I am a voting member of NARAS (National Association for the Recording Arts and Sciences) and have been one for almost 30 years now. I love the organization as it helps the needy in our business, promotes efforts to fight for artist initiatives in congress and also does it’s best to keep music in our schools. The organization also has camps and makes assorted efforts to educate and encourage our youth to be better by showing them hope and light that only music can give them.
Each year the organization also throws the Grammys, which is a celebration of the best, the brightest, newest and the iconic that have passed on their wisdom, love passion and reverence for our industry while sharing their talents and magical gifts with the world.
But that said, I have my issues with it this year show and find that there must be more effort put into each and every aspect of it if it is indeed to continue to be perceived as the beacon of hope and light that shines a spotlight on the greatest we have to showcase and display. To do this and remain worthy of the mantle that it maintains there must be a balance representing the music of the moment while showing respect for our core of heritage artists that have carried the torch of greatness for so many years now. For this to happen, they need to up their game and deliver a show that exhibits both the best in performance and excellence in rebroadcasting the greatest possible sound reproduction of the music in the sonic realm to capture the interest of new viewers while maintaining the interest of the core of fans that love the music and the artists who make it.
Indeed, I like many, look forward to this one night when we as an industry get to shine and show the world our very best, putting on a show that should be second to none in the entertainment industry and in the advancement of the art of performance and execution at the highest levels possible. In my eyes and the eyes of many of my peers, when an artist steps onto that vaulted rich in heritage stage and performs in front of hundreds of millions of viewers, they are not just performing for themselves but for us, the good and the benefit of the millions of musicians, writers, producers and those in the industry on every level across the country and indeed across the globe.
For the sake of fairness, I will not critique the entire event this year, as there were some touching and inspirational moments, but I must bring up the issues that I saw which were glaring to me and caused great concern as a member who values this business and the perception that the public has for it. I know that an audiophile loves their music on all levels and embraces an artist or band because they become emotionally attached to them on many levels and need to trust them and what they perceive is their ability to perform and recreate live the wondrous sounds that come through their speakers and systems at home.
It is this love of the art form that creates real music lovers and lifelong fans of music and artists and which is the reason they choose to follow an artist or musician for life as the ultimate compliment to their continua delivery of excellence time and time again. This is the ultimate quest for an artist, to build and indeed keep a following that grows up and older with them.
The problem we have today in this industry is that music is already under attack for being something that has no or little value due to the availability of it for free on so many sites thus making people question why they have to subscribe to a service to hear it or indeed why they need to buy it at all! Too often today, in this time of tumult and turmoil, we find ourselves defending the fact that music should not be free and has real value. My point in bringing up the Grammys this year is that as an industry, we did very little, but for a few shining moments, to send the message that music is of value and should be treated as a commodity of true worth and value.
I say that because the show in general was plagued with sound issues on the transmission of the broadcast with each side, NARAS and the network, seemingly blaming the other for the myriad of drop outs, volume discrepancies and distortion, which I personally found offensive in a business that makes its living off of excellence in sound and presentation. They had two things to get right, the sound reproduction and the selection of artists to carry the show.
The flaws caused Adele to be off pitch and taint what was a heroic attempt on her part to carry on her performance caused by issues of a microphone falling on the strings of the piano and getting her off her game. Out of tune guitars on Justin Bieber’s performance and an event that had many vertical or low points except for the opening by Taylor Swift. The Lionel Richie Tribute, nailed by the likes of John Legend, Demi Lovato and others, the Kendrick Lamar performance which touched a nerve in an emotional way and the Stevie Wonder tribute to Maurice White with Penatatonix, which was very well done but far too short for a segment for a hero of Maurice’s stature. In general, the event lacked a flow and consistency that I would have expected and anticipated from an organization that represents me and our industry to the public.
The point I am making here is the we need to work harder next year to have a better and more entertaining show that features more variety and diversity of our business and showcases artists that can actually play their instruments and keep them in tune! While I totally get it and realize that not everyone that is popular or in the public’s eye are the best musically adept at what they do but if they are going to represent us, there has to be some sort of fall back position to allow them to have their spotlight while not allowing their weaknesses to be showcased simultaneously.
This was an off year in my eyes and we did not do much to encourage people to subscribe to streaming services or to run out and buy an album or download. What we did do is illustrate that what is successful in the public’s eye is not always necessarily worthy of being seen in public and that we as an industry needs to do a bit more to put the focus back on mastery of our craft and the art of performance which is at an all time low.
One of my friends asked me what makes a Legend in the music business and who I saw as future Legends going forward? Two very hard questions for me to answer at this time because the crop of developing artists is still developing so to speak and have not proven they will or can be Legends as that takes time and consistency to maintain an art of performance at the highest levels, so the outcome is uncertain.
I believe that there will be Music Legends that come along and captivate us in the future but they will take time and require a burning desire to reach their peaks and do all they can to stay there and achieve even higher goals and aspirations then we set for them. Bruno Mars, Ed Sherran, Jon Legend and possibly Taylor Swift or Usher all have what it takes to rise to the occasion but we’ll have to wait and see. Many in Country do as well and they are upping their games to be better all the time.
If you are a music lover and audiophile who felt that you were not entertained in a manner worthy or your time and audio system that this years Grammys was supposed to deliver, well, don’t feel too bad because I and others just like me felt the same way. We must and we will do better, because the survival of our industry is at stake as is the ability to enable it to provide a living for each and everyone who desires to do so by making music as a career!
As always, make sure you love the music and respect artists who create it!
2010 to Present: President of John Luongo Management, LLC., a Full Multimedia Content Provider with divisions in Administration, Licensing.
1986 to 2000: Founded “The Office, Inc.” which works with all major labels to explore new technologies that enhance the future of the entertainment business and develop new artists.
1983 to 1986: Became one of the youngest Presidents of a CBS Associated Label with his term at the helm of Pavillion Records.
1980 to 1983: Began mixing records that were met with tremendous success.
1978 to 1980: I was tapped to head the largest Dance Promotion company in the United States, MK Dance (owned by Mark Kreiner and Tom Cossie of Chic fame)
1975 to 1978: Started the Boston Record Pool which was one of the first three record pools to begin the Record Pool phenomenon we know today.
1973 to 1975: Upon graduation from Northeastern University, obtained a BS in Civil Engineering and worked for AJ Lane Construction and became the head engineer on a project to build an 8 Story 175 Unit pre-cast.