all proportion by the board who saw it as an opportunity to sideline Dugan (and possibly encouraged Little to escalate her complaint to help with that process).
9. That, having rejected Dugan's reforms, in December the board started removing many of the powers usually associated with a CEO role.
10. That when she asked the aforementioned Katz about those new restrictions, he told her to "ignore them", adding that he could get her some free dresses - so that she could "look pretty" at Academy events - if she made department store chain Neiman Marcus, one of his clients, a Grammy sponsor.
11. That, after Dugan decided to take her dispute legal at the end of 2019, the board initially looked like it would agree a settlement deal, then back-tracked, and then gave her an alternative deal and one hour to accept it.
12. That emails from Mason made it clear that she was being put on administrative leave because of the allegations she'd made and the subsequent threat of legal action, but then the Academy issued a statement saying it was because of Little's allegations of bullying.
13. That Mason told Dugan that the Academy would simply announce that she was taking "a leave of absence", but then issued the statement saying she was on "administrative leave" because of the bullying claims.
14. That Mason's open letter this week was only published because the Academy new Dugan was about to go legal, and its claims regarding her departure (and the accompanying $22 million pay-off rumour) were "false, retaliatory and defamatory".
15. That Mason is currently on "a mission to further destroy Ms Dugan and has been calling prominent recording artists non-stop to disparage and defame Ms Dugan".
16. That the "damage that the Academy has done to Ms Dugan is immeasurable and can never be remedied ... [it is also] continuing in nature".
17. That Dugan isn't the first female executive at the Recording Academy to be treated this way, with a former Chief Information Officer having told Dugan after she took the CEO job that "if you open your mouth, you're gone"
18. That the previous mistreatment of female execs included the sidelining of the Academy's then head of communications in the wake of Portnow's "step-up" remarks, mainly so an all-male committee could respond to the resulting controversy.
19. And, for good measure, that the Grammy nominations process is shrouded in secrecy and definitely corrupt, with nominating committees able to ignore the results of the 12,000 member votes and instead favour their own clients and associates.
20. In fact, artists can sit on the nominating committees for awards for which they are eligible - resulting in one artist, in eighteenth place after member voting, getting on the final shortlist for Song Of The Year and, in doing so, depriving Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande of a possible nomination.
As you can see, Dugan's legal filing is an explosive document, neatly delivered just as the American music community - and artists and industry execs from all over the world - head to LA for this weekend's Grammy festivities.
For its part, the Recording Academy is standing its ground, continuing to insist that Dugan's formal grievances were a response to the bullying claims. And again accusing its pushed out CEO of trying to get millions of dollars - and this time it goes official with the $22 million figure - out of the Academy in return for going quietly.
It said in a statement: "It is curious that Ms Dugan never raised these grave allegations until a week after legal claims were made against her personally by a female employee who alleged Ms Dugan had created a 'toxic and intolerable' work environment and engaged in 'abusive and bullying conduct'. When Ms Dugan did raise her 'concerns' to HR, she specifically instructed HR 'not to take any action' in response".
"Nonetheless, we immediately launched independent investigations to review both Ms Dugan's potential misconduct and her subsequent allegations", it goes on. "Both of these investigations remain ongoing. Ms Dugan was placed on administrative leave only after offering to step down and demanding $22 million from the Academy, which is a not-for-profit organisation".
The statement concludes: "Our loyalty will always be to the 25,000 members of the recording industry. We regret that music's biggest night is being stolen from them by Ms Dugan's actions and we are working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible".
Whatever Mason et al are doing to resolve these matters, it seems unlikely the fallout of Dugan's departure is going to be dealt with anytime soon. And while it's true that we are still in the midst of a "she said, he said" back and forth at the moment, you do sense that the recording industry the Academy represents could be about to turn against the organisation. One thing is for certain, it will be a particularly interesting Grammy Weekend.
Culture Minister outlines plans for new government music strategy
Anyway, Adams used the parliamentary debate on all things music to insist the government is committed to supporting "this fantastic UK music industry at home and abroad". He went on: "I also recognise the need to consider introducing a comprehensive music strategy. We want our music industry to continue to be the envy of the world".
