Photo Courtesy of the Recording Academy
How The HBCU Love Tour Inspires Young Black Students To Prosper In The Music Industry
Presented by the Recording Academy's GRAMMY U and Black Music Collective, the inaugural HBCU Love Tour motivates students to learn more about the Academy's aims and stake their claims in the music business.
On a vivacious afternoon back in April, the energy was positively crackling inside the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. From the first minute opening the event to the last seconds of the night, the energy level at the inaugural HBCU Love Tour event was enough to shatter the Richter scale. That's because the HBCU family from across the DMV came ready to learn from today's music industry's leaders.
The HBCU Love Tour, a joint initiative presented by the Recording Academy's GRAMMY U and the Black Music Collective, is a new program aimed at teaching young students and aspiring professionals attending an HBCU, short for historically Black college or university, about the music business and invite them to join GRAMMY U, the Recording Academy's membership program for college students. An entryway into the music industry, the HBCU Love Tour aims to open doors for young, gifted and Black students looking to make their mark in music and entertainment culture.
First, a little background for those who haven't been to the nation's capital. Howard Theatre is a historic spot dating back to 1910; it hosted many Black musical geniuses of the 20th century, from Sarah Vaughan to James Brown to Dionne Warwick. It's also near Howard University, where the majority of the HBCU Love Tour attendees are enrolled. Need proof? Every mention of "H.U." resulted in the saying's remainder, roared back by the audience: "You know!"
The launch of the HBCU Love Tour was a smashing success — you could feel the good vibes. Throughout the event, the throng of attendees, mostly college students, showed a palpable eagerness to learn the ropes of the music business, willing to engage with their entire hearts and minds and absorb that passed-down wisdom.
From Howard students and GRAMMY U affiliates Nia Burnley and Rainee Wilson to the Recording Academy's Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Ryan Butler, everyone brought something to the table. (To say nothing of Precious Jewel, the first-ever HBCU Love Contest Winner and one of Howard University's own, who led off the night with a spellbinding performance.)
And throughout a long chat between recent 2022 GRAMMYs On The Hill honorees Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis — as well as appearances by Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr.; Chair on the Board of Trustees of the Recording Academy Tammy Hurt; and others — the crowd alternated between silent fascination and visceral enthusiasm.
Read More: "Black Music Saved The World": How The Recording Academy Honors Presented By The Black Music Collective Celebrated Positive Change For The Culture & Community
But a big reason the HBCU Love Tour was so special was due to its radiant host: Rico Love, Vice Chair on the Board of Trustees of the Recording Academy and a two-time GRAMMY nominee.
Even while in conversation with a guest, Love wasn't afraid to break the fourth wall and address the crowd directly — the sign of an excellent moderator — whether he was extolling the virtues of MusiCares ("When you say, 'Forget the GRAMMYs,' you're saying, 'Forget all those people who need help!'") or Advocacy ("Unbeknownst to a lot of people, they're fighting for songwriters' rights!").
Love understands how the Recording Academy and its various initiatives can transform the lives of all music people and creators, including young, aspiring students. "Today was my first day on Capitol Hill doing Advocacy work, and I felt powerful," he said of his work at the 2022 GRAMMYs On The Hill earlier that week.
And in a panel between singer/songwriter Raheem DeVaughn, rapper Cordae and singer/songwriter Kacey Williams, moderated by Love, the realities of struggling in the music business in a pandemic age were laid bare — as well as ways to help ameliorate them.
"I think it's about understanding your worth," Williams, who fronts the band Black Alley, said, succintly summing up the entire theme of the event. "In order to be considered successful in a business, you need to understand what your business is worth."
Of course, songwriters, producers and other music creators hold their craft in high esteem — why else devote their lives to music? However, much of the world hasn't caught up, and it won't without a whole lot of passionate change.
The sheer number of mental seeds planted at the inaugural HBCU Love Tour that night — for a new generation of music people and creators set to lead the industry into the future — is more than enough to engender hope and ignite change.
