Latin Jazz Musicians Sue Grammys

Grammy officials announced in April that the number of Grammy Award categories would be reduced from 109 to 78. This significant cut angered many in the industry and has now spawned a class action lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Specifically, four Latin Jazz musicians are suing for breach of contract, alleging that this change puts their livelihoods at risk. Mark Levine, a 72 year old jazz pianist who is one of the plaintiffs, said “The goal of just about anybody who makes a record is to get a Grammy, because it boosts your career.” He claims that his workload tripled after his prior Grammy nomination. The plaintiffs are encouraging others who would potentially compete in the category to join as well.

It appears that the plaintiffs are pursuing specific performance, endeavoring to force academy officials to reinstate the “Best Latin Jazz Album” category. However, their first obstacle will be meeting the requirements of class certification. Generally, class certification requires the following four elements:
(1) the class is so numerous that treating each individually is impracticable (numerosity);
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class (commonality);
(3) the claims or defenses of the class representatives are typical of those of the class (typicality);
(4) the class representatives will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class (adequacy).

The current four members will likely have to attract significant additional support in order to meet the first test listed above. Notably, the plaintiffs are not even attempting to pursue monetary damages, which would generate the added complexity of having to demonstrate to a reasonable certainty the liklihood of the classmembers obtaining a nomination and the financial impact it would have generated for them.

The Academy has denounced the musicians’ claim as frivolous.

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