'We Can Do Better, Improve, and Transform': Grammys Interim President Harvey Mason Jr. on Eliminating 'Secret' Nominating Committees

Shanelle Genai
·3 min read
Harvey Mason Jr speaks onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Harvey Mason Jr speaks onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

Though this year’s Grammys celebration proved to be a major moment for a couple of history-making Houston hotties, it wasn’t without its fair share of criticism and critique.

We told you back in March about The Weeknd’s musical upset and his vow to “boycott” the annual event, the artist having cited the “corrupt” organization’s “secret voting committees” as the reason why he’ll no longer submit his music for consideration. Now, in a move that comes just under two months from the 2021 ceremony, those committees are nearly no more.

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Variety reports that on April 30, the Recording Academy announced it would do away with “nearly all of the controversial ‘secret’ nominating committees that made final decisions about which artists or recordings were nominated in certain categories,” including: Album, Song, Record of the Year and Best New Artist.” Instead, the nominees for the main Grammy categories will be chosen by the general Academy electorate, most of whom are set to undergo a “requalification process by the end of 2021 to ensure that the voting body is actively engaged in music creation.” Though The Weeknd’s announcement may have had a major influence on the swiftness of this change, Interim Recording Academy President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. asserts that this move has been in motion for the last handful of months.

“When I decided to run for chair, I just thought that, even with all of the amazing work that we’d done, we can do better, improve and transform—and one of those things was improving our voting and doing away with nomination review,” Mason Jr. told Variety. “I just felt that our voters had evolved and the voting body had kind of graduated to the point where we didn’t need that extra layer. It’s something we’ve been working on since at least June [2019], when I was named chair, and about eight months ago we started a subcommittee that I charged with looking into what it would mean to eliminate nomination review committees and how we would structure the voting and change the process.” He continued, in part:

That said, any time an artist, especially one of that stature, calls our process into question or thinks something is unfair...the Academy is of course going to be affected by that, and want to work to make things better. I think the sentiment around the Academy has been evolving over the last 12 months, I think momentum has been picking up from the end of last year’s show, and we’ve been changing so much.

One thing that’s important to understand is that this happened in conjunction and in concert with changes to our membership, and I don’t think we would have been ready or able to eliminate the nomination review committees if we didn’t feel as confident about our membership and having qualified voting members—and we are requalifying our voting members, by the end of this year 95% of our voting members will be requalified. It used to be that if you paid your dues every year you could keep voting, and we did an accelerated requalification program to make sure that the people who are voting are experts — not hobbyists, not people who hadn’t released music for 20 years, that’s over.

I think that, more than anything, influenced the decision of the trustees. The committees served us well in certain ways and in others, they needed to be changed, and now felt like the right time. We feel we have the most qualified voting body we’ve ever had in the history of the Academy.

He added, “These decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. Did the Weeknd impact someone into thinking this is definitely something that needs to change? I can’t speculate, but I know the goal is to remain relevant and to be on the leading edge of music.”