2020 In Review: How The Music Community Rose Up Amid A Pandemic

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2020 In Review: How The Music Community Rose Up Amid A Pandemic

A look back at the music community's challenges and resilience amid one of the most difficult periods in recent memory

GRAMMYs/Dec 30, 2020 - 01:39 am

2020 has been like no other. Musicians, organizations and all parts of the music industry are facing a whole new, unprecedented reality that is changing the way the industry works. It’s been a tough year, to say the least. But despite the ongoing trials, the music community has found ways to remain resilient through it all. looks back at how the industry's unity, perseverance and creativity helped the music community rise up and face the challenges head-on. 

Recording Academy And MusiCares Establish COVID-19 Relief Fund

Unprecedented times call for an unprecedented response, Harvey Mason jr., Chair & Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy, said in mid-March when the Recording Academy responded to the crisis by launching the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

The Recording Academy and its affiliated charitable foundation MusiCares have established the COVID-19 Relief Fund to help people in the music industry affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and subsequent cancellation of multiple music events. From hotel and bar gigs to major music festivals, COVID-19 is deeply impacting live music events, and the creative community behind it all.

Administered through MusiCares, the COVID-19 Fund will be used to directly support those in the music community with the greatest need. To establish the fund, both the Recording Academy and MusiCares have contributed an initial donation of $1 million each, totaling $2 million.

Marching Six Feet Apart: How High School Marching Bands Are Coping With The Pandemic

Schools were left with a lot of unknowns this year. At one school in Colorado, teachers wondered what the new normal would mean for their band season, but most importantly, for their students. Emilee Lindner took readers into a high school to show how one community of teachers and students worked through it all.

Since you can't really conduct band from a laptop, teachers are getting creative. We're talking practice journals, music theory worksheets, listening assignments and music history readings. [James Shuman, band director at Rocky Hill High School in Connecticut,] even created a bracket for students to battle out which song from Star Wars is the best. Anything to keep the kids stimulated. But it's a struggle. Band has lost the essence of collaboration; instead, it’s mutated into individual study.

Recording Academy Board Members Cover John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery" To Benefit MusiCares' COVID-19 Relief Fund

Many lives succumbed to COVID-19 this year, including GRAMMY-winning legend John Prine. To honor him and his legacy, the Recording Academy Board Members came together to cover his song, “Angel From Montgomery.” Revenues from the song went to MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund

"We started this project as a way to raise money for MusiCares. With John’s passing, we also wanted to raise awareness that this can strike anybody. It doesn't matter if you’re famous or not, a seasoned veteran, or perhaps just building your career. If we can help in some way, if we can help make sure that those in need have food, or rent, or something else to help keep [getting] them through," Recording Academy trustee Michael Romanowski said.

"Nothing Like This Has Ever Happened": How Orchestra Musicians Are Faring In The Pandemic

COVID-19 has caused lockdowns all over the country. Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), New York Philharmonic (NY Phil), and Los Angeles Phil spoke to about what it meant for them.

When the lockdown began, Stephen Williamson, principal clarinet player for CSO, was on his way to a concert when he learned the news. "I was [driving] to CSO for a performance of 'Rhapsody in Blue' when I got a call that the concert was canceled," he shares. CSO's Associate Concertmaster Stephanie Jeong, the youngest member of the orchestra ever to hold this prestigious title, was in Kansas City visiting her boyfriend when she learned of the Shelter in Place order going into effect in Chicago. "I ended up staying in Kansas City, and I’m still here."

What was hoped to be a temporary shutdown soon turned into a stay-at-home order with no end in sight, and the shattered economy that accompanied it was something many musicians didn’t anticipate in the United States. "In my almost-30-year tenure with the orchestra, nothing like this has ever happened," CSO bass player Robert Kassinger explains. "Maybe once every 10 years a concert had to be canceled because of weather conditions, sure, but nothing like this."

Independent Publicists Persist Through The Coronavirus Impact On The Music Industry

As the beginning of the pandemic caused the cancellation of several live shows and festivals and paused album releases, the publicists for artists like Jessie Reyez, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Lido Pimienta, Palehound and more talked about how they worked through the hard times for their clients.

Independent publicists and smaller PR agencies now face their own unique challenges. Many run on project-based work focused on touring and album campaigns. With artists now canceling tours and rethinking album releases, the music publicity sector now faces a potential, and significant, loss in income—if not now, then in the future. On top of that, there is no option of severance for many publicists if they lose their jobs or clients.

Bartees Strange, Anjimile & More On What It's Like To Release A Debut Album In A Pandemic

Some artists continued to release their projects, although it meant they couldn’t go through a traditional release cycle.

A variety of rising artists sit down to discuss the unusual and inopportune circumstances of releasing a debut record during COVID, and what it takes to make the best of an impossible situation.

The Pivot To Livestreams: VERZUZ  Was Born

To keep the show going, artists went full-on digital with intimate and all-out production performances, giving way to new forms of musical entertainment. Cue in VERZUZ, a full-on lyrical and production battle that pitted some of the greatest rappers and R&B artists head-to-head.

What originally started as a live song-for-song set at Hot 97's Summer Jam concert in 2018 between musical powerhouses Timbaland and Swizz Beatz has now found its way into countless quarantined homes. The recommence of Verzuz began and continues to serve as a celebration of Black musical pioneers: the DJs, songwriters, singers, rappers, producers, performers—and everybody in between.

The battles are selected by how sonically and entertaining both artists can be together. Kicking off in March, the growing phenom has showcased battles between Teddy Riley vs. BabyfaceBoi-1da vs. Hit-BoyThe-Dream vs. Sean GarrettErykah Badu vs. Jill ScottJohntá Austin vs. Ne-YoNelly vs. LudacrisT-Pain vs. Lil JonScott Storch vs. Mannie Fresh, DJ Premier vs. RZARyan Tedder vs. Benny Blanco, 112 vs. Jagged Edge and Beenie Man vs. Bounty Killer.

Helping The Musical Community Through Music 

Whether it was raising money for venues across the country at the Save Our Stages virtual event or labels like Mexican Summer releasing projects benefitting artists or charities of their choice, artists and musical entities found ways to support their community. Streaming service Bandcamp, also among those leaders, waived fees for artists on their platform, showing support for independent creators.

Capturing Los Angeles' COVID-Closed Venues

With clubs closed until at least next year, photographer Farah Sosa documented L.A.'s shuttered venues—many of which may not reopen without federal support

How Bandcamp's Fee Waiver Days Are Supporting Musicians In The Pandemic

"It sounds simple, but we’ve always believed that the best way to support artists is to buy their music and merch directly," Bandcamp COO Josh Kim told 

Bipartisan Package Brings New COVID Relief And More

In the waning days of the 116th Congress, a bipartisan package includes new COVID relief and more. 

After months of shifting negotiations and perpetuating stalemates, Congress reached a deal to provide the American public with additional COVID-19 relief. Congressional leadership, composed of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), announced an agreement on Sunday, December 20, to attach the relief to an end-of-year government spending bill to be voted on Monday, December 21, and signed into law by the president. 

Bootsy Collins, Carla Morrison, Rico Nasty & More:'s Favorite Conversations Of 2020


GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy


Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images


Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards