Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

Stars align for Grammys, but clouds overshadow music biz

February 6, 2009

Music royalty will gather in Los Angeles on Sunday for the 51st annual neoGrammys but despite a dazzling star line-up, few big labels are throwing the glitzy after-parties of yesteryear given the recession and industry’s years-long malaise.

Some industry watchers even think the Grammys, which have seen viewership slide, need a facelift to revamp several award categories and change the show’s format to stay current with a generation of fans who have long bypassed mainstream music events.

“The Grammys are looking pretty long in the tooth when you consider the fragmentation of the music culture” said Robert Thompson, professor of culture at Syracuse University.

As usual, the broadcast will be performance-heavy, featuring best album nominees; best new artist nominees Adele and the Jonas Brothers; and veterans such as Paul McCartney and U2.
The night’s top contenders are rapper Lil Wayne with eight nominations and British rock band Coldplay with seven.

The economic crisis is just the latest insult to the music business which has lost its groove and 33 percent in U.S. album sales since 2000 amid a faster-than-predicted shift to digital distribution. But despite all the gloom and doom, the beat goes on. “A lot of people have in the industry have been beaten up in the past few years although the art form is vibrant,” said Mike McGuire, analyst with Gartner.

“We have to find a solution to the economic woes, but this is still a celebration of the artistic product, whether people are buying it or not,” said entertainment attorney Jay Cooper.

 Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends,” is vying in the best album category against “In Rainbows” by fellow British rockers, Radiohead, which bypassed major labels to distribute the album on its own Web site at a price to be determined by consumers. It later released the album through a small label owned by rocker Dave Matthews.

Another indie release is considered the favorite: “Raising Sand,” an acclaimed collaboration between former Led Zeppelin rocker Robert Plant and American bluegrass singer Alison Krauss, while two rappers are also vying for the prize: Lil Wayne with “Tha Carter III” and Ne-Yo with “Year of the Gentleman.”

The album of the year is just one of 110 categories, with prizes to be given out in such genres as country, pop, reggae, bluegrass, polka, blues and spoken word. All but a dozen awards are hurriedly handed out before the main event kicks off at 8 p.m. EST (1 a.m. GMT Monday)

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