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Grammy org doubles up on venues

Early event set for L.A. convention center

The Recording Academy will stage February’s Grammy Awards in two separate buildings with an eye toward nabbing a TV home for the pretelecast portion of the kudos ceremony.

The main event of the Grammys will be staged as planned at Staples Center, where about a dozen awards will be handed out during the 3½-hour telecast. The ceremony in which the other 90 or so honors are bestowed will be held in the adjacent Convention Center, where a replica of the Staples set will be created.

Unlike year’s past, in which the awards are given out rapid fire in about 90 minutes, this year’s pretelecast will start at 1:30 p.m. with a cocktail party, and the awards portion will be staged as a full production, including music from a 12-piece orchestra led by Patrice Rushen. Guest performances are a possibility as well.

“My hope is that people feel good (about the ceremony), we get the same great attendance and we create an event that has commercial potential,” said Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy. “This year we want to get a sense of how it works for the nominees and recipients.”

CBS’ telecast of the Grammys will start at 5 p.m. In years past, a full dress rehearsal is staged in the morning and ticketed Grammy-goers are allowed in the venue — general admission — for the pretelecast, then depart the building and then re-enter. The new setup, financed at a substantial cost by the Academy, Portnow said, allows extra time for the rehearsal. When staged in New York as it was last year, time is less of an issue.

The Academy will likely meet with one of CBS networks within the Viacom family to see if the pretelecast has television potential. Each year, categories are rotated in and out of the TV ceremony and even the four major categories have been a part of the pretelecast. Show is no different than the televised portion: Winners head to the podium and deliver thank you speeches.

This year’s ceremony will also find the Academy adding its voice to the anti-illegal downloading chorus. After months of focus group research done by the Edelman company, the Acad developed a celeb-free public service announcement that will debut during the Feb. 8 ceremony.

“When (our constituents) agree on issues, we need to speak out,” Portnow said. “Intellectual property and copyright are major issues, but unlike the RIAA, we have to take a different approach and educate the public without being too preachy. This is a grassroots (effort).”

The ultimate goal is to direct consumers to a Web site, whatsthedownload.com, which will provide information on downloading. A similar PSA campaign will be waged on radio.

Wednesday, the Recording Academy also announced its first list of Grammy presenters and added several names to the performers list including MusiCares honoree Sting. Norah Jones, John Mayer and Pharrell Williams, and actors Sean Astin and Amber Tamblyn (“Joan of Arcadia”) will present trophies at the Feb. 8 kudocast.

Sting will perform with rap-reggae star Sean Paul; Martina McBride and the Black Eyed Peas have been added to a list of performers that includes Justin Timberlake; Christina Aguilera; the White Stripes; and OutKast with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire; and Robert Randolph & the Family Band.

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