How Important Are The Grammys?

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How relevant are the Grammys to a musician or band’s emergence as a legitimate star?

Pretty important, I’d say: even to be nominated is a special honor.

I’d be interested in seeing the overall effect for any Louisiana band that’s 1) been nominated, or 2) has actually won a Grammy. If they don’t make pop music, then it’s probably not a huge deal.

The Grammys—if you’re in the music business—evolved (and have been hyped) as the ultimate prize and doorway to one’s future as a musical star with everything that comes with that: fame, money, luxury, fawning appreciation, prestige.

Personally, I’m kind of over watching the actual Grammy Awards because I don’t live in the world of commercially-successful pop music. Fun to watch and listen to occasionally, but in another world entirely from the one I live in.

We’ve all known for a long time that New Orleans and Louisiana is “outsider” music. New Orleans and Louisiana musicians, for the most part,  just don’t live in pop-world. I suspect that they never will.

But that’s okay, I think. Music lovers who flock to New Orleans are not expecting, nor do they want to experience pop music (I’m not talking about folks who don’t really care about the music, its quality and emotional content: they experience music as a background for the party). People flock to New Orleans music because of its authenticity, honesty, its heart and soul, and depth of musical roots and traditions. I’d venture to say that pop music in New Orleans may be anathema to people who visit us to experience music. In fact, should the Jazz Fest go back to presenting all local musicians instead of including the rock and pop and their producing partners AEG present at the Jazz Fest, you’d probably have a more satisfying musical experience, but you sure wouldn’t be able to draw the crowds that the Fest needs to stay financially viable.

Pop sells, jazz doesn’t.

Country-pop sells, zydeco and Cajun don’t.

Hip hop sells, funk doesn’t.

We live in commercial world. And New Orleans just isn’t in that groove.

What do the Grammys mean for local musicians and music businesses here? Probably not that much, but it’s certainly lovely to be recognized, and an honor to aspire to. I kept waiting to hear more about Tank and the Bangas in the vast amount of publicity that I heard prior to this year’s event—they were nominated for Best New Artist Grammys this year. Didn’t hear anything on a national level. I’m thrilled that they were recognized with a nomination, but not so happy that Billie Eilish swept the Grammys. She’s talented…but is riding on a wave of hype. But that’s the way it is. Should New Orleans really try to surf that wave too?

The bulk of the Grammy Awards aren’t even given at the much-hyped awards show. They are awarded at a smaller event that the public doesn’t see. The Grammys are, if nothing else, about the exposure and cash generated by the awards show. Winning a Grammy gives you instant cred in the national music industry.

For anyone who’s been keeping track of the recent Grammys drama (recently-hired CEO Deborah Dugan was ousted after only five months after she alleged irregularities and favoritism in the voting process), it appears that the Grammy Awards could be more of an insider’s game: you win if you have the support of bigwig music industry people (who also include a wide raft of publicists who are paid to create hype and interest in an artist) who have inside access to Grammy voting.

Is that ever going to be the case for an artist from Louisiana? Do we need more high-powered music industry publicists, managers and labels here to make Louisiana music “Grammy-worthy”? Or even more radically: do we want New Orleans to turn into another Los Angeles or Nashville, with music success built on shallow (though lucrative) popularity and publicity?

Me, I don’t believe that’s what we really want. Is it all about monetary success or is it about being creative and loving what you do as an artist? Is it about jumping on the pop wagon to achieve Grammy star success or is it about making a decent living making good music that might not appeal to a least- common-denominator audience?

New Orleans has tried for years to create a music industry infrastructure (that’s how I started), but do we want to strive for Grammy success or merely a living breathing, healthy climate for all of our musicians? The latter goal certainly isn’t as glamorous as the first, but it’s worthy nevertheless.

I want your feedback on this…send me an email!

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