NEW YORK — A coalition of musicians that has protested the Recording Academy's decision to drop 31 categories from the Grammy Awards is stepping up the pressure, calling for a boycott of the Grammys' telecast partner, CBS, and hiring a lawyer to explore legal action.
"We will ask people to stop watching CBS, boycott their sponsors and then write them," said Bobby Sanabria, a Grammy-nominated Latin jazz musician and the leader of the coalition, in an interview Wednesday night. "We're at a critical juncture."
The group planned a press conference on Thursday to speak about the boycott. A representative for the Academy didn't return requests for comment.
CBS is scheduled to broadcast the Grammys next February from Los Angeles.
In a surprise move, the Academy announced in April that it was reducing the number of award categories from 109 to 78. While the changes involve mainstream categories such as eliminating the male and female divisions in the pop vocal category to one general field, the Academy also reduced specific categories, including some of the instrumental categories in pop, rock and country; traditional gospel; children's spoken-word album; Zydeco or Cajun music album; best Latin jazz album; and best classical crossover album. Artists in those categories will now have to compete in more general fields, making the process more competitive.
Sanabria has claimed the reductions unfairly target ethnic music and called the Academy's decision racist.
He has also said the Academy made the changes without the knowledge of its members. However, Grammy President and CEO Neil Portnow has said the changes were properly implemented after an examination by a committee, then voted on by a board that represented its members.
Sanabria said the Academy hasn't released minutes from its meetings regarding the changes.
He said the Academy can still reverse the cuts if enough members of its board of trustees decide to act. But in meetings in San Francisco and New York earlier this month, he said the Academy said the changes would remain in effect at least for the 2012 Grammys.
"They say, 'Well, next year, we'll see how it goes and maybe possibly we can readmit some of the categories,'" he said. "Again, they obfuscated us, insulted us."
Attorney Roger Maldonado has been hired by Sanabria to explore legal action.