So, let's keep that blessed feeling of the first-ever HBCU Love Tour in our back pockets as we continue to celebrate and support music and all its professionals and creatives. Whether they consciously know it or not, these students intuitively grasp what they're worth — and the world's about to find out.
Next Up: The HBCU Love Tour heads to Atlanta
Vinyl at Center Stage
Sunday, Oct. 9, at 4 p.m. ET
Panel: Demystifying the GRAMMY Awards with J.I.D, Baby Tate, and Rico Love
GRAMMY U Masterclass with Armani White presented by Mastercard
Ray Charles Performing Arts Center
Monday, Oct. 10., at 4 p.m. ET
GRAMMY U members and students at Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Georgia State University, and Spelman College are invited to attend. RSVP here.
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Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
How The Entertainment Law Initiative's "The Evolution Of The Record Contract" Panel Analyzed The Essentials Of Record Deals
Featuring a panel representing both the artist and label sides of record deals, the lively discussion yielded numerous key takeaways regarding the ins and outs of contracts.
With tectonic shifts in the music business — TikTok's domination and virality; the "Taylor effect" of Swift's re-recordings, among other things — contractual procedures can and do change incredibly quickly.
It's difficult for an artist to keep track, let alone know what type of record deal to sign… or when. To unpack this topic, the Recording Academy’s Entertainment Law Initiative (ELI), a program aimed at bolstering discussion and debate around legal affairs and their impact on the music industry and creative community, held a Professional Education Event titled "The Evolution of the Record Contract" at NYU's Kimmel Center for University Life on Nov. 8, 2022.
The panel, sponsored by NYU Steinhardt Music Business Program and First Horizon Bank, was moderated by Sandra Craswshaw-Sparks, Partner at Proskauer Rose LLP and Chair of the Entertainment, Copyright & Media Practice Group. Participating attorneys included Shardé Simpson, Vice President of Operations, Dream Chaser Records and founding partner of Simpson and Reed PLLC; Elliot Groffman of Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian; and Ben Landry, Senior Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs, Atlantic Records. Practicing attorneys received 1.0 credit hour of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit from Proskauer Rose LLP in the Professional Practice (NY)/General (CA/IL) category for their attendance.
In his opening remarks, Neil Crilly, Managing Director of Industry Leader Engagement & Chapter Operations for the Recording Academy and one of the event's organizers, presented an overview of the 2023 Entertainment Law Initiative Writing Contest. The annual contest invites current law students to identify and research a pressing legal issue facing the music industry today and outline a proposed solution in a 3,000-word essay. The winner, decided upon a nationwide panel of music law experts and to be recognized at the 25th Annual ELI event to be held during GRAMMY Week 2023, will receive a $10,000 cash scholarship, among many other prizes; each of the two contest runners-up will receive a $2,500 cash scholarship. Learn more about the 2023 Entertainment Law Initiative Writing Contest, read the official contest rules, and spread the word to eligible applicants via our Social Media Toolkit.
Representing both the artist side (Groffman) and the label side of record deals (Landry, and Simpson, who works on both the artist and label side), the lively discussion yielded numerous key takeaways regarding the ins and outs of contracts. Kanye West's business dealings even came into play — in a positive way!
One topic of note: when it comes to an artist signing a recording contract, short-term is king.
"There's only one clause that counts when you're representing a new artist, and that's the length of the term. And we like it to be short," says Groffman. But as he warns, "Just short doesn't mean good, either." Back in the day, artists were committing to 10-album deals; now two or three records is the desired norm.
From the label POV, Atlantic's Landry concurs, adding, "We've seen more leverage given back to the artists. I think that's a result of a lot of barriers to entry to the market being removed. It's easier to release music these days than maybe it ever has been before."
If an artist becomes successful, it seems that more money, more creative control and more benefits should follow. In that case, being locked in a long-term contract signed can be detrimental.
