Evan Greene, the chief marketing officer of The Recording Academy, tells us how the organization is empowering the next generation of music makers.
The Recording Academy has one night a year on the global stage. Made up of musicians, producers, recording engineers and many others in the music industry, it is the non-profit organization behind star-studded awards ceremony the Grammys.
For the other 364 days of the year, Evan Greene – who has served as the organization’s chief marketing officer for nearly 14 years – and his team dedicate their time to supporting the industry.
The Academy is dedicated to empowering the next generation of music makers. In 2008, it opened the Grammy Museum at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles. Devoted to the history of music, as well as celebrating Grammy winners, it serves as an educational cornerstone, utilizing interactive exhibits and rare memorabilia that inspire visitors to learn more about music.
Rooted in its goal of positively impacting the lives of musicians, industry members and society at large, the Academy also offers an array of advocacy programs – ‘Grammys On The Hill’ in Washington brings together artists and legislators who have made strides in establishing fair compensation throughout the industry, while ‘Grammys in My District’ brings music creators to local offices of elected officials where they are recognized for mattering within the voting constituency.
From a grassroots level all the way to the White House, these advocacy programs allow the music community’s points of view to be heard, as well as opening up a dialog between the music industry and the general public.
Credibility through authenticity
“We have a body of members that we advocate for, and on behalf of, for intellectual property protection and artists’ rights,” Greene explains. “We want to make sure that creators get recognized appropriately.”
Greene’s greatest priority lies in being credible to fans and musicians without speaking in completely different voices to either one. “The way we do that is through authenticity, which is the cornerstone of trust. With trust, you build loyalty and that’s what it’s about for us.”
Part of that trust is visible – the Grammy award statue. But the Grammy, as a brand, has become more relatable to fans over the past decade, Greene says, because fans know that artists care about more than just the award and artists care more because they understand and recognize the strong foundational platform that it sits atop – The Recording Academy.
“The Academy means more to music, and the Grammy means more to music. Together, they represent excellence across the board.”
Artists giving back
Being able to give back is at the root of The Recording Academy and its artists, says Greene. “People in the creative community are generally charitable, and feel a sense of kinship, humanity and connection.
“Artists that are successful feel blessed, and they want to be able to give back. Many times, they don’t know how. We give them that channel and that opportunity to be able to connect and actually make a difference.”
Because of this channel, it’s not unusual for the Academy to bring students to see musicians like Justin Timberlake during a sound check and then hold a Q&A session. Managers, attorneys and other industry professionals also participate in youth-related programs. The support from all levels of the artist community is, according to Greene, overwhelmingly positive. Innately, they all want to nurture and inspire others to achieve their dreams.
Education is a passion point for the Academy and it likes to bring artists back to their roots – especially to schools that have struggling music programs or are committed to teaching music to children. In one case, several years ago, the Academy visited a high school in Michigan with Kid Rock who happened to be one of that school’s most famous alum.
“The kids didn’t know what to expect. They instantly went crazy.”
An Academy executive, along with Kid Rock, gave the school a ‘Grammy Signature School’ award, a plaque featuring a 3D Grammy statue. The Academy also gave the school a grant and Kid Rock was so inspired he “doubled the grant on the spot” says Greene.
Reinvesting in music’s future
At the heart of the Academy’s mission is making sure that the revenues generated are filtered back into the industry. Beyond serving the Academy’s members, Greene is adamant that the funding is used to give back and ensure that music continues to drive and inspire culture.
“What’s important is not only educating people about the cultural power and impact of music, but also trying to find ways that people can learn music. There are so many studies that clearly make a connection between using the creativity in your brain and long-term success.”
Unfortunately, music struggles most in the very place the Academy tirelessly fights for it: schools. Arts funding is one of the first initiatives to be cut from schools and Greene is blunt in recognizing that the issues therein are bigger than the Grammys, or even the schools themselves.
Through it all, Greene and his team continue to fight the good fight to find ways where the next generation of music makers can learn about music and embrace its exponential benefits.
“It’s very important to find ways to create new education opportunities, recognize and honor those schools and music programs that have been dedicating themselves to promoting music education. It’s such an important, healthy gift to society.”
A credible part of the conversation
Fans and consumers are more involved and engaged than ever before, but they are also demanding, jaded and distrustful. If a brand slips up, screenshots of its faux pas will circulate and go viral. Transparency and sincerity are in while canned apologies and avoiding interaction with fans has long been out.
With an engaged ecosystem of 11 million friends, fans and followers, Greene, a 2016 Grand Clio Music winner, takes great pride in the Academy’s approach, especially in the digital and social world. “Rather than simply talk to people for six weeks before the Grammys in February, we seek to always be a credible voice and part of the daily music conversation.”
At the core, it’s a very simple strategy: engage in a sincere, respectful, two-way dialogue. “We simply want to be a relevant, credible part of the conversation and to recognize and honor those who have made the greatest contribution to the creative community that year.”
Looking into the future
In the end, the Grammys wouldn’t be possible without the underpinnings of The Recording Academy and next on the agenda, from a marketing and a messaging perspective, is ensuring that The Recording Academy gets more widely recognized for the work that it does throughout the industry. Rather than competing with the Grammy brand, however, it wants to communicate that the Academy is what makes the Grammy Awards special.
“The heart of our mission is to help creators continue to create,” says Greene, “and to represent the most credible voice in music for creators.”
This article was originally published in The Drum magazine.