Grammy Awards Producer Shuffle: Ben Winston to Take Over From Ken Ehrlich in 2021
As Variety reported in December, Ben Winston will take the reins of the Grammy Awards as executive producer in 2021 after longtime telecast leader Ken Ehrlich completes his 40th ceremony next year.
Winston has become a prolific producer for CBS and other outlets since he moved to the U.S. nearly five years ago to launch “The Late Late Show With James Corden.” Ehrlich’s long tenure in steering the elaborate production of the annual kudocast was saluted by CBS and Recording Academy executives in announcing the plan with Winston.
“Ken’s imprint on the Grammy Awards and the music industry are well–known and represent the kind of work and vision that legends are made of,” said Neil Portnow, President and CEO of the Recording Academy. “Having worked closely with Ken for almost half of his tenure with the show, I have seen first–hand the vision, extraordinary musical knowledge, and passion he brings to every minute of the process, and the spectacular results and memorable ‘Grammy Moments’ that have been delivered. It’s an honor to celebrate his 40th show. I also recognize the wonderful opportunity ahead by bringing the immensely talented, innovative and well-respected Ben Winston into the family, and we look forward to his enthusiastic and forward–thinking approach to presenting music on television.”
The 62nd annual Grammy Awards are set to air live from the Staples Center on Jan. 26.
Winston worked alongside Ehrlich during this year’s telecast in an apprentice fashion. CBS indicated that the handoff plan was in the works but did not confirm it until Wednesday. Ehrlich is a renowned producer of kudocasts and live events, but the veteran producer has also faced some criticism for his handling of the Grammycast and the selection of performers for the highly-rated telecast. He tussled publicly this year with pop superstar Ariana Grande, who did not perform on the show and later blasted Ehrlich on social media, and the show has alienated many major performers, ranging from Jay-Z to Lorde, over matters ranging from recognition of female and minority artists to song choice. 2019 nominees Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino — all of whom lost in the album of the year category to non-hip-hop titles over the past four years — elected not to attend. The show also rushed or cut off acceptance speeches by three major artists during this year’s show.
In an interview with Variety in February, Ehrlich disputed Grande’s account of events and said the speeches were cut off either because he’d thought the speakers were finished or the show was running late. But he acknowledged the Grammys’ poor relationship with the hip-hop community. “I wish Gambino had come, I wish Kendrick had come, and we wish Drake would [perform],” he said. “But because of the history, I think there’s a lack of trust in the way we deal with hip-hop. I would love to do more.”
The move is part of a larger changing-of-the-guard at the Grammys. Portnow, who has led the Recording Academy since 2002, will step down later this month; he announced his departure last year in the wake of his controversial, awkwardly worded comment that female artists and executives needed to “step up” in order to be recognized. The Academy’s incoming chairman is Deborah Dugan, an attorney and former record label executive who had been CEO of the (RED) Foundation since 2011.
Adding insult to injury, the Grammycast rushed or cut off acceptance speeches by three major artists — Drake, Dua Lipa and Kacey Musgraves — while dedicating several long minutes of airtime to Portnow’s farewell speech and video.
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