Just 10 days before the 62nd Grammy Awards, Recording Academy President and Chief Executive Deborah Dugan has exited her position, the organisation confirmed.
Dugan took over on August 1 as the first female president of the Recording Academy, which oversees the Grammy Awards. Dugan replaced longtime Recording Academy chief executive Neil Portnow, who suggested in 2018 that female artists should “step up” if they wanted to be recognised at the Grammys.
In an internal Recording Academy memorandum issued January 16, interim Recording Academy President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr wrote that the “Recording Academy Board of Trustees has placed Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan on Administrative Leave, effective immediately.
“The Board of Trustees felt this action to be necessary, due to serious concerns that recently were brought to our attention. While we are unable to share the details of the concerns to protect employee privacy, please know that the Board has retained two independent third-party investigators to conduct independent investigations into allegations that have been made.”
Her appointment, announced in May, was considered a concrete step toward addressing longstanding issues of gender bias in the music industry in general, and in particular at the Recording Academy. Previously she had been chief executive at (Red), the AIDS nonprofit founded in 2006 by U2 singer Bono.
Following Portnow’s remark, a firestorm of criticism was unleashed at him and the organisation from musicians, male and female, as well as others in and out of the record business.
One immediate result was the formation of a 15-woman, 3-man task force, headed by Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, created to explore “conscious and unconscious” discrimination against women, people of colour and those in the LGBTQ community.
The task force’s final report, issued in December, described the aftermath of Portnow’s comments as a “public relations crisis with respect to (the academy’s) commitment to diversity.”
The Grammys will take place at the Staples Center, Los Angeles on Sunday, January 26.