A special thank you to this week's guest blogger, and musician friend of mine, Nelson Foltz who writes about this year's Grammy Awards, offering his insight on today's music business, and the Grammy Awards.
Yes, it's fun to sit in your comfy chair and snipe about how they "aren't what they used to be" and there will always be someone to agree with you but that argument is more about sentimentality than anything else and simply doesn't hold water even with the most cursory of wikipedia (or even grammy.com) searches. What you're really doing is compiling a lifetime's worth of your favorite music and using that as a reference with the obvious bias of your own personal tastes. It is a standard which no annual review can compare to and it's a moot point anyway. I for one have been guilty of doing it but the Grammys are exactly what they've always been, an annual recognition of excellence in recorded music.
Much like Saturday Night Live sketches or even politicians, there is a natural ebb and flow that occurs in regard to the overall quality of the options available and such a yearly industry summation by its very nature must cut a rather wide swath in terms of style and taste so not everybody's gonna be happy with the contenders or outcome. For every Milli Vanilli there will also be some genuine brilliance exposed to a much deserved wider audience in addition to engineers and behind the scenes folks getting paid their proper respects (especially in an era when liner notes have virtually ceased to exist) for work that goes by unnoticed by the general listening public. It's a mixed bag and always has been because it's supposed to be.
There will of course be the performers who require ten bedazzled elephants, a fireworks display that would put the Zambelli Fireworks Company to shame, auto-tune and a hundred backup dancers onstage to hold your attention but there will also be artists who have utilized the vast resources available to them in the modern recording/technology age and found ways to find their audience simply because they love playing music. As much as I enjoy glittery elephants and laser shows, those are the people who make it worth it for me as a listener because it suits my tastes and I applaud anyone who makes the choice to persevere and circumvent issues for something they love rather than whine and moan about it. The music business has been leveled to a more even playing field and it's all about what you do with the new landscape.
Take the band Snarky Puppy, who in collaboration with the great Lalah Hathaway ended up taking home a statue this year with no major label support. They're a bunch of great musicians who have toured relentlessly for years building an audience while at the same time taking full advantage of the new avenues available for publicity and distribution. From now on, whenever I hear musicians complaining about the current state of affairs in the music business that's most likely who I'm going to think of and I respect not only their nomination and subsequent win but first and foremost their dedication to doing what they love to do. If things were "what they used to be" that band most likely wouldn't have had the chance to even be on the ballot.
If you're a musician or engineer and don't like the choices offered up, join NARAS and vote. As much fun as it is to talk smack you do have a say in the outcome. They've made it relatively simple for qualified people to join and all the information is readily available online. If not, enjoy the annual fireworks or just don't give it any mind and yes...I totally complained about the Grammys while watching!
Musician/Composer Nelson Foltz lives in NYC and has worked with such artists as Barry White, Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, Spoon, Roberta Flack, Gerry Leonard, Shayna Steele, Josh Ritter, Carolyn Leonhart, Deborah Gibson, Juliette Commagere, Michael Grimm, Robin McKelle, Dave Liebman, Hildegunn Gjedrem, Joachim Cooder and Maria Schneider. His credits include music for film, television and radio as well as performing in the orchestra for numerous broadway pit orchestras including The Lion King, Fosse and Hairspray. Foltz's original recordings are regularly featured on NPR and PRI and his seventh album entitled "departure" with long time collaborator Tom Lynn is set to be released this year.