THE LEFSETZ LETTER: The Grammys – It Doesn't Matter Who's Nominated, Nobody's Paying Attention

The Grammys were a laughable experience so unhip as to be off the radar until Mike Greene became head of NARAS. This exec with the passion and ego of an artist single-handedly revved up the organization and its TV show until it MATTERED! Those in charge now are caretakers akin to Al Teller at MCA after Irving Azoff. Azoff is cut from the same cloth as Greene. He's a WILD MAN! HE single-handedly created a contender out of the moribund Music Cemetery of America. But, after just shy of a decade, the cunning, charismatic charmer wanted to throw off the reins, make that money for HIMSELF! Teller coasted on Irving's signings for a few years, and then MCA crashed. Because Teller is a manager, but at the helm of a label you need an egomaniac, an INNOVATOR!


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

And that's what you need at NARAS too. Oh, they blew out the force of nature Greene, maybe he ultimately dared them to, with his actions, but they didn't realize you need someone with the same BALLS, the same CHUTZPAH, the same TALENT in order to have the organization move forward, grow, STAY WITH THE TIMES!

If NARAS was just initials, just an organization of old musicians without a TV show, who would care. But with that vaunted TV show, that Mr. Greene blew up into a monolith, as that old seer said, all eyez are on them, and one HAS to criticize the ineptitude, the INACTION!

Did you know the record business is in trouble? Yes, I know it might be hard to believe, but those major labels, presently jockeying for position on the Grammy show, are in desperate straits. You see the public is rejecting their wares. They think mass-produced crap is…JUST THAT! In cahoots with an ever-narrowing radio landscape, the major labels have delivered cartoon-like acts with a sheen so bright it blinds the audience, making them turn away. As far as a major label is concerned, it's about Top Forty and Top Forty only, in a world where Top Forty is an island in a sea of change, where what's OUTSIDE Top Forty is so much more important than the mainstream pop and urban fare the hit outlets purvey.

Yes, junior. Music is so tame, so lame, that even MTV NO LONGER AIRS IT! When the supposed arbiter of hip abandons a whole art form, you've got to scratch your head, you've got to pay attention, you've got to say WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

Actually, MTV is the culprit. MTV eviscerated the credibility from music. It was like heroin to record execs. Instead of signing and promoting GOOD stuff, INTERESTING stuff, they focused on what MTV would play. Because if MTV played it, they were going on a rocket ship to the MOON! They were gonna sell more records than they ever dreamed of, they were gonna make TONS of money! Actually, it's not so different from Detroit focusing on SUVs. To then be eclipsed by the Japanese, who figured out how to sell the luxury-liners AS WELL as econoboxes that made money. Toyota has eclipsed Ford as the number two carmaker. It's probably gonna surpass GM. Detroit was asleep at the wheel. Its PRODUCTS stunk. And the same thing is gonna happen to the major labels. Oh, their catalogs will sell, but with the Net an open playing field, with the younger generation not even tuning into radio, some young 'un is gonna come along and steal music just like Bill Gates stole computing from IBM.

Not that you'd know that from these nominations. Who the hell would be interested in who wins these awards? Certainly not those determining the FUTURE! Just check the atrocious ratings for the Billboard Music Awards if you want proof. Kids have moved on. To MySpace, YouTube and P2P.

The Grammys are a circle jerk that no one is interested in. They're completely out of touch, NOT reflective of the heart and soul of music. They're just a mirror of what's wrong. I hope your nomination makes you feel good, because it DOESN'T MEAN SHIT!

USED to be people tuned into the Grammys, looked at who won the awards, to find out what to buy. But the Grammy bounce has evaporated with the show's ratings. NO ONE TRUSTS THE MAINSTREAM ANYMORE!

If NARAS is truly in the TV show business, if it's really all about the telecast, they've got to retool the show. They've got to make it hip. So the PUBLIC will think it's hip.

In the heyday of music, when sales BLEW UP, thirty five years ago, when album rocked ruled, when MANY acts could sell out stadiums, the Grammys were giving awards to old farts. Because those in charge, like the media in general, couldn't see that times had changed. The show got a reprieve in the era of Mr. Greene, because the nineties were all about MAINSTREAM! Yes, capped by 'N Sync selling two million CDs in one week. Oh, don't you remember those dot com years? After Kurt Cobain died and took the business with him, before we KNEW THIS? It was just one big happy family. And the Grammy show was evidence of this. But those days are gone.

