Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage.com
Little Big Town and Rep. Steny Hoyer (center)
Little Big Town, Lawmakers Champion Music Modernization Act: 2018 GRAMMYs On The Hill Awards
The Recording Academy gala featured some epic performances while celebrating "America's greatest export" and the historic bill that stands to revolutionize the music industry
Buoyed by hope for an industry entirely in step with the modern age, the 2018 GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards gala convened a who's who of Capitol Hill heavyweights and music creators joining forces in a celebration of the power of advocacy, creativity and music.
Taking place at Washington, D.C.'s The Hamilton, the Recording Academy honored GRAMMY winners Little Big Town in recognition of their advocacy efforts on behalf of their fellow music creators. Additionally, this year's congressional honorees — Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus, and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), author of the Music Modernization Act and vice chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet — were recognized for their longtime support of the creative community.
"The time is now," remarked Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow to a room that featured the likes of event host and GRAMMY-winning producer Peter Asher, Recording Academy Chief Industry, Government and Member Relations Officer Daryl P. Friedman, and Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Also, impressive was the roster of GRAMMY winners and nominees in attendance, including Erika Ender, co-writer of "Despacito"; Brann Dailor and Bill Kelliher from GRAMMY winners Mastodon; "Stay" singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb; Ben Tanner of blues-rock band Alabama Shakes, former "American Idol" contestant and Christian artist Danny Gokey; and producers Patrick "9th Wonder" Denard Douthit and Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins.
The "time" was a reference to the Music Modernization Act, a comprehensive package combining three previous bills that was unanimously passed by the United States House Judiciary Committee and is now awaiting consideration by the full House of Representatives.
Regarding the MMA, Pelosi noted, "It was through [the Recording Academy's] tireless advocacy that this has happened, and we look forward to the bill's speedy passage into legislation."
Speaking to the need to update outdated music policy and protect the future livelihood of the industry's numerous creatives, Collins said, "The creative spark inside of us is as important as anything that is made with hands, and is worth protecting, in this case, by updating. If we ever get to the point in our society where we take away the creative spark, we have failed the soul and heartbeat of music, of books, of our creative output as Americans. [That creative output] is America's greatest export."
"Congratulations on 20 years of working to advocate for the rights of music creators," said Chu, who also shared a sobering story with attendees. "I especially appreciate what you do because I get the opportunities to meet artists like Kevin Kadish, who told me the story of writing 'All About That Bass' with Meghan Trainor. Then he told me that, despite it being a megahit and being played over 37 million times online, he only received $964."
Notes like those underpinned an evening that closed with Little Big Town being surprised by songwriting trio behind their hit "Girl Crush." Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose — collectively known as the Love Junkies — performed a spirited acoustic take on the song that netted them the 2015 GRAMMY for Best Country Song and the Homewood, Ala.-based quartet Best Country Duo/Group Performance honors.
Ender's plaintive take on "Despacito" and GRAMMY winner Jerry Douglas' stirring dobro-aided rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" provided for additional music highlights.
Upon taking the stage to both receive their honor and play a live mini set, Little Big Town's Kimberly Schlapman related the story of how McKenna was a Boston-based mother of five and independent songwriter who spent many years honing her craft before becoming an award-winning writer. "[It's] hardworking people like these who make the songs that define our lives and need greater support," said Schlapman, offering a compelling exclamation point on the proceedings.
"If we ever get to the point in our society where we take away the creative spark, we have failed the soul and heartbeat of music, of books, of our creative output as Americans." — Rep. Doug Collins
Speaking of Little Big Town's set, the highlight was a true "only at the GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards moment": a rousing run-through of "Boondocks" during which the group was joined onstage by a group of lawmakers. Pelosi, Chairmen Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Chu — who played mean maracas — were among the group who danced and sang along.
Fun aside, the awards gala served as a true reminder of how music and politics can blend to ensure and preserve a sustainable future for music creators.
"No industry survives generations of not changing," said Gokey. "America is an industry innovator, and ideas like the Music Modernization Act ensure that this will remain the case.”
(Marcus K. Dowling is a world-published journalist, broadcaster, and entrepreneur with 15 years of experience. Also, he was the concept development lead for Decades, a retro-themed 12,000-square-foot nightclub in downtown Washington, D.C.)
Your New Membership Portal Is Here!
