Days of the Past in the Future

The gramophone was invented in the late 19th century.

Does it seem at all odd that it is the object mounted on a pedestal for the Grammy Award?

Yes, there is certainly something to be said for tradition, but arguably that would be akin to Motor Trend giving the winner of its Car of the Year Award a hand-crank trophy.

The Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammy Awards, consists of musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, recording professionals, and quite possibly historians.

And the Academy is doing its damnedest to maintain relevance for the Grammy Awards, and doing what it can to extend the franchise.

As in holding “The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!!—Countdown to Music’s Biggest Night” [imagine that this page is literally littered with those little R-in-a-circle registered marks.]

The Concert Live!! will feature Maroon 5 and Luke Bryan. It will follow the one-hour live TV show (on CBS) during which the nominations will be announced. Two-time Grammy winner (and star of the CBS show “NCIS: Los Angeles”) LL Cool J and six-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift (a cover headline about Swift on the current Delta Airlines in-flight magazine: “Building the Brand of the Sweetest Girl in the Whole Wide World”) will be the hosts of the show. Of course.

According to the Academy, the nominations show is given credit for increased ratings for the 54th annual Grammy Awards, the largest audience since 1984. I wonder how many viewers were actually in search of “The Big Bang Theory.”

Award shows are all about moving product. Whether it is the Oscars or the Grammys, it is about acknowledgment of difference, of distinction. Those who didn’t buy tickets to see that movie or didn’t download that album may be likely to do so as a result of the award. “Oh, it won the Whatitz Award last night—I’d better get on it!!” (The dual exclamation point is sort of engaging, isn’t it?)

But it is that last thing that brings us back to the gramophone. It once was that gold stickers were proudly attached to the shrink-wrapped packaging of the 33 rpm LP or to the jewel case CD. But now that those are vastly reduced in number, where’s the sticker go? What is the upside for the recording artists several weeks after the event, when “Grammy Award Winner” is no longer used in the on-line descriptor of the music. (It is highly unlikely that people would buy music from an un- or barely-familiar performer/band if it is described in a general sense as a winner: there must be something specific that that victory is attached to.)

Perhaps this is the real reason behind the nomination show, the post-nomination concert (yes, Ticketmaster is handling it), and the televised event (February 10, 2013, 8 pm ET/PT, CBS): it helps with the ad revenue. I wonder how much the recording artists make on any of that?

Well, at least there is the opportunity to get a historic artifact.

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