Of course, a significant part of that is ensuring that British musicians can continue to tour easily, regardless of the UK's future relationship with the EU. "Touring is absolutely the lifeblood of the industry", Adams agreed. "We recognise the importance of the continued ease of movement of musicians, equipment, merchandise once we have left the EU".
"Visa rules for artists performing in the EU will not change until the [transition] period ends in December 2020", he then noted. And "it's absolutely essential that free movement for artists is protected post-2020".
Obviously, it's not entirely up to the UK government as to whether or not that freedom of movement across Europe stays in place. And if the UK fails to secure a trade deal with the EU by the stupid arbitrary deadline set by PM 'Boris' Johnson - ie the end of this year - and if he then actually makes good on his "no deal" threat this time, well, then there'd definitely be no free movement for anyone.
Despite all that, it's nice that the government recognises that it'll be dead annoying if touring musicians and their teams are faced with a whole load of new restrictions and bureaucracy come 2021.
Another slightly less urgent but still pressing Brexit concern for the music industry is the European Copyright Directive. Specifically whether - after the music industry campaigned so hard to get copyright reform across Europe - any of that reform will actually happen here.
Adams also gave a few stress-busting nods in that direction, saying: "We support the overall aims of the Copyright Directive. But our imminent departure from the EU means we are not required to implement [it] in full. It's absolutely imperative we do everything possible to protect our brilliant creators, as well as the consumers and the rights of users who consume music. I look forward to working with the music industry to ensure we achieve this".
Beyond all the Brexit bollocks, another ongoing concern in the British music industry remains the sidelining of music education that has occurred over the last decade. Adams acknowledged this too, agreeing that including music in the curriculum is "absolutely imperative", before adding: "We are committed to ensuring all children have a broad and balanced curriculum. The arts are very important, key part of this".
That stops quite a long way short of saying that anything is actually going to change, of course. Though, even if he'd made firmer commitments, until the end of this year - when we find out if the world is going to collapse or if we'll start eating rainbows for breakfast (or, possibly, somewhere in between) - everything's still up in the air.
Also, if and when we get the first of the formal delays to the UK/EU deal talks - you know, the inevitable delays Johnson still insists he won't ask for or tolerate - then the uncertainty will just continue into 2021. But given uncertainty and stagnation are now the status quo, at least we get the certainty of continued uncertainty and stagnation. And hurray for that!
UK Music's Deputy CEO Tom Kiehl thought Adam's remarks - and the whole Parliamentary debate - was just the tippetty-toppest, beaming: "I would like to thank all the MPs from across the political spectrum who made such brilliant and heartfelt contributions about the importance of the UK music industry to our economy and society. This debate has highlighted a huge opportunity for industry to work with Parliament to ensure crucial support for music is turned into much needed action".
"I would particularly like to thank Nigel Adams who is a passionate supporter of the music industry and welcome his proposals for a new music strategy and comments on freedom of movement which is so vital for our industry", he added. "We look forward to working with him on the new music strategy and a host of other areas to continue to grow our industry".
TL;DR - A man said some things that made a load of uncertain things at least appear more certain and everyone was happy. Moaning will recommence tomorrow at 11.15am.
Aerosmith drummer sues his bandmates ahead of Grammy Weekend appearances
The drummer's lawsuit comes as the band prepare to play this weekend's Grammy Awards and attend a tribute show in their honour as they are named Persons Of The Year by music industry charity MusiCares.
Kramer says that he suffered some minor injuries last spring as the band were preparing for a Vegas residency. A fill-in drummer was recruited for the start of the Vegas run, paid for out of Kramer's cut of the fee. But by the autumn Kramer felt he was ready to return to performing.
However, he says, the band said he'd have to audition to re-join the outfit, so to prove he was still up to the job of being their drummer. This demand was in breach of a band agreement, he claims, and had never been made when band members had previously taken time off due to injury.