"You'll see [artists] two, three albums down the road, blowing up, and they're noticing that there were certain restrictions in their agreement that didn't allow them to do certain things," says Simpson. "Then we're fast forwarding five, 10 years, and they're still in these deals. So that's definitely a disadvantage."
Renegotiate that deal, rock star.
Ye worked his early career and contracts in a way that allowed for growth and renegotiation: As Kanye West, "after his first few albums, he renegotiated his deal, and that turned into a profit split," Landry, who studied the now-mogul's contract, explains.
"Later in his career it turned into a distribution arrangement where he got 100% of the proceeds," he continues. "And he got reversions; ownership rights for some of his albums. That's sort of a life-cycle. If you can't come in and get the deal that you want from the beginning, and you find success, we expect and happily welcome those renegotiations."
(L-R): Ben Landry, Sharde Simpson & Elliot Groffman | Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Of course, sustained success is the key to those re-negotiations. And deal terms are viewed differently as star status changes. "As for the all-in royalty rate, as artists grow, the royalty rate does matter. When they're initially signing as baby or junior artists, I don't think they care as much. But as they grow, that royalty rate makes a huge difference in terms of income, especially as they start to be multimillionaires," Simpson says.
Artists should consider a distribution deal instead of a record deal, he adds.
As he lays out, signing a "traditional" record deal with a major label offers the advantage of being part of the "machine" and its infrastructure of marketing, publicity, a radio promo team and more. Sometimes, though, traditional old-school deals happen because the artist goes for the biggest initial payday/investment rather than looking to the long-term.
"Labels can operate as a bank of sorts; provide those advances," Simpson says, "Ultimately, though, If I had to pick between an all-in royalty rate or a profit split, I would tell the artists to definitely do a profit-split or net-receipts type of situation. If you can go into a deal like that, you should. And that's usually a distribution situation."
Distribution deals are often a beneficial position to be in, "especially if you have a distribution company that's really good at marketing, and they can provide you with a great marketing advance," Simpson says. "And maybe you don't need the advance to be tied to anything else. I think in those situations, it might be beneficial for the artists to take it."
Beware of signing to a production deal, he adds. Because it's tempting for a creative to acquiesce when someone says they can handle all the business around securing a deal… and then shield/advocate for the artist at the major label. "Oftentimes a baby artist will have a manager or person close to them sign them to a 'production deal,' which is sort of a makeshift label deal," he says — and that can lock the artist down financially.
Production deals "can cause problems for a number of reasons," Landry believes. "As artists starting out, they don't have a lot of leverage, and they're very, very eager to get things going." And a production deal may fast-track that process, but then? "I think artists sometimes be into these deals, and then they become household names and stars, and they start looking askance at their production deals."
If the band or artist is unhappy with the amount of money they're making from a label, "imagine having to split that with a production company," Landry says. "Maybe by then [the artist] is working directly with the label, so it's like, 'Why am I paying this person over here half of my money?'"
Many production deals, he surmises, are due to the ease with which almost anyone can "set up distribution and provide basic label services to an artist starting out."
(L-R): Sandra Crawshaw-Sparks, Landry, Simpson & Groffman | Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
That's not to say there aren't mutually beneficial production deals. "There could be a good reason [for signing one]; it could be that the person was a producer or writer who found somebody, groomed them and worked a deal," adds Groffman.
Work as hard as you can and wait as long as you can before signing any record contract, Landry says.
"I think that major labels are extremely good at taking a three and going to 10. I think the magic often is zero to three," he explains. That kickstart that usually happens with [the artist] and their "really smart, enterprising friends, managers, lawyers working together to create these moments and create a buzz.
"So, the longer you can hold out and get more leverage, of course, the more labels are going to be interested. It's less risk," Landry continues. In that case, the majors can take a chance and do a riskier (i.e., higher money deal for the artist) deal, since the "proof of concept" has already been established from the creative side.
Leverage is key when going into an initial major-label label negotiation, agrees Groffman.
"The longer you wait before you engage with a major label system, the more negotiating power you're gonna have. I'm not saying don't do deals with majors, but arm yourself. If you come in there too soon, you're going to be giving up five albums, not three.
