Friday, January 17, 2020

The Dugan Affair | Lefsetz Letter

My first reaction was laughter. You spent all that time searching and vetting and then this happened?

But today I’ve flipped.

I do not know Ms. Dugan’s personality. There are people with rough edges, who do not get along. But after the aforementioned vetting, what are the odds that Dugan has sharp elbows, especially after dealing with Bono, et al?

As for experience… At first I thought this was an Andy Lack situation. You know, someone with no history comes in believing they know better and it turns out that they’re clueless, they don’t respect the business, believing it’s run by simpletons But Deborah Dugan had experience at EMI, never mind RED.

Let’s go back in history. The Grammys were a joke until Mike Greene levitated them. He single-handedly gave the awards gravitas. And he stood up to the powers-that-be, that’s why the Grammys didn’t return to New York.

But Greene was his own man, uncontrollable, and the powers-that-be never liked this. You see Greene was first and foremost a musician, and musicians need to be taught a basic lesson, that they’re second class citizens.

And then Deborah Dugan put the artist first, and all hell broke loose.

You see the Grammys are first and foremost about the CBS contract, why else would the organization allow the TV presenters and try to appeal to an aged audience? You see CBS pays beaucoup bucks, and your goal is to keep them happy.

And then comes the labels.

Musicians may come and go, but the labels remain. Especially today. With consolidation.

Yup, the labels want Grammys for marketing purposes. They insist their employees block vote. They want to win, and you either play ball or you’re excommunicated.

Now for 17 years you had Neil Portnow. What was his background? THE LABELS! If Portnow didn’t put his foot in his mouth, telling women to step up, he’d still be in control, because he’s just what the labels want, a wuss who will do what they say.

And some of Portnow’s choices were insane. Giving up the building you own to rent another office?

But if you come from the label side, it’s all about the seven figure salary and appearances. You need a huge office, a fancy car, you’ve got to look the part, like you’re an equal to the big swinging dicks.

And they all have had dicks. Women have been excluded. Or else the business has trained them to operate like men in order to succeed. And then you get a woman recruited by women who’ve never had a seat at the table. How do you think that’s gonna work out? BADLY!

Yes, the reports are that Dugan never fit in.

Because the Grammy lifers don’t like change. Especially in a world where no one can lose their job.

The Grammy organization is not like working on the business side of the ledger. Don’t perform at the label or agency or concert promotion company and you’re out. To be in the circus you sell your soul, you need to be available 24/7, if you complain you need time for your regular life, you’re not cut out for the business and won’t last. You should feel privileged to work in the business, because many other people are willing to take your gig at less pay. Supply and demand baby. It’s economics.

So a job at the Grammys is cushy.

But it’s not only cushy for the employees, but for the trustees and the rest of the hangers-on. They fly to Hawaii, live it up, all on the Grammy dime. They’re bleeding the organization dry, but they don’t care.

And speaking of not caring, the household name musicians? They’re not involved, they’ve got no time for the politics and the truth is they’ve got no time at all, they’re too busy working! And the top tier believes the Grammys are lame anyway, it’s only the underlings who really care, which is why there are nearly a hundred categories and you can’t eliminate any. Some of the categories have so few contenders that they essentially pass the Grammy around. Then, on all their bios, they put that they won said Grammy. The Brits have ten categories, they’ve gotten rid of even more than that. They’re willing to shake it up, stay current. Meanwhile, we’ve seen the same damn “Grammy moment” mash-up TV show for years. You’d think every song on the hit parade was a medley featuring stars from different genres, it’d be like going to see a Scorsese film and having it turn into a Kevin Hart movie in the middle.

But hell, look how long it’s taken to get rid of Ken Ehrlich, who has produced the Grammys for forty years! Do you think the rank and file employees, the organization itself is gonna accept change? NO!

Sure, maybe Dugan should have read the room, maybe moved a bit slower, but the truth is they were never gonna accept her, they didn’t want their cheese moved, they wanted it to be the same as it ever was, but with a new figurehead.

The music business runs on artists, shouldn’t they be at the pinnacle of the mission statement?

Did Dugan really need an office that big?

And who is gonna listen to a woman anyway? Especially one who is not a people-pleaser.

This is why we had Napster, this is why today’s music business is run by indies, not majors. How many categories do the majors even release music in? And today, the scene is broader than ever before. But instead, we get the usual suspects.

If the organization doesn’t change, it dies. Look at the Oscars… They want to keep it as it was and insist you watch, even though the bulk of revenue comes from moviegoers who have never seen the nominees! So they expand the Best Picture category but the popular movies never win anyway, they’re just bait to get you to tune into the telecast.

And the truth is all awards shows are tanking in ratings. Ten years from now they may not even be a thing, certainly not on network TV.

And network TV may not even exist, certainly not in its present format.

As for TV distribution… Who in hell is going to subscribe to all these services? It’s worse than the cable bundle. Which is just what the purveyors want, screw the viewer.

So Deborah Dugan tries to bring the organization into the present, prepare for the future, and no one wants that.

Come on, are we gonna get a new caretaker like Portnow after only a few months? Are people really that afraid of change?



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