The return of the Grammy Awards to New York this week after a decade-and-a-half’s absence will see both the city and the ceremony awash in old-school Gotham glamour. Grammy-week events will be held everywhere from the Rainbow Room and the Whitney Museum to Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden, where the big show will take place on Sunday, Jan. 28.
Evan Greene, the Academy’s chief marketing officer, says, “There are big events being planned all around the city, not only by our friends at the labels but also by our official Grammy partners,” a list of 14 that includes Absolut, Apple Music, Delta Air Lines, Mastercard, Snapchat and Uber. We’re all taking advantage of this once-in-a-blue-moon move to New York.”
The Grammys had alternated between Los Angeles and New York for much of their history, but after a public spat between then-Academy chief Michael Greene and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1998, the awards decamped to the Staples Center, returning to New York only in 2003. While discussions took place sporadically after Neil Portnow was appointed Academy president/CEO in 2002, things shifted into high gear early in 2016 after Julie Menin named head of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new media and entertainment commission. The deal was sealed around the time of last year’s show and announced in May, and although the move is proving pricier than expected, all parties are geared up for an exciting and successful week.
“It’s a very exciting time for music in New York City,” Menin says. “Spotify is moving into 4 World Trade Center, the legendary Power Station Studio is being revived by Berklee College of Music, and we have 72 music-tech start-ups here — double the number in L.A. and San Francisco. The concept that you can be a musician, a creator, a music company in New York obviously is luring a tremendous number of people and businesses.”
Restaurateur and hotelier Noah Tepperberg, whose Tao Group operates a dozen New York nightlife venues, says that in terms of a business lift, the Grammys’ January arrival is “almost like adding an extra holiday to the calendar.”
Needless to say, moving the awards and the Grammy team 3,000 miles for the ceremony and the week of events leading up to it has been a major undertaking for the academy.
“We’re bringing about 100 full-time staff to New York for anywhere from three days to two weeks,” Greene says. “And it’s not just the L.A. team — we have folks coming from our various chapters all over the country. But everyone’s committed to making sure that this comes off as if we’d been in New York for a really long time.”
Beyond Sunday’s afternoon Premiere Ceremony and the televised evening presentation, both at Madison Square Garden, Grammy Week events will unfold at a cross-section of high-profile, glamorous Manhattan locations. Thursday’s Producers & Engineers Week tribute to Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz will take place at Rockefeller Center’s elegant Rainbow Room. On Friday, President Bill Clinton will be on hand to honor Fleetwood Mac at the annual MusiCares benefit in Radio City Music Hall. Saturday will bring both Clive Davis’ yearly gala, saluting Jay-Z, at the Sheraton in Times Square, and the nominees reception at the Ziegfeld Ballroom (formerly the Ziegfeld Theatre). (Head here for a list of the week’s hottest parties.)
Smaller in scale but no less opulent will be the major labels’ post-show parties. Sony Music’s will take place at the Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Museum, while Universal Music Group will hold both its afterparty and its annual Saturday-afternoon talent showcase, hosted by chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge, at Tribeca’s swank Spring Studios. The Grill in Midtown’s Seagram Building will host Warner Music Group’s fete.
Menin notes that many Grammy Week events will highlight New York’s historic contributions to music. “Whether it’s the Grammys’ classical tribute to Leonard Bernstein at Carnegie Hall [on Friday] or the Grammy in the Schools jazz tour — where the venues include the Village Vanguard, the Blue Note, Birdland and Jazz at Lincoln Center — there are so many different opportunities to showcase New York City and the talent and diversity that exists here.”
Beyond serving as a giant publicity campaign for entertainment-related events and venues in New York, the 2018 Grammys will provide an instantaneous and substantial infusion of revenue to the city. “When the Grammys were in Los Angeles last year, it was estimated that the economic benefit was approximately $200 million,” Menin says. “We have every expectation that New York will reap similar, if not greater, economic benefits as the host city.”
For entertainment-service businesses like Tepperberg’s, the timing couldn’t be much better. “Historically, the last week in January is slow,” he says. “This year, we probably have 10 really great events booked in our venues — everything from record labels to entertainment law firms to acts that are not normally in town. We’re seeing a lot of activity.”
He and his partners got a preview of this year’s Grammy Week after they opened their Los Angeles venues Tao, Avenue and Beauty & Essex.
“We actually opened right around the Grammys, and it was amazing,” he says. “That weekend felt like New Year’s.”