The Grammy Awards. The topic brings up a range of emotional answers from all types of musicians, fans, critics and more. To some they seem an outdated, antiquated waste of time, to others they are a relevant peer organization that exists to honor excellence among their own members. Love or hate the awards show for whatever reasons you personally can muster, there are some very important reasons why the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences are relevant to you and your music, even if you could care less if you ever are nominated for or win a Grammy Award.
I'm about to lay a bunch of stuff on you that most of you never knew about the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, aka the Recording Academy. Many of you might hear me say "you should join NARAS" and wonder how the heck that might be of benefit to you as a guy playing bass in a local cover band. Well, I'm going to tell you why.
- First and foremost my support for the work of the Recording Academy has to do with this amazing organization that deserves your support as a working musician, even a small-town local club working musician who might not ever release an album. I could write pages and pages about the good work I've seen Musicares do first-hand for friends in personal times of need, from battling substance abuse to getting their rent paid when tragedy strikes, to getting really affordable medical and dental services in chapter-city day clinics. Additionally, their website is a clearing house of information on where to get more help when you as a working stiff musician need a hand up in your time of need. I've seen them handle several cases that I've referred to them, and each time it was done with the utmost amount of concern for the privacy of those seeking the help, with amazing results.
I've seen victims of Katrina overnighted a check for $2000.00 to go buy clothing, food and cover temporary shelter. I've seen a friend who spent his life working in the music business be pulled from foreclosure and given help paying for much-needed blood pressure and other medication. I've seen friends with no hope of paying for substance abuse treatment (let along the ability to get the help immediately) suddenly vanish from a bad scene for a month or so while they checked in a rehab clinic that finally turned them around. That's just a small sampling of the kind of help I've seen people get first-hand from personal referrals to Musicares. All of them got help quickly, in a dignified manner.
If the Recording Academy did nothing more than support this safety net for musicians, that would be reason enough for me to lend my support. I have only scratched the surface of what good this organization started by the Recording Academy has done, please visit their website and prepare to be amazed. And no, you don't have to be a musician on a major label, you can be a regular joe-sixpack working club musician and qualify for help from Musicares. As long as it has been the primary source of your income for a set period of time according to their requirements to qualify for aid, you can and will get help.
From the Musicares Website - "MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares' services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community."
2. Advocacy on Capital Hill for Issues that Impact YOU!
- The Recording Academy has an office in Washington, DC, not because its a hotbed of music like Nashville, LA or New York, but because it gives them access to the lawmakers that pass legislation that can have a direct impact on your ability to earn a living from your intellectual property. Visit that link. Read what they do for YOU whether you are a member or not, and you'll have another reason why you should be a member of The Recording Academy. If you as a working musician can't get behind the Recording Academy on these two reasons alone, I don't know what to tell you. Yeah, when you watch the Grammy Awards, its easy to miss this work that they do and why it should be something you'd want to support. But read on, there is much more to this organization......
3.The Producers and Engineers Wing
- This sub-set of NARAS membership, about 5500 strong, make up the "P&E Wing"and I know them to work tirelessly to help bring together the best minds in today's music production world to do these things they spell out on that web page, which are to "work on the development and adoption of new technologies; make recommendations for best practices in recording, master delivery, archiving and preservation; and support for both music education and education in the recording arts." Where would we be without standards for production and master delivery to insure that we all have a guide to measure our work by in sonic fidelity?
4. 12 Chapters across the USA You Can Join and Be an Active Part of in Your Music Community
- I spent some time talking about peer networking in another post. Much of what I posted there already has a regularly schedule forum of one kind or another to do pretty much exactly what I was advising you to do with your peers, and its organized and presented by a regional Grammy chapter. You'll find them representing all of the major music cities, with some cities serving other further away smaller but important markets. If you happen to live in or a reasonable drive away from Atlanta, New York City, Chicago, Nashville, Memphis, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami or Austin, your $100 annual dues to be a member of NARAS is an amazingly good investment in your career.
Each chapter holds numerous events throughout the year that are designed to help you move forward in your music career. Most of them are free to members. I've seen and participated in some really awesome events in my service to NARAS as a long time governor of the San Francisco Chapter, former National Trustee and current member of the Awards and Nominations Committee (the group that helps make suggestions to the Trustees on which categories stay or go, among other issues). Seriously, follow that link, take a look at the nearest chapter city to where you live, then look at their scheduled event calendar and you'll be blown away by the education you can get, the opportunities to network directly with other peers in the professional music business, and you should get another reason to join right there. Heck, if you do nothing other than take a buddy and chow down at one or two of the annual parties your chapter hosts, you'll get your money's worth from the grub alone! Money CAN buy these kind of networking chances for you. You never know who you'll find yourself being introduced to at a NARAS event, and if you're not obnoxiously shoving your latest demo or CD into the hand of everyone you meet, you can really make some great connections.
5. The Awards Process
- Got a complaint about the Grammy Awards? You know the old saying, if you don't vote, you can't complain. Well, these are the industry's only peer awards for musicians. Voting members vote for these winners. If you're not a voting member, you're not going to get to vote. If you are a voting member, you have the option to vote every year, and are on your honor to vote in categories where you have enough experience and expertise to vote responsibly for works you really feel represent the peer groups best efforts during that time period. I don't vote in certain categories, when I vote. I vote in categories I feel like I know enough about to listen critically and subject my vote on, then hope my peers agreed with me. I'd like to hope that most voters do this, but I have no way of knowing that. I tend to always want to believe the best about people rather than assume the worst.
And listen, all of the wonderful reasons above that I listed to join, none of them would be possible without the awards show and process, because its what drives the income to the Recording Academy to begin with, which allows it to pass along millions of dollars to those in need, advocate for you whether you are a member or not on Capital Hill, and create all manner of great educational programs, events, networking opportunities and more.
So even if you aren't a great fan of the show or the awards, take into consideration all of the amazing things that its existence means to you and your world as a musician, even if you never thought about it like that before. Yeah, I got my own complaints about it even as an insider but you know what? I've tried hard to honestly put my money where my mouth was with the organization and speak up for better or for worse when I felt the need to, and often I've found a group of people willing to listen and make important changes when I did so. Sure, your mileage may vary. I find it is what you decide to make of it. In spite of differences at times with the Recording Academy leadership, I always find myself coming back to these reasons to be a member, pretty much in this order.
Just as I advised not to create a MySpace page then not properly use it to build your fan network, don't go joining the Recording Academy and fail to make proper use of your membership. Even if you have to drive a few hours to make some of these events, do it. Go to them. Shake hands. Run for mayor. Find out how you can do things to elevate your career, meet others trying the same things, network with your professional peers in a professional peer group organization. Take part in their seminars on financial health, personal health, career growth, recording topics, songwriting and more. Get a cheap flu shot or dental x-rays, or make a donation to help others get those things. Don't try to stuff a CD in the hand of everyone you meet. Don't be overly obvious about trying to weasel into some immediate thing at an event. Take your time. Make friends. Build relationships and thus, the trust of those you meet. Never give them anything that you have to make ANY kind of apology for (well, this is rough mix/we changed guitar players right after we recorded this, etc).
There you go. My top five reasons why I have been a longtime member of NARAS and supporter of the organization, through thick and thin, for better or for worse, and intend to remain one as long as these reasons all hold true. If you're really serious about working as a musician or in the music industry, I invite you to join with me. Visit the Grammy.com membership page to learn more.