"You'll be doing 360 stuff [an exclusive contract between a label and an artist where the label not only takes a share of the artist's music sales, but also percentages of revenue touring, merchandise, publishing or more], even with good shelters and all the things that [attorneys] negotiate," he adds.
Yet even distribution deals aren't easy, Groffman says. "As Ben said, monies that a major label will pay are recoupable, but not returnable. Distribution deals, you over-manufacture, you overspend, guess what? You're paying for that. And you know, the splits look much better on paper."
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Photo courtesy of the artist
How The Recording Academy New York Chapter Day Of Service Inspired Community Building & Service
The events and panel talks held during the Recording Academy New York Chapter Day Of Service aimed to build community, bestow knowledge, and pass along the power and passion that drive the music industry.
The New York Society Library not only holds the distinction of being the oldest library in the Big Apple; it was the de facto Library of Congress during the United States' early years. Filled with dusty, leather-bound books and centuries-old oil paintings, its ornate rooms are imbued with a sense of history.
The event space on the second floor is normally a place for quiet reflection and historical ponderance — but on Oct. 27, it burst with jubilant energy and rapport.
As the sun beamed through its antique windows, the GRAMMY-winning Lucy Kalantari stood before an audience of boisterous, captivated kids hanging on her every word.
"My mommy is a mummy," she playfully sang, tapping on a keyboard along with the clarinet stylings of GRAMMY winner Linus Wyrsch, a member of her band, the Jazz Cats. Children and parents alike danced about, regularly shouting out to the receptive performer, entranced by the live music unfolding before them.
It's an enchanting, heartwarming moment, and it's all part of the Recording Academy New York Chapter Day Of Service, a new initiative that encourages Recording Academy members and music industry professionals from across the New York Chapter's regions to volunteer at service opportunities. The goal is simple: to give back to the region through a series of events and panel talks meant to build community, bestow knowledge, and pass along the power and passion that drive the music industry.
The Day Of Service included panel discussions, school visits, and free kids programming — like the event that singer, composer and producer Kalantari hosted.
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"As a performer, this event is an opportunity to help shape children for our future," Kalantari explains. "The Recording Academy reached out about the Day Of Service, and I was thrilled to say an absolute yes."
A celebrated family music artist and performer, who most recently won the GRAMMY for Best Children's Music Album at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards in 2021, Kalantari has built her career on the formative power of music and how it can positively impact and shape young minds.
But regarding the sphere often referred to as "children's music," Kalantari is quick to point out one overarching idea: "It's not just about having sweet or cute songs."
No doubt, her music can be described using those two adjectives. But Kalantari also uses her platform to paint a sophisticated musical portrait — one that teaches children heavier topics, like the fundamentals of jazz, in a lighter way.
"There's content there for them to grow up and live by, from lyrics to sound and how they move," she says. "They get to immerse themselves in it and there's no holding back; this is real jazz. It's really wonderful to see kids experience this kind of sound."
Clarinetist Wyrsch echoes that mission of enlightening young minds. "The minds of children are like little sponges," he says. "They really absorb it, so it's important they are exposed to jazz and improvised music as much as any other music."
Events like the Day Of Service are what spurred Kalantari to join the Recording Academy's New York Chapter back in 2014. "I thought the organization was just for the superstars, like Beyoncé," she says with a laugh. "But a friend of mine said, 'There's a Chapter in New York you can join, and it's really for musicians, creatives and producers.
"I met so many people locally and abroad, including mentees through the GRAMMY U student mentorship program," she continues. "It's been really fun to see what these connections can bring, even if it's just support or a little bit of encouragement."
It's that spirit that also spurred fellow member Amy Birnbaum to join. As the Director of Artist Relations, PR and Marketing at Round Hill Music, Birnbaum helped organize a Day Of Service panel on Zoom in partnership with the NVAK Foundation, a nonprofit that helps educate people around the globe about careers in the music industry.