THAT'S the story of the twenty first century. NICHE! Or, to put it another way, EVERYBODY FINDING HIS OWN THING! We all don't want to see the same crummy blockbuster, with people blowing stuff up. And we don't want to see Tom Cruise in ANYTHING, because that guy is LAUGHABLE! Hell, just go online and read the blogs, he's a JOKE!

The Net, the blogs… NARAS really blew it here. Instead of out of touch execs meeting behind closed doors, they should have had a Grammy Website, where the PUBLIC weighed in. Created some excitement BEFORE the nominations. You get people involved on the ground floor and they'll stay with you to the end, through the TELECAST! If you don't care about ratings, then this is irrelevant. But NARAS ONLY cares about ratings, their CBS contract FUNDS them. And, although the contract has years left, the ratings positively STINK, they've been SINKING, DRAMATICALLY!

Maybe if the NARAS people saw what the public thought, they'd get their heads out of their asses.

Now Mike Greene created a million categories to drive up membership. Those days are through. There are TOO MANY categories. If you can't get nominated for a Grammy, you're not a musician. Cut the list. Make it MANAGEABLE, make it MEAN something.

And create new categories. Most E-Mailed track. Most TRADED track. Just put in SOMETHING hip, SOMETHING to acknowledge the sea change in the music universe.

As for the show, turn it into a train-wreck.

Yes, the Grammys must lose their dignity, like every other asshole who thought they were sitting on high before the Net showed they were wearing no underpants, LITERALLY in the case of Britney Spears.

The show's got to open with a reuniting of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline. Yup, they've got to come out holding hands. Or approach each other from each side of the stage and then KISS!

And then Britney's got to give Kevin a humanitarian award, or a lifetime achievement award or something. Something that actually SEEMS real, but isn't. DON'T start with ANY song. Remember, the most memorable opening for the MTV Music Video Awards was Pee Wee Herman after he stroked his weenie.

And then you had RuPaul and Milton Berle. And their famous exchange. Pair up Paris Hilton and Donald Rumsfeld. Have her talk about taking him out partying.

Do a remote to some college dorm room. Akin to those Hampshire College episodes they used to have on SNL. Hell, get Tina Fey to write a skit.

And how about a filmed piece, a PARODY, like the MTV Movie Awards. Maybe with Billy Ray Cyrus dressing up in a tux, thrilled that his daughter Miley is gonna win Album of the Year for her "Hannah Montana" disc.

Make it funny, make it fun. Screw the respect, like I said, people DON'T respect the music anymore, not the music nominated here. Just the music that's NOT mentioned/played here.

As for the awards… They're irrelevant. Hell, MTV learned that long ago. Make it a memorable SHOW! Put the rehearsals up on YouTube. Have AOL Music sponsor a contest, determining WHO GETS TO PLAY ON THE SHOW! Yup, instead of taking phone calls from Clive Davis, have his group go to a rehearsal studio and cut a track live, that people will VOTE ON!

And in these days of social networking, allow the PUBLIC to be on the show. Yup, win a chance to dance behind Beyonce (oh, you know she'll be on the show, whether her album qualifies or not).

How about a public presenter?

And how about the editor of Pitchforkmedia.com giving away the alternative award?

Really, get down in the pit with the people, the hoi polloi. You'll dig it, once you've thrown off your airs, you're FREE!

Music is in transition. Looking at the Grammy nominations, you wouldn't get this.

Mary J. Blige is good, but not new. James Blunt is no different from Christopher Cross. The Dixie Chicks should only be nominated if they agree to get up on stage and say YOU SEE, WE WERE RIGHT! Gnarls Barkley should get the award in the first fifteen minutes, building to this anticlimax is a waste of three hours. As for Corinne Bailey Rae, her nomination PROVES how out of touch and irrelevant these awards are. If you think this record or she is the future of music, then your future must suck. Talk to me in twenty years, when she's forgotten and some new Bonnie Raitt-type character will be lauded. Yes, Bonnie Raitt eventually got her Grammys, TWO DECADES after cutting her first album on four track in the upper Midwest. Whereas Corinne Bailey Rae is all shined up for consumption, all promoted by Capitol, all so nice, all so BLECCH!

And really, how much must music suck if John Mayer is up for Album of the Year. Really, what do you want to take to a desert island, second-level Tull, "Thick As A Brick", or CONTINUUM! I won't let you take "Stand Up", or "This Was". They weren't nominated.

But Ian and the boys won the heavy metal category years later.

Today's Tull is being ignored here, in its infancy. These awards are not hip. The show is a travesty. Could Michael Greene fix this situation? I'm not sure, but at least he'd TRY!

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