PR’s Top Pros Talk… Communicating the GRAMMYs® and Beyond
Andie Cox, Vice President of Communications, the Recording Academy
What areas does the Recording Academy focus on when they are not preparing for The GRAMMY Awards?® Andie Cox, Vice President of Communications at the Recording Academy, discusses how the organization creates awareness for a range of initiatives such as advocacy for artists and pandemic relief. Andie also offers insights into the balance between entertainment publicity and a corporate brand story.
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About the Host:
HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: ANDIE COX
DOUG: A lot of people associate the Recording Academy with The GRAMMY Awards®, and understandably so, but there’s a lot more you do year-round that people aren’t as aware about, why don’t we start there?
ANDIE: I love talking about this, because of course, we love our awards program and the annual telecast, but what we do year-round is equally as impactful at the Recording Academy. So, we represent the voices of the creative class of musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, and we do this with a membership organization that makes up the Recording Academy. We have 12 chapters nationwide in all of the big music towns, if you will. And through that, on a year-round basis, we are advocating on behalf of those musicians on Capitol Hill. We’re providing health and human services through our MusiCares. We’ve got the Grammy Museum, which is all about music education and preserving music. So yeah, we have a lot more going on throughout the year than just The GRAMMY Awards® process, although that is a big part of what we do and very, very, special and important to us.
DOUG: You touched on your advocacy, obviously, part of the legislation to deal with the pandemic included specific money for the music industry, musicians as well. And you’ve also donated money to your foundation, can you talk a little bit about that?
ANDIE: Absolutely. So, with advocacy, one of the more recent examples of the work we’re doing on Capitol Hill on behalf of our members and the music community at large is pandemic relief. The music business was one of the first shut down when the pandemic started and one of the last to sort of come back in full force. We’re still seeing shows pull back or canceled and all these things. So, in that a lot of musicians were out of work, and as various relief packages were being introduced on the hill, we played a big part in making sure that musicians would be represented in there. So, we’re doing things like that all the time, when it comes to something a few years ago that we had an integral part of was the Music Modernization Act, when we talk about different rights with radio play and things like that. We work on behalf of the music community to make sure that things remain fair.
DOUG: One of the challenges that many organizations face is they may be known for one thing, but as you’ve been describing, they do so much more. How do you try and address that issue to make sure there is more awareness of the full range of services you’re providing, both obviously to the music community to benefits and takes part, but also to the general public?
ANDIE: The GRAMMY Awards® and our telecast, they’re a blessing to us, because all eyes are on us one day a year, and we use that vehicle to tell the rest of our story on what we’re doing. However, when you have celebrities on stage and great musical performances, that does, of course, tend to take the consumer focus. So, yeah, it is quite a task throughout the year to remind our various audiences what we’re doing and why it’s important, music is important, and who says they don’t like music? We really do have to do a lot of work throughout the year to make our story known.
DOUG: Let’s focus more on the GRAMMYs® itself and that big night. Obviously, that night just doesn’t happen from a PR perspective, you’re preparing for that in advance, there’s when the nominations are announced. Take us through maybe the whole pattern of when it starts the planning to getting through that night.
ANDIE: In order to get to the person holding the trophy on the night of The Grammy Awards®, clearly, there’s a lot of planning with regard to red carpet, and media center, and driving consumer outreach, and tune in, and all of that, but kick it back into the summer where we have to educate our whole music community on how to even enter your product. So, that’s a very small communications audience that we still service in addition to driving consumer awareness in general. So, we have a whole awards process and communications plan that goes strictly to this community, labels, members, managers, publicists on how do you even enter into The Grammy Awards?® So, it is interesting that there’s sort of this mini PR plan that is just industry focused before we even get to the, how are we going to get folks to care and how are we going to get them to tune in? So, nominations are a big part of that I would say. Nominations to me is my favorite day of the year, even more so than The Grammy Awards®, because there are so many people, we have sometimes up to 800 nominees in one year and 800 people on a single day whose lives are changed, and that’s a great human-interest aspect in telling our story, it’s not just huge pop stars who are getting nominations.
DOUG: People still talk about moments from 15 years ago, 20 years ago that they really remember at their core. Given the level of celebrity involvement, and how anything one of them does can be a front-page story in lots of papers. Do you feel like you have a crisis communications job the whole year through, and how do you sort of plan for and navigate that, because it’s sort of something you can’t always control?
ANDIE: I don’t know if I would use the term “crisis” when it comes to plans on talking about COVID protocols and things like that can also be in the crisis bucket. What I will say with regard to your specific question is sort of the balance between entertainment publicity and a corporate brand story, and how those intertwine throughout the year and especially during GRAMMY® season, it’s such a privilege to work for a brand or an organization that elicits such passion from such huge voices. When we’re working through modernizing their awards process and telling this story, we’re an organization that actually started in the 1950s, and we’re representing a community, an industry that is changing so fast that it’s like we got to stay ahead of the curve. I guess that’s a long way of saying from a PR perspective, we’re used to working in an organization that’s pretty fluid. The pace is very, very, fast, and it can feel like a high wire act when dealing with big names, but that also is what makes it interesting and fun. I would say it’s more about the balance of a corporate PR job year-round and then interweaving elements of like straight-up entertainment publicity when it comes to GRAMMY® season.
DOUG: One thing that’s interesting that’s changed from the pandemic is for now, and because of protocols, safety, a lot of people, a lot of journalists won’t travel. How are you going about doing that?
ANDIE: In the past year or two years, how much access to our show is changing, and how it’s going to set precedent for years to come. So, in the past, we have, of course, the red carpet, which is, I believe, like square footage, it remained up until the pandemic kind of changed everything, the largest and most populated red carpet in Hollywood. I think I’d heard that somewhere, it’s kind of a hard thing to really know for sure, but on there were no less than 100 outlets in total, including for photos and different news organizations, who were represented one spot, and then we also had the backstage media center, which is the same thing. Think of an old press conference style room where winners or presenters and performers who appeared on the show go up, and they do a mini press conference. It seems very old school, right, but some of these things were still happening, but it’s what people that journalists want, they want that access. However, last year we weren’t allowed to have people around, there were some one-on-ones and things of that nature, and we set up some remote things. So, we adapted and there was quite a big virtual presence, and I just think that we will not ever not have that again. I don’t know that will ever get away with having a global event like this without some sort of media credential for virtual.
DOUG: Congratulations on the great work you do. I’m sure everyone will be tuning in and maybe a couple of people will be also donating to support the musicians who maybe aren’t going to be up on the stage from the big night. Thanks so much for joining us.
ANDIE: Thank you so much.