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GRAMMY WISDOM FROM NEIL AND KEN

Highlights From Our Conversations With the NARAS Head and Grammys Show Producer

As Grammy week approaches, we offer a few highlights from our recent conversations with NARAS chief Neil Portnow and Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich.

Portnow, on booking the show: "We come at the end of the cycle of music shows on television. So by the time we’re on in February, and we’re looking at the body of work of our eligibility period, a lot of that has been performed on television, whether it’s the late-night shows or some of the other award shows. It’s sometimes a dilemma getting to February and saying ‘What are we going to do that’s different? How are we going to differentiate a little bit?’ In that case, we want to maybe expand the parameters a little bit. So sometimes you might have to step a little outside the nominated songs."

Ehrlich, on why the Grammys move the needle and the AMAs don't: "I think artists believe that there’s more at stake with a Grammy performance, and they know that the other artists who are going to be on the show are gonna feel the same way. However that expresses itself—whether it’s obvious or subtle or intrinsic or extrinsic—I think they push harder to do something really great on our show, because it’s going to have a more lasting effect on their careers." 

Portnow: "Music on television, in my opinion, is good for everybody, particularly with the industry having its trials and tribulations in terms of sales." 

Ehrlich, on his first encounter with Portnow: "So I met Neil. We had lunch at some point after he got the job. We were sitting there, and one of the things he said to me was, 'You know those things you do when you put people together? Those are really cool; we ought to do more of those.' With [former NARAS head] Mike [Greene] it was not exactly the same kind of relationship, although I’ve always had a reasonable amount of autonomy with the show. With Neil, again, you use the word 'collaborative.'"

Portnow on the Grammy committee: "My feeling about what we’re here to do starts with the premise that our voters are smart and they’re savvy. And to the extent that what they have delivered feels right, feels appropriate, then that’s where we want to wind up. This is not a group that is there to rewrite history or to turn things upside down."

Ehrlich, on Irving Azoff and the Forum: "I’ve known Irving for probably 30 years. I love Irving. I would not want to not be loved by Irving. But we’re very happy at Staples; AEG is very good to us, and we know the building inside and out; it’s comfortable for us. Doesn’t mean you don’t try new things, or that we wouldn’t entertain that in the future, but I can’t say enough about Staples and how they treat us and what they do for us."

Portnow on going global: "The show is in 190 territories. We just finished a joint-venture company in China. As I’ve said to my board, 'The Grammys will be in China. The only question is whether we have anything to do with it. So let’s be proactive and have some control over what happens to it.'"

Read the rest of the Neil piece here and the Ken conversation here.

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