The event assembled people from all over the world to ask questions, hear stories, and receive tips from a diverse group of heavy hitters in music, from Kurt Duestch (the President of Ghostlight Records and Senior Vice President of Theatrical and Catalog Development at Warner Chappell Music) to Tracey Jordan (Senior Director, Talent, Music/Entertainment Relations at SiriusXM).
"One silver lining of the pandemic is the fact that we have had the opportunity to take on mentorship roles on a global scale," Birnbaum says of the panel and its mission. "With NVAK, we were able to put together a nice group of young people from all different corners of the world who heard from great professionalswith diverse experience levels who were able to provide anecdotes and insights."
As a result, students in the Day Of Service's global classroom heard invaluable information, especially for those in under-resourced communities. "The women I work with in Malawi say they don't even have the bandwidth to do a video conference," Birnbaum says. She notes that for someone dreaming of having a career in this industry, something as simple as general access to professionals therein can mean a world of difference.
"These are young students, so I'm not going to get into the nuts and bolts of music publishing," Birnbaum adds. "Something like asking [panel member] Dahlia, 'How do you source talent?' She said it's just knowing people, finding the people you trust, and talking to them."
Students on the panel also heard insight from the recording artist DAVIE. "[It was about] giving voice to the process behind the scenes," he says. "I wanted to give voice to the hard work it takes to create your sound, your band, and ultimately create the art that impacts people all at once."
DAVIE is frank about the various, complicated facets of being a recording artist. Events like the Day Of Service make things easier, he says.
"There's power in sharing information and mentorship," he adds. "It's important to encourage others in your music community to just keep going."
Birnbaum expressed the true spirit behind the Day Of Service best. "From a networking standpoint, I love to be a community member," she says. "It's everything I live for, and any way I can be involved in my community is a thrill and an honor."
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Photo: Jim Marshall Photography
GRAMMY Museum Announces 'The Rolling Stones 1972: Photographs By Jim Marshall' Exhibit
Opening Nov. 5 and running through June 2023, 'The Rolling Stones 1972: Photographs By Jim Marshall' showcases intimate backstage scenes and dynamic performance stills.
It's only rock 'n' roll, but we like it — and now you can behold it.
Most rock fans know the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street — but few have seen the photos of the raucous tour that followed it. Following that No. 1 worldwide album release, the Stones headed on a star-studded, drug-fueled tour of the United States and Canada.
From this trek to their Sunset Sound recording studio visits, photographer Jim Marshall was there to capture much of it — especially the California run of dates around Exile.
Those photographs will be on display at the GRAMMY Museum's The Rolling Stones 1972: Photographs by Jim Marshall, which showcases intimate backstage scenes and dynamic performance stills. The exhibit opens on Nov. 5 and will run through June 2023.
"Once Jim was in, he was another Stone. He caught us with our trousers down and got the ups and downs," Keith Richards said in a statement. "I love his work, which must have been frustrating to do at times, but that is what happens on gigs like this. Wonderful work, and a great guy. He had a way with the shutter and an amazing way with the eye!"
"Jim's masterful eye and unlimited access captured the Stones in the iconic rock-star way we now visualize the band," added Kelsey Goelz, Associate Curator at the GRAMMY Museum. "This exhibit will transport you to an era of wild rock and roll energy at its best."
For more information regarding advanced ticket reservations for the exhibit, please visit www.grammymuseum.org.
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Photo courtesy of the Recording Academy
Remembering Christine Farnon, The "Guiding Light And Steady Anchor" During The Recording Academy's Formative Years
The Recording Academy may have only elected its first female President/CEO in 2019 — but Farnon was an integral part of this society of music professionals at a formative stage.
For 65 years, the Recording Academy has maintained a level of prestige that can seem inevitable or preordained. But in 1957, few foresaw that it could make such an impact — and future Executive Vice President Christine Farnon did.