Nevertheless, he ultimately agreed to make an audition tape as requested by his bandmates. But, he says, they kept changing the parameters of that test, subsequently rejecting him on the basis he didn't display enough "energy" in his audition recording.
In a statement about his lawsuit, Kramer said that he was particularly upset that the dispute meant he would miss out on this weekend's Grammy-related festivities. "Being prohibited from playing with a band that I have given 50 years of my life to supporting is beyond devastating", he told reporters.
"This is not about money", he added. "I am being deprived of the opportunity to be recognised along with my peers, for our collective, lifetime contributions to the music industry. I hope our fans can understand that all I'm trying to do is get back to playing with the band that they love - and that's Aerosmith with all five original members".
He concluded: "The greatest magic and success of Aerosmith happens when all the band's founding members are together in the house. To be removed from my rightful place on stage to celebrate our success - a success that acknowledges my own life's work - is just plain wrong".
The rest of the band, however, tell a slightly different story. They said in a statement: "Joey Kramer is our brother; his wellbeing is of paramount importance to us. However, he has not been emotionally and physically able to perform with the band, by his own admission, for the last six months. We have missed him and have encouraged him to re-join us to play many times but apparently he has not felt ready to do so".
"Joey has now waited until the last moment to accept our invitation, when we unfortunately have no time for necessary rehearsals during Grammys Week", the band went on. "We would be doing a disservice to him, to ourselves and to our fans to have him play without adequate time to prepare and rehearse. Compounding this, he chose to file a lawsuit on the Friday night of the holiday weekend preceding the Grammys with total disregard for what is our limited window to prepare to perform these important events".
Although all that means, the band say, that Kramer can't join them on stage this weekend, that doesn't mean he isn't welcome to join them at the Grammys show and MusiCares tribute. "We are bonded together by much more than our time on stage", they added.
Sony/ATV confirms Beyonce deal
"I am excited for what's to come with my continued partnership with Jon Platt in his new leadership role at Sony/ATV", says Beyonce in a statement. "Jon's the executive who understands the creative mindset and continues to be both an advocate and protector. It has been an honour working with Jon from the start of my career".
Platt adds: "Beyond all of her well-deserved accolades and accomplishments, Beyonce is simply one of the most driven and impactful talents I know. I've had the privilege of making incredible music with her throughout her career and she continues to set the bar for creative expression in all forms. Beyonce inspires generations with her songs and I am honoured to reunite with her at Sony/ATV".
Everyone's just so bloody honoured. The new deal covers Beyonce's entire catalogue from top to toe all around the world. Rihanna also made a similar move to follow Platt from Warner to Sony last year.
Ozzy Osbourne reveals Parkinson's diagnosis
Speaking on 'Good Morning America' yesterday, he and wife Sharon said that the condition seems to have developed following surgery after the musician fell at home at the beginning of last year.
"I did my last show New Year's Eve  at the Forum [in LA]", he said. "Then I had a bad fall. I had to have surgery on my neck, which screwed all my nerves and I found out that I have a mild form [of Parkinson's]".
"It's not a death sentence", added Sharon, "but it affects certain nerves in your body. You have a good day, a good day, then a really bad day".
Ozzy said that he had decided to go public with his diagnosis due to ongoing rumours about the state of his health, adding: "I'm no good with secrets. I cannot walk around with it any more cos it's like I'm running out of excuses, you know?"
The Osbournes now plan to travel to Switzerland for specialist treatment. Sharon explains: "We've kind of reached a point here in this country where we can't go any further because we've got all the answers we can get here. So in April, we're going to a professional in Switzerland. And he deals with ... getting your immune system at its peak".
The musician postponed farewell tour dates several times last year. He is currently scheduled to return to the stage in the US in May, and the UK in October and November.
Ezra Furman to release Sex Education soundtrack this week
"Making music for a TV show was a new experience for me", says Furman. "As a fan of many a high school comedy - for example 'The Breakfast Club' and 'Ten Things I Hate About You' - I knew how fun the music can be, and also how emotional. I wanted to rise to the challenge".
