An often vituperative speech by National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences prexy Michael Greene and the official kickoff of NARAS’ Musicares charity highlighted a week’s worth of pre-Grammy Awards activities in Gotham.
Greene, speaking before the New York chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Feb. 13, repeatedly called for increased awareness of music and music education. Along the way, he took potshots at a number of targets, including radio, foreign owners of previously U.S.-run record companies and the music industry itself.
“Raising the consciousness of the record industry is kind of like raising the city of Atlantis,” Greene said, adding that there exists “a shameful litany of industry indifference” to such issues as re-education for musicians displaced by technology, substance-abuse treatment centers and an industrywide insurance plan.
Such concerns are addressed by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, and it is that group that NARAS is attempting to emulate with Musicares. Greene said the kickoff event for Musicares, held Feb.12 at the Waldorf-Astoria, had raised some $600,000 for the fledgling charity.
Beyond that, Greene decried the level of music education at public schools, saying it is at an all-time low. “That angers me more than anything else that’s happened in the past three to four years,” he said.
Calling the industry “a curious place where creativity and commerce collide,” he noted, “the only thing that gives [ a recording] any value is the artistry.”
Greene reserved some scathing remarks for a trio of majors, calling diskery owners Sony (formerly CBS), Philips (Polygram) and Matsushita (MCA) “three pigs” who broke into the music industry just to get hold of software for their hardware.
Greene’s strongest words were aimed at radio, however, calling it “the biggest cancer in the business.” He said a concerted effort will be made to ensure proper artist identification of songs being played and to try to break up the restrictive radio formats.
Too much power is being given to “programming gurus” who tell stations what to play after monitoring a small number of affiliates, Greene continued. “What has happened to the symbiotic relationship between the record company and radio? It’s gone.”
Among the most restrictive formats, he said, are classic rock and “alternative” radio, which he characterized as “racist” and “a white format.”
It wasn’t all Sturm und Drang, however. Among other predictions, Greene said he believed the record industry would top the $7 billion mark this year, almost double the film industry’s revenues. He also forecast recordings being delivered on fiber optic or satellite systems directly to merchandising centers equipped with optical disk recorders, enabling consumers to bypass retailers and giving record labels and publishers accurate, nearly instantaneous information on what was selling.
The previous evening’s Musicares event saluted David Crosby as NARAS’ man of the year,” recognizing the singer’s efforts in substance abuse reform. Attendees included Greene, Gotham mayor David Dinkins, American Express prexy/co-CEO Edwin Cooperman (also chairman of the N.Y. Grammy host committee) and occasional bandmates Stephen Stills and Graham Nash.
There also were a number of showcase concerts at several Gotham niteries, to which Academy members were invited. All told, sources estimate the Grammys will be worth about $30 million to New York businesses.
The Grammy Awards will be televised live on CBS from Radio City Music Hall Feb. 20.