Thursday, May 30, 2024

Exclusive: Grammys Pandemic Pivot as Show Won’t Have An Audience, MusiCares Person of the Year Goes Digital


No one’s having an easy time of it in showbiz, least of all the various groups that have to put on awards shows.

I spoke to Harvey Mason Jr. tonight, he’s the acting head of the Recording Academy while a search committee convenes to find a permanent chief after surviving the Deborah Dugan debacle last winter. The Academy is having its own woes.

Mason is like King George VI after his brother King Edward suddenly abdicated. And like George, he’s had his challenges. A few days ago the Academy laid off 13 full time staffers, including some top people. Nine were from the Academy itself, four from MusiCares, the Grammys’ charitable arm. It wasn’t easy.

Mason told me, “It was very hard to part ways with long time members of the Academy.” But he had to do it as part of a reorganization that’s been going on all year. For one thing, it will also make things easier for a new CEO to start with a pared down group. (It sounds like the search committee is making progress.)

The bigger news from the Grammys is harder to swallow for the public and for music lovers, but reality bites this year. The obvious headline is that the Grammys, set for January 31st on CBS, will be presented without a live audience. “That seems to be the track we’re on,” Mason said, because of restrictions at the Staples Center and in Los Angeles. Another track might be to have the show somewhere else, but really, no arena will be inviting in 15,000 strangers this winter. We have to accept what we cannot change.

Also considerably altered will be the MusiCares Person of the Year dinner. A gala for 3,000 people at the Los Angeles Convention Center isn’t possible or feasible. But somehow the event will be presented, probably in a virtual/digital form, because the revenue from it is so important. MusiCares takes care of musicians in need of medical help, financial assistance, a wide variety of things. With the pandemic destroying incomes this year, MusiCares must raise as much money as possible. Mason did not tell me who the honoree might be this year. But whoever it is, MusiCares can still put on one of its amazing tribute shows without anyone getting sick.

(Harvey didn’t ask me, but why not get a few past recipients to be People of the Year this time around? Sting, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Aerosmith, The Eagles, Elton John, Paul McCartney. Just an idea.)

I’m not worried about the Grammys. The new Executive Producer is Ben Winston, who produces James Corden’s lively and entertaining nightly late night talk show. Winston knows how to make performances pop in this new format. The Grammys and all its ancillary events will soldier on. And the return in 2022 will be all the sweeter.

Meantime, circle your calendar for October 16th on PBS for “Grammy Salute to Legends,” which I’m told is sensational.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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