"I decided I'd use the 'Sex Education' project as a place to put my tenderness, my sadness and longing", she continues. "The soft teenage feelings that every adult knows continue long after high school ends. [The show's makers] trusted us completely".
She adds: "They were like, 'you know what to do'. I try to imagine what's going to be on screen as a jumping-off point, but they don't need songs that fit, they need songs of a high quality, that come from a real place. That's why they wanted me, I guess. Also, I guess they noticed an exuberant vulnerability. I lay all my feelings out there".
'Sex Education OST' will be released digitally this week, with physical versions to follow in April. Here's a track from the album, 'Every Feeling'.
Furman will also be touring the UK in May. Here are the dates:
2 May: Leeds, Live At Leeds
Warner Records in the US has hired Darren Baber as SVP Media & Strategic Development. "For most of my life and professional career, I've been a fan of Warner Records, its rich history, and iconic roster of artists", says Baber. "I'm THRILLED to become part of the label's exciting new chapter".
Warner Chappell in the UK has named Ayla Owen its new VP Sync & Creative Services for Europe. She joins from advertising agency BBH, where she was Head Of Music. "I'm very excited to be joining a company that's determined to reinvent the role of music publisher", she says. She means Warner Chappell, by the way.
Sony Music France President Stéphane Le Tavernier has resigned after ten years in the role. He departs with immediate effect. While a replacement is sought, leadership of Sony Music's French business will be overseen by President of Continental Europe and Africa Daniel Lieberberg.
Talent and bookings agency CAA has unveiled a new board and management structure to oversee the company's "next-generation strategy". The board members, including music agent Emma Banks, all have existing leadership roles within the company. "This new group will build upon our tremendous momentum and accelerate the agency's growth", shouts president Richard Lovett.
The Worldwide Independent Network has added five new directors to its board. They are: Francesca Trainini (PMI), Garry West (Compass Records), Jörg Heidemann (VUT), Lisa Levy (Robbins Entertainment) and Zena White (Partisan Records). "I am excited", says WIN COO Charlie Phillips. "I'm very excited", says Levy. "I am excited", says White. "I am proud", says Heidemann. "I am ready", says Trainini. And "I look forward to continuing to participate", says West.
EDUCATION & EVENTS
Music industry conference Fast Forward will return to Sydney, Australia from 30 Apr to 1 May. Tickets go on sale next month.
Four Tet has announced that he will release new album 'Sixteen Oceans' in March.
Mitski has released new track 'Cop Car', taken from the soundtrack of Floria Sigismondi film 'The Turning'. Both the film and the full soundtrack album are out this week.
Hilary Woods has announced that she will release a new album, titled 'Birthmarks', in March. The first single, 'Tongues Of Wild Boar', is out now. "For me, 'Tongues of Wild Boar' is fierce, pliable and incessant", she says of the new track. "Navigating emotionally charged states of discomfort and becoming, it is a song deeply lodged in the body that yearns to surface for air and escape its own shadow".
Bullion has released new single 'Hula'. The track is taken from a new EP, 'We Had A Good Time', which is out on 28 Feb.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Tony Blackburn and Ricky Wilson launch new pop mysteries podcast
"Welcome to our agency", says Blackburn. "Ricky and I will be opening soon and solving many important pop mysteries. This has been something which has been needed for a long time. Rick and I look forward to opening the office soon and getting to work".
"We can't wait to get down to the serious detective work which we were born to do", he adds. "This is a vision we've both had and I hope you'll join us on our journey into serious pop journalism. We will leave no stone unturned, be certain of that".
Other questions to be answered in the eight episode podcast series include: 'Did Debbie Harry nearly get abducted by Ted Bundy?' and 'Was Avril Lavigne replaced by a lookalike in 2003?' The answers, by the way, are "she claims she did" and "no, don't be silly", but I'm sure they'll pad it out a bit more than that.
I don't know why Gene Wilder followed Ricky Wilson on Twitter. Maybe it was an accident. We'll all just have to tune in to find out. The first episode goes live on 28 Jan. More info here.