Visit the new Recording Academy membership area now
In the Recording Academy’s ongoing efforts to provide a better digital experience for members and supporters, we are streamlining various Academy websites used to access important information about what we do across the organization. This includes an all-new membership area, which replaces GRAMMYPro.com and provides members easier access to news and content across the Academy, Chapter information and updates, and membership account management.
Visit the new membership area by clicking this link: www.grammy.com/membership.
All GRAMMYPro.com links redirect to GRAMMY.com. Log in using the email associated with your Recording Academy account (the same one that you used to access GRAMMYPro.com). If you have forgotten your password, you can reset it here: https://www.grammy.com/user/password.
When you’re logged in, you can visit your Dashboard to:
- Review and update your Contact Information
- Review and update your Mailing Preferences
- Change your profile photo
- Explore events, member discounts, and content across the Recording Academy
If you experience any issues, please email email@example.com or call the Membership Team at 310.392.3777.
Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage.com
Recording Academy Prepares For Future Leadership Transition
After years of success as President/CEO, Neil Portnow will work with the Recording Academy Board to engage qualified leadership to take the organization into its seventh decade of operation
Since 2002, the Recording Academy has achieved a period of prosperity and unprecedented growth under the leadership of President/CEO Neil Portnow, positioning the organization as the world's leading society of music professionals.
Today, the Recording Academy has announced that Portnow will begin preparing for a leadership transition after choosing to not seek an extension on his current contract. Throughout the next year, Portnow will work with the Academy Board to develop an organizational succession and transition plan, while continuing his current work as active President/CEO of the Recording Academy and MusiCares, and Chair of the Board of the GRAMMY Museum.
"The evolution of industries, institutions and organizations is ultimately the key to their relevance, longevity, and success," said Portnow. "Having been a member of the Recording Academy for four decades, serving as an elected leader and our President/CEO, I have not only witnessed our evolution, but proudly contributed significantly to the Academy's growth and stature in the world.
"When I had the honor of being selected to lead this great organization in 2002, I vowed that on my watch, for the first time in our history, we would have a thoughtful, well-planned collegial transition. With a little more than a year remaining on my current contract, I've decided that this is an appropriate time to deliver on that promise. Accordingly, I'll be working with our Board to put the various elements in place that will ensure transparency, best practices, and the Academy's ability to find the very best, brightest, and qualified leadership to take us into our seventh decade of operation. I truly look forward to continuing my role leading the Academy in the year ahead, and to continuing the pursuit of excellence and the fine missions we embrace and deliver."
Under Portnow's leadership during his 16-year tenure, the Recording Academy achieved several key milestones, including:
- Establishing advocacy as a hallmark of the Recording Academy's Washington, D.C., office, giving music creators a voice on Capitol Hill, and stressing the need to update dated federal music laws. Last month, after 15 years of advocacy work, and on the heels of the organization's GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards and Advocacy Day, the Music Modernization Act, which helps bring copyright laws and artist protection into the 21st century, was passed in the House of Representatives and introduced in the Senate.
- As the Recording Academy's leading charity, MusiCares will have provided more than $5.9 million to 7,900 members of the music industry in this fiscal year alone — marking the largest number of clients served and dollars distributed in a single year in the charity's history.
- The Academy opened the first GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles in 2008. The Museum has since expanded its presence domestically and internationally.
- A landmark 10-year broadcast deal with CBS to keep the GRAMMY Awards telecast — one of television's major entertainment events, ranking as one of the highest-rated and most-watched specials — on CBS through 2026.
- The expansion of the Recording Academy's telecast portfolio, which more than tripled the organization's television footprint with a number of new specials, including GRAMMY Salutes to Elton John, the Bee Gees, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, and Whitney Houston, as well as the PBS "Great Performances" series honoring GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and Special Merit Award recipients.
- In 2017, the GRAMMY Music Education Coalition united more than 30 of the nation's most forward-thinking music education organizations with the goal of increasing the number of youth actively participating in creating, playing, and performing music in U.S. public schools.
- After 58 years of traditional balloting, the GRAMMY Awards successfully implemented an online voting platform.
Portnow is the longest serving President in the Recording Academy's 60-year history. His contract is set to expire in July 2019.
