HITS Daily Double


Recording Academy SVP Awards Bill Freimuth Sheds Light on the Grammy Process

Bill Freimuth is the man behind the scenes at the Grammy Awards, the guy you rarely see but need to know; he makes sure the awards process is conducted properly and professionally. Bill’s the keeper of the rules, the overseer of internal goings-on and the point person when there are procedural issues to address. He took a few minutes to speak with us while simultaneously deciphering who qualifies as Best New Artist this year and asking if Mr. Portnow would like one lump or two in his herbal tea. Bill remains the quiet force behind the industry’s loudest moment of gratitude.

Tell us who you are. What are the responsibilities/duties that come with the role you play in the Grammy machine?

My title is Senior Vice President, Awards. What that entails is managing a department of sixteen dedicated professionals who collectively seek to maintain and protect the integrity of the Grammy Awards process through our stewardship of the guidelines set forth by The Academy’s Board of Trustees over the past 58 years.

Do you have any suggestions to independent and/or emerging artists who don’t know how to get their music considered or even noticed by the academy?

Join us. It's as simple as becoming a member of The Recording Academy. The Grammys are peer-to-peer awards, so we welcome music creators and encourage them to be involved, have a voice, submit eligible recordings and, of course, vote. The Academy is an entire musician's resource from our foundations (GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares) and our Producers & Engineers Wing to our 12 chapters nationwide. Our Membership and Awards departments are staffed with music experts equipped to help members in their respective genre.

What was the reasoning behind moving the ceremony to a Monday for the first time ever?

Every year, it seems there will be an outside aspect that factors into our Grammy date. If it's not The Olympic Games or a national holiday, it's the Super Bowl. With the game on 2/7, we could have gone the following Sunday, but that's not only Valentine's Day— the biggest restaurant night of the year—but it's a holiday weekend with Monday being President's Day. After some research and many conversations between Neil [Portnow] (pictured right) and Ken [Ehrlich] and CBS, it was decided that people will want to come home from the long weekend on Monday and watch Music's Biggest Night.

What’s going on at the Recording Academy with three and half months ‘til music’s biggest night? What stage are you guys in, so to speak?

Ballots are due to our accounting firm Deloitte by 11/4, so we'll have about a month until we announce the nominations on 12/7, which is the day after our CBS TV special, Sinatra 100: A GRAMMY All-Star Concert, airs. It tapes in Vegas on 12/2 and I know our MarComms and Production departments are doing some heavy lifting for that with CBS and Ken. The Grammy ceremony itself tops off a full week of official Recording Academy Grammy-week events: our P&E event, MusiCares' Person of the Year, Pre-Grammy Gala, an Entertainment Law Initiative (ELI) event, a handful of Foundations events. The entire staff is already in full swing for the Grammys.

Freimuth with Joan Baez

Once nominations are announced, the Awards Department is busy setting up our ‘listening room’ online at www.grammypro.com, through which our voters will be able to listen to all nominated recordings before they vote. We’re also contacting all of the nominees and making sure that they receive invitations to various Grammy-week events and tickets to the telecast. Personally, I'll begin preparing our Grammy Premiere Ceremony (previously known as ‘the Pre-Tel’), where we'll book a dozen-or-so artists—all current-year nominees—to perform and present about 70 of the 83 awards on GRAMMY Monday at the Microsoft Theatre before we head into Staples Center.

How many categories are actually going to be on the telecast, and what was the rationale behind that?

The number changes yearly. But keep in mind there are 83 categories. Even three-and-a-half hours wouldn't be enough time to distribute them all while also producing the year's biggest music event for TV. We fall somewhere between 9 and 12 because we want to celebrate the best music of the year, and what better way to do that then to entertain viewers and attendees with live performances? Unlike other awards shows celebrating TV or film, we have the gift of having recording artists perform live. You're not going to see Jennifer Lawrence act out her scenes from her nominated film on the Oscars telecast, but you will see music’s biggest stars performing their nominated recordings live. Through music, we have an amazing opportunity to produce an awards show unlike any other on TV.

Who votes on the nominees and ultimately decides the winners?

There are over 13,000 voting members. They vote. And like almost any voting process, majority rules and decides the winners. The first-round ballots that determine nominations are due at Deloitte 11/4 and are all audited and accounted for there. The ballot, with which recipients will be decided, is mailed 12/16 and again is due to Deloitte on 1/15. And yes, they often get there via overnight shipping or messenger. So, please mark those dates.

Dhani Harrison with Freimuth

Are there any misconceptions about the Grammy process that you’d like to shine a light on?

We've made a strong effort over the last few years to dispel any misconceptions, to demystify the nominations and voting process, and to educate music fans and industry newcomers about the Grammys, as seen in our www.grammy101.com site and the new content we created for it. Transparency is our byword. There are no secret committees, for example, and the entire organization, including the Awards Department has an open-door policy. We are here to answer your questions. And if you're a member, you have the opportunity to propose revisions to the process. That's how we continue to evolve. That's why you often see changes in different categories. Music is ever-changing. The Academy can't always live within the rules we've set for a genre or category 10 or five or even three years ago.