Will Grammys, Oscars & More Go On in the Next Year Amid Coronavirus? Awards Show Organizers Want to Know Too

Harvey Mason Jr.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Harvey Mason Jr. speaks onstage during the Pre-GRAMMY Gala and GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Sean "Diddy" Combs on Jan. 25, 2020 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

"It kept getting stressed to me that New Yorkers are unlike other people," Songwriters Hall of Fame president/CEO Linda Moran tells Billboard. "My contention was they are also not stupid."

The global coronavirus pandemic is continuing to wreak havoc on the awards show calendar. It is threatening three of the crown jewels of the awards show season: the Emmys, the Grammys and the Oscars.

"It’s difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands anytime soon, so I think we should be prepared for that this year," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday.

In a conference call with top city officials two days earlier, Garcetti indicated that large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events may not be approved in the city for at least one year.

If the mayor meant that literally, that could affect the Emmys, set for Sept. 20 at Microsoft Theater; the Grammys, set for Jan. 31, 2021, at Staples Center; and the Oscars, set for Feb. 28, 2021, at the Dolby Theater. All three venues are in the city of Los Angeles.

Harvey Mason Jr., interim president/CEO at the Recording Academy, says in a statement to Billboard, "We are of course monitoring this ever-changing situation and considering all possible contingency plans. Our hope is that we will once again be able to hold our show in Los Angeles. Next year’s Grammy Awards will be especially important in light of what’s happening in the world around us including the suffering in our community."

The Grammys were already forced to delay the taping of their annual Grammy Salute to Music Legends special, which was set to be taped Saturday (April 18) at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif. No new date has been set for this event, at which the Recording Academy dispenses its lifetime achievement awards, trustees awards and technical Grammy Awards.

A spokesperson for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tells Billboard: "We are in the process of evaluating all aspects of this uncertain landscape and what changes may need to be made. We are committed to being nimble and forward-thinking as we discuss what is best for the future of the industry and will make further announcements in the coming weeks."

An Emmy spokesperson tells Billboard, "Regarding Mayor Garcetti’s statement ... no, The Academy has no immediate reaction. Of course, internal discussions are underway regarding September."

On March 27, the Emmys announced changes to their awards calendar in reaction to the pandemic. Key dates in the competition were pushed back and voting windows shortened. The Television Academy also suspended all "For Your Consideration" events for this Emmy season -- whether with a live audience, streaming or recorded for posting on a viewing platform.

Several awards shows postponed their events for three to five months, thinking that would put them in the clear. Now, those awards show organizers can only watch news reports and public health advisories and hope that they will be able to keep the revised dates. These include the Ivor Novello Awards in London, which were bumped from May 21 to Sept. 2; the Academy of Country Music Awards, which were bumped from April 5 to Sept. 16; the CMT Music Awards, which were bumped from June 3 to Oct. 14; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction gala in Cleveland, which was bumped from May 2 to Nov. 7.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame took a different approach. Rather than just postpone their annual event, which had been set for June 11 in New York, they pushed it back an entire year, to June 12, 2021.

Linda Moran, Songwriters Hall of Fame president/CEO, gives Billboard her rationale for pushing the show back a full year: "I was under a lot of pressure to postpone the gala to the end of November or beginning of December. It kept getting stressed to me that New Yorkers are unlike other people and the minute the lock-down is lifted, they will not hesitate to go back to restaurants, plays, events, etc. My contention was they are also not stupid.

"From the very beginning, I felt if it is cleared up even by the beginning of summer, no one is going to want to travel and/or attend a large gathering and risk getting sick before Thanksgiving or the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s holidays which may be the first time they will be seeing their families in a long time. The thought of a second postponement was daunting, so rather than risking a second cancellation, it made much more sense to just move the entire 2020 Class to next year’s date when the inductees and honorees can truly be celebrated properly."

Garcetti's comments followed similar ones made to CNN by New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, who called large public gatherings "one of the last things that we bring back online."

The Tonys, the fourth of the EGOT-level awards, were already forced to postpone their show, which had been set for June 7 at their usual home, Radio City Music Hall in New York. On March 25, Tony Award Productions said the show "will be postponed and rescheduled at a later date, in coordination with our broadcast partner [CBS]…We will announce new dates and additional information once Broadway opens again. We are looking forward to celebrating Broadway and our industry when it is safe to do so."

Each time awards show organizers cancel or postpone their signature event, their pain is palpable. Here is the statement the Juno Awards in Canada issued when they were forced to cancel their show this year, which had been set for March 15 in Saskatoon. "It is with an incredibly heavy heart that we collectively confirm the cancellation of the 49th annual Juno Awards and Juno Week activities in Saskatoon due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. We are devastated to cancel this national celebration of music, but at this time of global uncertainty, the healthy, safety and well-being of all Canadians must stand at the forefront of any decisions that impact our communities."

The BET Awards are still scheduled for June 28 at Microsoft Theater, but it seems very unlikely that will happen.

While it seems like we've been living this nightmare forever, the awards calendar tells us otherwise. The Grammys were held without incident on Jan. 26, the Oscars on Feb. 9, the Brits on Feb. 18. All were festive occasions, with happy winners, disappointed losers, inspired performances, dull stretches, fashion hits-and-misses -- the kind of awards shows we've watched all our lives. And then the world changed.



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