Photo: Courtesy of Linda Perry
Linda Perry Talks Craft, Creativity & Her Biggest Hits In Nashville
The GRAMMY-nominated musical force of nature opens up to an intimate audience about artistry, authenticity and her illustrious career in music
Finding success as a songwriter, artist or producer/engineer is a one-in-a-million shot at best in today's super-saturated music industry, but to succeed at all three takes a remarkable individual. Linda Perry is just that special talent. For a lucky audience at the Recording Academy Nashville Chapter's Craft Session event on June 14 at The Tracking Room, the GRAMMY nominee took a candid look at her remarkable career, her instinctual creative process and the stories behind some of her biggest hits.
Born to a father who loved Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, old time country, and jazz, a Brazilian mother with a penchant for Sergio Mendes, and growing up around siblings who loved pop and rock music, Perry's first love was musicals. She cites listening to "The Jungle Book" as the magical moment for her when storytelling and music collided. Later, she discovered the encompassing power of her own voice, the beginning of a career full of music coming naturally to her.
"One day, literally, in San Francisco, I was playing guitar … and then I just started singing," said Perry. "And this huge voice came out of me. … It just took over my whole body and I started crying and my roommate came running down. She was like, 'What was that?' And I'm like, 'It was me!' … Then that's when I said, 'I'm gonna be a rockstar.'"
From there, Perry stumbled into playing music, a self-taught multi-instrumentalist picking up guitar and piano by ear without any trouble at all. These instincts as a musician still guide her in the studio, where Perry let's her ears take over.
"I'm different because I don't know what I'm doing, I just feel it," said Perry. "I pride myself on my drum sounds, and when I get drum sounds they're fat, they're awesome, they're gorgeous, but I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just turning things, moving microphones until it sounds good to my ear. I don't need to know that I'm boosting 2K or bringing down 15K. Who cares about that? I just want to know I'm getting a good sound. … I don't look at meters, I just move microphones."
Every way Perry interacts with music seems to carry this natural, instinctual movement. As a songwriter, there may be ways of forcing ideas to come out, but she admitted that's not how she works. In fact, the question she gets asked most often by songwriters is about dealing with writer's block. Her answer is an enlightening one.
"I don't get songwriter's block because I'm not thinking," said Perry. "Only people who are thinking about writing music get songwriter's block, I just do it. And if it's not there to do, I don't do it."
During the conversation, Perry walked the audience through her journey in the San Francisco music scene in the '90s where she earned a write-up in SF Weekly for her brief but memorable first performance after playing just two songs then breaking a string. and formed her band 4 Non Blondes, whose original name was Lesbian Snake Charmers. She kept her solo career pursuits going while joining the band before combining the two and finding a record deal post haste.
Perry talked about writing "What's Up," the band's 1992 smash hit, and the subsequent struggle to maintain her artistic vision for the song. The album's producer suggested lyric rewrites and production choices that forced Perry to decide between being a team player and standing up for her artistry.
Thankfully, she was able to cut the tune on her last reel of tape and rush it to mastering just in time. Shockingly, it was Perry's first time touching a microphone and crafting sounds in a studio. The raw brilliance of the recording came together in a hurry and created something lasting.
"That recording was my first actual recording, and it's flawed all over the place. I can't stand my voice on that," Perry said. "Everything about it when I hear it sounds amateurish. All those flaws and all those mistakes are what made that song what it was. So the moral of the story is just trust your instincts because we're not here to be perfect. We're here to create an emotion and to create a moment."
Ever since, Perry has tapped into this magic throughout her career in her own music and collaborating with other artists. During the Craft Session, she recounted how she patched together Pink's "Get This Party Started," taking her first crack as sequencing, the arc of her collaboration with James Blunt, her love/hate relationship with the "beyond talented" Christina Aguilera, for whom she penned the 2002 smash hit "Beautiful," and more.
In an industry with so many facets, Perry has grown her career on the foundation of true artistry, tapping into inspiration and authenticity at every stage of the process. Her vision — or the vision of the artist she's working with — always comes first. From there, Perry says it's about craft and creativity, no matter who you are or what your process is.
"It's very important to really understand your craft," Perry said. "There's kids doing amazing albums on GarageBand because they're being creative. You can record on anything if you're creative, you have a good song and you get the emotion."
Photo: Marcus Ingram/WireImage.com
Beck Talks Woody Guthrie, 'Colors,' Songwriting & More
Dive in to the highlights at Up Close & Personal With Beck, a conversation hosted by the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter and the P&E Wing that spanned the GRAMMY winner's career
It's been nearly 30 years since Beck began his career journey, which has taken him from the anti-folk scene of New York City to winning GRAMMYs and performing on the biggest stages in the world.