When Farnon sat down for an interview in 1999 for the Recording Academy's Living Histories series, she detailed how the nascent Recording Academy could have effectively evaporated before it began — if not for the dedication of a dogged few, including her.
"I think it was… a wait-and-see attitude on the part of record companies. It was a new concept, they didn't know what it was going to do, and this was [also the truth of] potential members," Farnon said. "They heard about it, and they thought, 'Let's wait and see where it's going.' So, it was slow, but it was a steady progress."
Why did these potential members — as well as five record-company executives, including her then-husband, RCA Records head Dennis Farnon — want to form an Academy in the first place? From Farnon's recollection, there was no recognition of the recording industry for its artistic achievements — as opposed to sales, an agreed-upon metric that might guarantee an artist a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
With that precept as her animating force, Farnon became an indispensable part of the Recording Academy. She rose from an unpaid volunteer to become the Academy's first full-time employee, and then went on to become the Academy's Executive Vice President. She also received the Recording Academy's Trustees Award in 1992 as well as the inaugural President's Merit Award in 1983.
Throughout her tenure from 1957 to 1992 — which saw 18 different male presidents at the helm — Farnon truly acted as "a seemingly impossible combination of guiding light and steady anchor," as musicologist George T. Simon put it.
"Deeply involved from the start in all the Academy's activities, this warm, intelligent, soft-spoken, sensitive lady has helped tremendously, often leading the way, in chartering and steering the course of [the Academy]," Simon continued back in 1992, within an appreciation in that year's GRAMMY program book.
Farnon's light ripples out forevermore. Sadly, she passed away on Oct. 24, in the Los Angeles area — where she first helped blueprint the Recording Academy — of natural causes. She was 97. While Farnon may have not been part of the Academy since the Reagan years, her impact is remembered, celebrated and honored today.
In their Feb. 26, 2022 issue, Billboard included Farnon in a gallery of groundbreaking female executives. Therein, they noted, "Decades before Deborah Dugan became the Recording Academy's first female President/CEO in 2019, Farnon was the top executive at the organization — and while she never held the big title, there was no question of who was in charge."
What did she accomplish on a granular level? For one, she maintained contact with disc jockeys and radio personnel and development of annual mailers and special albums designed for radio stations highlighting GRAMMY nominees.
Additionally, Farnon was a talent coordinator for most of the seven GRAMMY-branded "The Best on Record" TV shows that aired on NBC.
On top of that, from 1971 — when the GRAMMYs became a live telecast — until her retirement, she was an integral part of the Academy's TV committee, which oversaw format development, contract negotiations and TV scripts.
Zoom out a tad, and it becomes clear that Farnon gave the Academy a profound gift, by way of her presence and diligence. She helped preserve the organization's integrity, come what may from decades of seismic cultural shifts.
"Chris Farnon was central to the Academy's success," folklorist and author Bill Ivey — the only person in Academy history to serve two, non-consecutive stints as Chairman Of The Board Of Trustees — told GRAMMY.com a decade ago.
"She was quite ferocious in protecting the integrity of GRAMMY and the telecast," he added. "In large part, because she was so conservative and protective, Chris handed future leaders an asset of tremendous potential value that converted to earning power as sponsorships and TV revenues really took off in the '90s."
As the decades wore on, Farnon was happy to note that her fingerprints were all over the Academy's ongoing initiatives and developments.
"The original vision of what the Academy was meant to be and do hasn't changed," she said in that same GRAMMY.com interview. "Many of its significant programs had their roots in the Academy's original goals, although they operate on a much wider and grander scale today."
When Farnon received the Recording Academy's Trustees Award in 1992, her speech was simple and as classy as she was as a person. She thanked the Trustees, and everyone involved with the Recording Academy, past and present. She acknowledged her daughter, Joanna, and her mentor, Paul Weston — the Co-Founder and first President of the Academy.
Then, at its conclusion, Farnon summed up everything that this society of music professionals meant to her in her personal and professional life.
"I thank God for staying so close to this wonderful organization through the years," she said. "And for being such a good listener."
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