No Grammy for You

No Grammy for You



Bram Bessoff

With all the Jews in the music industry it’s strange that there is no Jewish Music category. There are 82 awards given away including five Christian/Gospel categories and a handful of Latin categories, like Best Regional Mexican Music Album.

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I get it, the Jewish Music industry is but a sliver compared to Christian, but its market share isn’t that far from the smaller categories like Best Classical Vocal Soloist. So why no category?

Some quick research may answer the question. Jews don’t rally like other religions. JVibe tried to start a petition for exactly this reason, and since its inception in 2005, there are only 1245 signatures, now 1246 – I signed.

To get a category considered by the Academy, all you have to do is ask, that’s how Hawaiian music got theirs – 20 years of lobbying.

There have been others in the past that have asked for a Jewish Music category and the Academy said no. It seems there is little interest from the Jewish general public to push for one. Yet it might not be that cut and dry.

Jewish artists can be found in many categories, especially when you get into the lesser-known awards, and we have had solid representation in the past with the likes of Matisyahu and The Klezmatics being nominated for Best Reggae Albums.

There were very few Jews in 2013’s nomination list and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend was the only one to walk away with a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album for “Modern Vampires of the City.” But the biggest aspect to all of this may be the artist’s themselves.

How many Jewish music artists – not Jewish musicians – actually belong to NARAS, the National Academy of Recording Artists? I bet not that many, and I intend to find out. All in all it comes down to our motivation to create the demand for Jewish Music categories, and that should start from the musicians themselves.

Many people don’t know how the Grammys truly work. It starts with being a member of the Academy. I am.

Those artists who qualify with a certain amount of commercial re- leases can be voting members. I vote every year.

To get nominated, you pretty much have to run a campaign, it is time and cost prohibitive, but it is possible to get yourself nominated by simply reaching out to the Academy’s base – many artists do this by combing the social net- working site of NARAS and reaching out to members directly.

The bigger artists have teams that get this done, and of course the hits promote themselves. Reach out to enough people and connect with them via your personality or mu- sic and you may find yourself being nominated – I get tons of these solicitations every fall.

So, if enough Jewish Music musicians were voting Academy members, and with a little schmoozing, they could easily get their music considered for at least the World Music Category. And, if enough of these artists campaigned for nominations, a demand for a Jewish Music category would become apparent.

If there was pressure both internally from the artists and externally from the listening public, a Jewish Music Grammy could easily become a reality.

It’s not complacency; we are a very proud and outspoken people. It is more about solidarity. This seems to be a common thread heard in many Friday and Saturday sermons, as well as being a common plea of many Jewish organizations seeking your donation.

We are not an apathetic people, perhaps private, but it’s not like we don’t care about the future of Judaism. Our numbers are small and our efforts are splintered. We at Atlanta Jewish Music Festival feel that music is an important part to keeping Jewish culture alive – perhaps we should restart JVibe’s efforts and revive the petition.

Having a Jewish Music category is probably just as important as making sure the Holocaust stays in his- tory books. It stakes a claim to our heritage that is in danger of being lost. Plus we’re just so damn good at entertaining.

We actually had another strong contender from the tribe nominated for a Grammy this year. Ariel Rechtshaid was up for Best Producer of the Year (non-classical) only to be beat out by Pharrell Williams, who was a shoe in for his incredible work this year, churning out one of the biggest hits and collaborating with the big- gest Grammy winners of 2013.

Areil’s resume this year is nothing to shake a stick at. First off, he produced the Vampire Weekend album, as well as very Jewish artist Haim’s record and one of my personal favorites of 2013, Sky Ferreira. Give his records a listen.

If you think the Grammys last too long, try watching it while you keep up with the social chatter. It goes by in a blur. I had my Grammy command center set up including a laptop, iPhone and iPad and I still couldn’t keep up.

I was running three different threads at once. I had my live music production convo going on with Nashville, Vancouver and Texas where we were critiquing the performances and discussing the merit of the mash up to save what many have thought for years was a boring show.

We all noted Imagine Dragons and Kendrik Lamar stole the night with their mash up, which got the best audience reaction of the night, although no “standing O.”

The Keith Urban and Gary Clark Jr. mash up along with Carole King and Sara Bareilles’s duet, were some of the best musical moments of the evening. Chicago and Robin Thicke not so much.

It came across real cheesy and way too Broadway – the only poor live production of the night. Even Katy Perry’s “Once Upon a Time” themed performance was pretty cool and definitely unexpected. And, as always, Stevie killed it.

Simultaneously, I’m tweeting and posting for my company indiehitmaker, following the Twitter sphere’s comedic prose “only Pharrell can pre- vent forest fires” and congratulating friends and colleagues on their successes, all while I’m adding my personal thoughts via facebook – such as commenting on Lorde’s performance, which was perfectly arranged and executed, but her dance moves and black finger tips freaked the kids out.

It gets overwhelming quick, especially when you include multiple people in each thread. At some times I found myself missing performances to keep up with the posts. It certainly makes watching any awards show more fun – the comments and pace of posts can keep even the most mundane telecast exciting and hilarious. Try it next time one comes on.

Until then, sign the petition ( html) and when you bump into a Jewish Music artist next, ask them if they are a Grammy member and re- mind them G-d helps those who help themselves.

Bram Bessoff is a drummer and musician. When not onstage, Bram is a performance coach and music industry entrepreneur helping artists get the most out of their live shows and chart on Billboard. He sits on the board of directors as VP for The Atlanta Jewish Music Festival. Follow Bram’s experiences on, off and backstage @bram_rocks. Interact with him at #InItForTheMoment to share thoughts, comments and ideas about this column.




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