At Up Close & Personal With Beck, a program presented by the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter with the Producers & Engineers Wing on May 1 at the W Atlanta-Midtown Hotel, the "Blue Moon" singer/songwriter participated in a fascinating career-spanning conversation.
Moderated by Tony Paris — who revealed that he saw Beck perform in the late '80s at the Sidewalk Cafe in New York City — the discussion delved into the L.A. native's idiosyncratic approach to the creative process.
"I think everybody finds their own way in music," said Beck. "I produce other artists as well [and] that's one of the things [I enjoy] — going into somebody else's world and their process and [learning] how they got into music and the rules they wrote for themselves. There's a million ways to make a song."
Of course, Beck's catalog features an abundance of musical elements and textures, from alt-rock and acoustic-based folk to pop, Americana and hip-hop. It turns out Beck's varied output is a direct result of is anti-formulaic approach to music.
"I think it would be more practical and pragmatic to have a formula," said Beck. "When I make records, I pretty much throw that out the window. I think what's interesting is that world that you construct and how the record is made becomes a part of the identity of the record. That's why [my] records are so different.
"There are certain records that I've recorded in a house with a producer — it's very kind of amateur in a beautiful way. The next record, I'll get some of the best musicians and one of the classic rooms in Los Angeles, record it to tape live, and bring in a live orchestra."
During the 60-minute-plus conversation, Paris peppered Beck on other topics such as his breakout hit "Loser," why music education programs are important and his creative mindset for popular albums in his catalog, including his stripped-down Sea Change album, 2006's The Information and his latest opus, 2017's Colors.
"['Loser'] went through all the record companies and I had a few meetings and nobody wanted to put [it] out," Beck recalled about his 1993 debut single. "So, a friend of mine put out 500 copies. And it was one of those freak things … it [went to] No. 1. I thought it would go away and that it [would be] just a novelty. It just had a life of its own."
"I heard Woody Guthrie and it was just so simple. It was just a human voice and a guitar. That was a real revelation for me."
Though "Loser" is a brilliant alt-rock pastiche featuring drum loops, rap rhymes and unforgettable phrases ("Get crazy with the Cheese Whiz"), Beck revealed that the initial inspiration for his career came in the form of an iconic folk singer/songwriter's pure approach.
"I heard Woody Guthrie and it was just so simple," he said. "It was just a human voice and a guitar. That was a real revelation for me. I kind of went down that thread of blues and folk music."
Digging further back, Paris touched upon the fact that each of Beck's parents come from artistic backgrounds. His father, David Campbell, is a master arranger/composer who has worked with artists such as Adele, Justin Timberlake and Dream Theater. His mother, Bibbe Hansen, is an artist, musician and actress who worked closely with Andy Warhol and was among those who frequented The Factory, a distinguished gathering place for Warhol and his artistic associates. While his parents' talents no doubt had an impact on Beck, his love for music was instilled through picking up a guitar on his own accord.
"It was the default thing that was accessible to me, which is the beautiful thing about music," said Beck, who added that he is a big believer in music education programs. "Having music programs for kids [is important]. That's like a lifeline. For a child, that's opening a whole world."
With 13 studio albums to his credit, Beck has initiated a left turn or two. His 2002 GRAMMY-nominated album, Sea Change, though lauded today as a modern folk masterpiece, hit a bumpy road right out of the gate.
"The record company rejected [Sea Change] when I turned it in," said Beck. "That was a record [where] I thought, 'This is just one I'm doing for myself. People who like my records aren't necessarily going to like this. Maybe it will be an interesting curiosity later on.'"
Curiosity is a through line in Beck's creative process. His musicologist leanings and a constant thirst for knowledge continue to inform his work as evidenced by his latest album, Colors.
"[For] a record like Colors, the ethos was those great records that are groundbreaking, sonically, but the compositions are experimental and also wildly popular," said Beck. "Thriller, Sgt. Pepper's and Pet Sounds — there's a particular thing about those records. They are very experimental but they are also so meticulous.
"[I thought], 'How do you do something very experimental that has sophistication but is accessible [with meticulous] production?' It was a very different approach than how I usually approach making records."