A long time ago — a very long time ago — I was a poor college student. I scraped by doing technical jobs, like repairing electronics, running films (my low-union-seniority specialty was working Hindi- and Spanish-language theaters) and running P.A. systems. This was in Oakland, Calif., during the early ‘70s, and one of my regular customers was the Black Panthers.
It must have been odd to see this blond, Scandinavian guy at the edge of the stage during Black Power rallies, but the Panthers treated me well, always referring to me as “cousin” rather than “brother.” A side benefit was witnessing history being made in the speeches by founders Bobby Seale and Huey Newton (and others), often quoting exiled member Eldridge Cleaver (Soul on Ice), who said, “You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.” Those simple words made a strong impression on me.
Flash-forward to about 10 years ago, when a colleague asked me about joining The Recording Academy (NARAS). I was working at Mix and operating a studio and small record label, but even as involved as I was in the industry, NARAS seemed elitist — fine for big-label folk, but not my scene. Besides, after the Jethro Tull heavy-metal Grammy fiasco of ’89, did I really want to be one of them? But thinking back to the words of my Panther cousins, I thought perhaps I was part of the NARAS problem: Change comes easier from within. I joined NARAS, and at the local chapter found an amazing community with common goals, interests and needs. I became involved with seminars and engineer panels, networked with peers and added my vote to the Grammy-selection process.
During that past decade, the music biz model has changed and NARAS has adapted. Previously, becoming a NARAS voting member required working on at least six tracks on commercial releases distributed through record stores. A recent Digital Qualification Initiative recognizes the impact of digital downloads and Internet music sales, offering a new means by which artists and recording pros can become voting members. Requirements include having credits on at least 12 tracks, with product available on an established online site, such as Amazon.com, CD Baby, iTunes, Rhapsody, Yahoo, eMusic, Musicmatch, CD Universe, etc. As an alternative, an applicant could be endorsed for membership by two Academy voting members. Full details are available at www.grammy.com.
This development is good news, not only for NARAS, but for the entire music community. (And speaking of community, read Rick Clark’s “Nashville Skyline,” page 128, to find out how NARAS’ MusiCares organization is helping musicians affected by hurricane Katrina.) New members and new ideas help The Academy break out of its “old-school” image, while strengthening its ability to promote the industry, fight piracy and illegal music distribution, and bring more diversity to NARAS programs and the Grammy Award selection process. It’s a good thing for all concerned.
And speaking of voting, in this Mix, subscribers will find a postage-paid ballot for the TEC Awards. It’s your industry, so be part of the solution: Take a few minutes and help select pro audio’s best. Every vote counts!