IBM, NARAS Join Forces on Grammy Website

The official website of the 41st Annual Grammy Awards was launched earlier this month with the help of a media team from the Atlanta division of International Business Machines. The Java-based site provides background information on the artists and events of the music-awards extravaganza, taking place Wednesday evening, February 24, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

1999 is the fifth year that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has covered the Grammy Awards on the Internet, but it is the first year that IBM has participated. This year, IBM is a partner in the official Grammy webcast, acting as both producer and sponsor. Michael Greene, NARAS's President & CEO, said, "IBM's unique experience and expertise will ensure that this year's webcast has more programs, more people, and easier access to ensure that this year's webcast will be the best ever."

Grammy.com features biographies of the artists nominated in all 95 Grammy Award categories, as well as in-depth information on all previous winners, audio interviews with nominated artists, and "inside stories" about the music industry. The Academy calls the website a "Virtual Backstage Pass."

Borders.com, the official online retailer of the Grammy awards, has a related feature, the "Grammy Spotlight," currently running on its site. Borders offers the annual Grammy-nominee compilation CD and a wide selection of related book and video titles.

As a recording engineer and music producer, Stereophile's editor, John Atkinson, is a voting member of the Academy. He has volunteered to provide a real inside view of the process. Take it away, John . . .

John Atkinson, Grammy Voter
Voting for the Grammys is a two-stage process very similar to the way in which Stereophile writers choose the magazine's Products of the Year. First, every NARAS member nominates whatever they wish; second, those CDs, songs, and artists that have each received sufficient nominating votes (as decided on by accounting firm Deloitte and Touche, LLP) are voted on by the Academy's membership.

This year there were 95 categories of nominee, from Record of the Year to Best Long Form Music Video, which were sorted into 28 fields. Every NARAS member gets to vote for the categories in the General Field, which includes all the biggies, and then has to choose a number of the other fields, depending on their interests and expertise.

The whole process seems well-organized, but I am concerned about one thing: I buy a large number of CDs each year, both from retailers and from the NARAS release list I get each month. As editor of Stereophile, I also receive a number of review-sample CDs each month. My wife is also a big buyer of recorded music. Yet there was only one field in which I actually owned all the contenders: jazz instrumental. And if you put together my CD habit, my wife's, and that of the magazine's music editor, Robert Baird, there were still only four voting fields in which I was familiar with every nominee.

If my experience is not untypical, then it is no surprise that the Grammys are dominated by the big guns. So good luck on Wednesday to Reference Recordings and engineer Keith Johnson with their Bruckner Symphony 9 recording, which was a final nominee in the Best Engineered Album, Classical category. Even to reach that level is one heck of an achievement!

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