Bigger Than The GRAMMYs?

Pre-Telecast Ceremony will present nearly 100 GRAMMY categories, many more than the telecast
  • Photo: Rick Diamond/WireImage.com
    Taylor Swift
  • Photo: Michael Caulfield/WireImage.com
    Carrie Underwood
  • Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com
    Neil Young
February 12, 2011 -- 10:23 am PST
By Roy Trakin / GRAMMY.com

(For a complete list of 53rd GRAMMY Awards nominees, click here.)

To paraphrase John Lennon, is the GRAMMY Pre-Telecast Ceremony bigger than the GRAMMY Telecast? Okay, nothing tops the excitement and sheer event status of Music's Biggest Night, but when it comes to award presentations, the Pre-Telecast leads by about 90.

Last year, awards in 99 GRAMMY categories were presented during the Pre-Telecast, which, in its second year of being streamed live online, attracted 328,000 viewers to the ceremony.

Those who tuned in saw Neil Young accept his first-ever GRAMMY in person, for Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package, as well as Taylor Swift, who won her first two GRAMMYs ever. In the past, the likes of Norah Jones and Carrie Underwood received their first GRAMMYs on the Pre-Telecast, too.

The Recording Academy's Vice President of Awards Bill Freimuth helps oversee the Pre-Telecast, which gets underway on GRAMMY Sunday, Feb. 13, at 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET, and lasts approximately three hours, "depending on how many winners are there, and how long they speak."

Current Best Classical Crossover Album nominee Bobby McFerrin and Best New Artist candidate Esperanza Spalding will co-host the ceremony, which can be viewed at GRAMMY Live as well as YouTube, this year's streaming partner, live from the Los Angeles Convention Center.

"In my everyday life, I'm very fortunate to work in so many musical worlds," enthused McFerrin. "Co-hosting the Pre-Telecast with Esperanza is an opportunity to hear and to honor some of the greatest artists from those worlds….And besides, it's gonna be really fun."

The youthful 26-year-old Spalding, a jazz bassist and singer, who has already performed for the likes of President Barack Obama, views co-hosting the Pre-Telecast as a bit of a feather in her young cap. "It's an honor to be asked to co-host the GRAMMYs' Pre-Telecast," she said with alluring humility.

Peter Anton, The Recording Academy's Vice President of Digital Media, who has helped spearhead the live stream of the Pre-Telecast as well as the development of GRAMMY Live, a 72-hour live webcast that complements the GRAMMY Awards TV broadcast, expects the total number of online viewers to exceed 500,000 this year, thanks in part to YouTube's participation.

This year's production will be shot with three cameras, featuring musical performances from a number of this year's nominees, including Afro-Colombian hip-hop trio ChocQuibTown, Buddy Guy, Cyndi Lauper, Maria Muldaur, blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, "Treme" star Trombone Shorty, gospel legend Mavis Staples, jazz musician Kirk Whalum, and R&B singer/songwriter/producer Betty Wright. Presenting some 98 GRAMMY categories will be current nominees Laurie Anderson, Sara Bareilles, BT, Kathy Griffin, and Wayne Wallace.

"We try to showcase genres that aren't usually covered on the regular telecast," explains Freimuth.

The live audience of 3,500 will include many of this year's 1,052 nominees. Freimuth calls the webcast "a live show that we're letting people see on the Web." And while some parts of the show are loosely scripted, McFerrin and Spalding are encouraged to have fun.

"We don't hire Bruce Vilanch, if that's what you mean," laughs Freimuth, "though we could probably use a good comedy writer."

The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards will take place live on Sunday, Feb. 13 at Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast in high definition and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). The Pre-Telecast stream will live at GRAMMY Live and on YouTube beginning at 1 p.m. The webcast will be archived as video on demand at GRAMMY Live for 30 days after the event.
 

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