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The How, What, and Why of HRC at the GRAMMYs

February 6, 2010

I was sitting in my room at my parent’s house in Texas writing this review at about 2am when an email popped up from someone from the Recording Academy. She said she wanted to speak with me about my site and a program they are putting together for the 52nd Annual GRAMMYs. My thought: they want me to post about press releases or something.

I didn’t get home to SF until Monday, so I decided to call after work. That’s when I learned that somehow my little site had been not only discovered but selected among other rock blogs to be a community blogger for the rock genre for the GRAMMYs. This basically meant that I would write a 400 word piece in reaction to the nominations, then a 2009 recap for the genre, and then reactions to the winners. It’s not paid, but in exchange for doing this, I get a ticket to the GRAMMYs (travel not included). I was really humbled by this, and immediately said that I’d be happy to participate.

Let’s go ahead and get this part out of the way: don’t I realize that the GRAMMYs are out of touch and the awards don’t go to who deserves them, especially in the rock genre? Yes, I realize this. In my real life job, I work on a franchise that has a lot of nostalgic love for it, but currently struggles for relevancy. My job is to be the voice of the consumer, to try to massage the brand into something people will love again. So it was second nature for me to come on board for a program that was built around an effort to make the GRAMMYs more relevant. I was to be the voice of the rock and metal fan on GRAMMY.com, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

However, this essentially meant that I had to put some of my rock ‘cred’ on the line. Not that I have a big following or anything, but as soon as I started mentioning working with the GRAMMYs, I felt a bit of a backlash. ‘Don’t you know the grammies suck’…’ugh nickelback’…..’U2 blah’…etc., etc. I’m a diplomatic person. I can deal with it. On the other hand, people in my life who always ignored what I do took a sudden interest in my site. It was really interesting that once I got ‘recognized’ by the GRAMMYs that suddenly I wasn’t screwing around going to concerts…I was a writer.

Soon after I initially agreed to do this, I was approached about covering the Alternative genre as well. No problem- I’m the girl who blips Behemoth and Depeche Mode within an hour of each other. A little while later, I got an email about the possibility of attending another event before the GRAMMYs, where the honoree for Person of the Year would be Neil Young. The press release had what felt like 100 amazing musicians on the list to attend. Of course I’ll come down early for that! Then there started to be mumblings of other stuff that might happen, one thing being a little bit of camera work for the GRAMMY site since the person working on it ‘liked my look’. I would basically be on the red carpet and might comment about rock related things I see. No problem. I believe it was during this conversation that I was told of the hesitation to have me be the rock blogger because of my ‘edgy’ content…..yes, I say the F word a lot and I have a hankerin’ for the devil’s music.

As I wrote my nominations pieces, and my year in review pieces (Alternative was HARD), my opportunities with this project were growing. I still wasn’t sure if everything was really going to happen, but I figured that it would be an interesting way to potentially grow my readership, a networking opportunity, and a nice bullet point for the resume.

It’s Sunday before the GRAMMYs. I’ve now decided to take two days off work (one full day and two half days to be precise- I worked Thursday morning before leaving and then Monday afternoon when I returned), I would be paying for four nights of hotel, but would be at several different events that I would never be able to get into on my own. I got a note to please call about some more opportunities. This is when that little bit of camera work potentially became a substantial amount as they needed an extra person to help them do interviews on the red carpet before the GRAMMYs. I said I was willing to do it. When someone gives me an opportunity like that, I always think about how I would feel if I didn’t do it first. I couldn’t pass it up. Plus, I love doing interviews.

There was a point last summer when it was suggested to me that I should start doing more video on my site. I looked at Metal Sanaz or Full Metal Jackie as an example. Normally I can’t shoot video at my interviews because I’m a solo operation. This would be my chance to explore that area more.

Well this led to calls from the director, who was definitely vetting me for the role, looking at a youtube interview I’d done and asking me about my comfort level in front of the camera. I’m fine in front of a camera, I have interview experience, I know my rock stuff- I felt good about it. This evolved into them wanting me to fly down earlier (which I couldn’t) and extended my role to 5 hours on the red carpet and then a quick introduction of my ‘character’ on Friday before the afternoon event. My character? OK…

By the time I got to the production meeting on Thursday when I arrived, I started to fully understand what was happening. GRAMMY Live wasn’t just an occasional clip posted on the site, they were streaming live content starting Friday afternoon and pretty much going nonstop until Sunday night. What I had positioned in my mind as an interviewer role was really a co-host role; I would be working with a professional vlogger and a semi-professional vlogger who works for the Recording Academy. So I’m in a control room, being given extra batteries for my phone, which would be dialed into a conference line and I’d have an earbud in my ear telling me when we were live, and then I’d also have a phone videocamera with a mic running down my arm. Somehow roaming phone videocamera work was added to my responsibilities on Friday evening and Saturday.

Suddenly I’m overwhelmed. I think I’ve overpromised myself, misrepresented myself, and the pressure was intense. ‘This is your chance to be a star’. I don’t want to be a star….I just want to write cool stuff and interview cool people. I’m starting to freak out, but I get an email with a list of people I’m scheduled to interview on Sunday- Phoenix, Kings on Leon, Green Day, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jay-Z????….and then I get another email saying Jared Leto is going to be at the Social Media Rock Star Summit on Friday. On one hand I’m fearing screwing up on camera, letting people down, and generally feeling uneasy; but on the other, I would love to talk to these people and I can tell this is an opportunity of a lifetime! I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so torn. But I rolled with it.

Friday wasn’t exactly a disaster, but I don’t think I have a future in TV. The two hosts with experience took over, and I was just the little third wheel that occasionally chimed in. I forgot that hosts are supposed to repeat things and keep it light….I just like to think in facts and questions. The streaming tech wasn’t working, I couldn’t tell when we were live or not, communication between the control room and my conference line earbud thing was lacking, and it was just pretty chaotic. It ended up that I didn’t get to interview any of the social media people because the professional got to them first.

I didn’t feel too good about it when I left, and it didn’t help when I got an email saying ‘we’ll be in touch’ about my participation the rest of the weekend while covering the Person of the Year event. This led to a martini in the hotel bar and making some unsuspecting stranger my therapist for an hour.

So in the span of 5 days, I went from fly on the wall observer during GRAMMY week, to co-host of GRAMMY live, back to fly on the wall community blogger. It was an interesting rollercoaster ride that ultimately worked out. Plus, I found out on Sunday that my change in participation was due to some other extraneous factors (maybe they were just being nice).

GRAMMY Sunday61

Upon my return, people asked me if I had fun and who I met. I felt like I let people down when I told them I didn’t really meet anyone, and I’m not sure I would describe it as fun. However, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my experience. To me, fun is a great show by a band I love in one of my local venues with my friends. I knew this wouldn’t be like that. This was a learning experience, an opportunity to be at events in conjunction with music’s biggest night that I would never be able to get into on my own.

What effect has this had on HRC? Only time will tell- I’ve seen a little bump in traffic and a good increase of new followers on twitter and fans on facebook. But really that $1000 I spent traveling for GRAMMY week got me an experience that I won’t ever forget. I was part of a social media experiment that may have had some impact on the ratings increase the GRAMMYs saw this year. And the ultimate test of any experience is to ask myself if I would do it again. The answer is yes.

GRAMMY swag:


Reactions to the Rock Nominations
Reactions to the Alternative Nominations
It Was a Rockin’ 2009
2009 in Alt-Rock
Cue the Music
Social Media Rock Star Summit
Person of the Year
Special Merit Awards
Pre-Tel GRAMMY Awards
The 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards
Reactions to Rock Winners
Reactions to Alternative Winner

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