Even as the old year turned into the new, and as positive COVID tests in Los Angeles reached their highest counts since the beginning of the pandemic, Recording Academy officials were still hoping to find a way to keep the Grammys on the show’s long-scheduled Jan. 31 date — and it’s not hard to see why there was a resistance to postponing. The most obvious reason: It will be almost impossible to reschedule the show at its Crypto.com Arena home anytime prior to the summer months… and there are a number of reasons to count virtually any other L.A. location out as a substitute.
That’s why — now that the postponement became official, as of Wednesday morning — rumors are rampant that the Academy and CBS are considering Las Vegas as a wild card for relocating the Grammys. Unprecedented or even outlandish as that might sound, that nuclear option makes more sense than practically any scenario that involves insisting on keeping the show local … unless summer really does get settled upon as a suitable time for the Grammys to be dancing in the L.A. streets.
The Grammys haven’t announced a new date, but it would almost certainly be in the months of March, April or May. Pushing back to that window would be in hopes of coming late enough that the omicron wave will have done what it’s going to do and moved on, allowing for the large, in-person audience the show can’t afford to be without in 2022. Any later than spring, though, and the show runs the risk of making frontrunners like Olivia Rodrigo seem like nostalgia acts.
Packing up and moving is fraught with contractual complications. The Recording Academy signed a new four-year deal with Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center) that began in 2019 and, under normal circumstances, would have seen it through this year, but the 2021 ceremony ended up being held at the neighboring Los Angeles Convention Center and probably did not count toward that total.
While the pandemic certainly counts as an extraordinary circumstance, it seems unlikely that AEG, which owns the arena, would allow the Grammys to go to a competing venue instead of rescheduling the show for the soonest feasible date at Crypto.com, however far into the future that might be. (Reps for AEG and the Academy did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment on the arrangement.)
However, Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center, until just days ago) may be the busiest arena in the country. A look at the schedule for the venue over March, April and May reveals very times when it’s dark for even a single night — between Lakers, Clippers and Kings games, not to mention concerts — let alone the 10 or more needed for a show as massive as the Grammys as they’ve traditionally been produced. Crypto.com Arena appears to have a rare seven-day window open from April 24-30, but you have to look as far ahead as May 8-16 for a slot in which the venue has as many as nine days free on its public calendar.
Consider, meanwhile, that Crypto.com Arena had blocked out a 12-day period — Jan. 21 through Feb. 1 — for the Grammys before this delay. That’s a length of time that the venue doesn’t have open any time before the Sparks team wraps up its season in mid-August.
What about holding it sooner, but with little live audience to speak of, a la the telecast last year from the adjacent Convention Center? That show had mostly masked nominees being cycled in and out of the atrium where awards were given, with the performances being a mixture of live and pre-taped numbers going down in a variety of nearby indoor and outdoor settings. As mostly well-received as the show was by the industry and press, it may be that all the public heard were the dreaded words “scaled” and “down.” CBS isn’t eager for a rerun of a show that is going to come off to the national audience as COVID-compromised. Never mind a second straight year of losing millions from a lack of ticket and luxury box sales.
Would another locale in L.A. work? The twitter-sphere loves the idea of the Hollywood Bowl, which sounds wonderful in theory but is probably a non-starter in practice. Weather is still unpredictable in March or April, and no one wants to see parkas on a Grammys red carpet. A more significant hindrance, though, would be where to put a red carpet. There’s a reason you don’t see major TV awards shows held at the Bowl — it’s carved into a narrow canyon, and the parking lot hardly has room for the small city’s worth of infrastructure that is built around the Grammys.
Weather would also be a consideration at the Banc of California Stadium. Built on the site of the old Sports Arena, it’s new and it’s underutilized, with barely anything on the schedule. But it’s unfathomable that Crypto.com Arena would willingly allow a time-out from its exclusive contract to allow the Grammys to give business to a hungry competitor that’s practically next door. The same likely goes for any other competing facility, like the Forum or SoFi Stadium. (Honda Center? Imagine the reaction of the stars if you tell them they’re going to spending the night in Anaheim.)
Moving outside the greater Los Angeles area seems unlikely. The show was held at a different location only twice in the 20 years from 2000 to 2020 — both times at New York’s Madison Square Garden, an arrangement that lost the Academy around $5 million in 2018, which is reason enough to strike that option from the list, even if it were available and remotely feasible at such short notice. (For anyone fantasizing that this might finally be an excuse for a detour to Nashville, that city’s Bridgestone Arena is also booked solid through April.)
Which finally leads back to Las Vegas, easily the most viable of all non-Los Angeles options. It’s practically L.A.-adjacent as transportation goes, it has more than enough hotel rooms for an invading army, there’s infrastructure, and there’s some Recording Academy precedent.
The Latin Grammys have been held there 12 of the last 13 years, at three different arenas, so the organization is familiar with the city and its venues, and the town is practically built for high-production shows like the Grammys. Because virtually all the possible venues are connected to or neighboring major hotels, the talent doesn’t even have to leave the building. And — much as anyone hopes to be relaxed again about COVID this spring — Nevada is the last place anyone would worry about anything that might be considered onerous restrictions being imposed as a last-minute surprise.
Most invitingly, maybe, Las Vegas is overbuilt with arenas, some of them sitting dark most nights. The T-Mobile Arena is the city’s newest and most popular facility, but it’s too popular to consider doing anything there before April. But after the Golden Knights have their season finale at the T-Mobile April 24, the arena looks to be wide open until Eric Church performs May 13.
An even wilder card among Vegas wild cards: the 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium, which has a roof and climate control. If that sounds too big, consider that the Academy of Country Music Awards are doing their telecast there March 7. But if that sounds like biting off more than an academy should chew on relatively short notice, the town has some wide-open arenas. The Michelob Ultra Arena has roughly a full month between concerts coming up, currently advertising New Edition on March 19 followed by J Balvin on April 23 and New Kids on the Block May 29.
But the most practical option might be the 17,000-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena. It was only two months ago that this arena hosted the Latin Grammys, so its benefits are well-known to the Academy. Besides being familiar, it also has the benefit of being largely dark, since so much traffic has been siphoned off by the shiny new object that is the T-Mobile Arena. The MGM’s website shows no public events booked there between a John Mayer concert on March 11 and Nick Cannon more than two months later on June 25.
But there would still be one huge dilemma to overcome, going out of town, even if Crypto.com Arena is fine with pushing back the Grammys’ contractual obligations yet another year. That’d be what happens with all the attendant programs leading up to Music’s Biggest Night, like the Clive Davis gala and MusiCares’ tribute to Joni Mitchell, not to mention less star-studded events the Academy puts on in the lead-up week. Would they, too, move to Las Vegas, or take the easier route of staying in L.A., possibly missing out on some of the talent that might have to be already out of town?
Knowing how any of this will definitely pan out requires an omicron omniscience even the Academy’s best soothsayers can’t manage. But in announcing the postponement, the Grammys did promise that a new date would be arrive imminently… and that can’t happen without a home base in mind. The clock is ticking — anyone want to lay any Vegas odds?