In Part 3 of our exclusive interview, Recording Academy president/CEO Harvey Mason, Jr. discusses the Recording Academy’s current challenges, and its role in the future of the music business. Don’t miss Part 1 and Part 2!
At the Recording Academy, you have spearheaded various solutions in terms of diversity and Grammy voting procedures. What challenges remain, and where do you see the Academy going from here?
I’m a true member of the Recording Academy; I’m who we represent. Having that perspective and being able to assess what’s going on with the Academy through that lens has allowed me to make a lot of changes that were long overdue. We want to be more diverse, and we absolutely want to be more reflective of all the different genres that are thriving in our industry right now, and make sure that the voting body is representing all those different areas of music. One of the bigger challenges is making sure we have the right people voting for the right categories.
That is always something we are working diligently on. But the reason that we do all of this is so that we can help the industry, build the industry and make sure it’s a great place for the next generation of music people to thrive and have a career. We look at everything to see how we can improve it. Times change so fast, music changes quickly, so we have to be fluid. And that’s not something we’ve been known for doing in the past. The general note from me is, how can we be quicker?
People often fall into the trap of thinking we’re just doing this for the Grammy Awards and for the TV show. The Academy makes the TV show and we’re very proud of it. But it’s just one tiny part of what the Academy is about. We use our show to generate the money that goes into the programs that help lift up the industry through MusiCares; to provide assistance to music people through our advocacy in Washington, D.C.; making sure we can monetize our art; the Grammy Museum; preservation; education.
MusiCares gave over $30 million to people who needed help and to supply music people some assistance and a safety net during the first year of Covid, when a lot of them were out of work. These are the things we’re doing 365 days a year.
The Recording Academy’s work begins at the school level…
We have so many programs around that. We know the importance of music and education, not just for people to become artists or creators, but also in the development of young people and what music can provide. That starts from a very early age.
The days are behind us when record companies would just throw money at artists. Where’s the money coming from for new artists to keep this industry going?
I think there’s never been a more fruitful time; it’s like the Gold Rush right now, with so much music and entertainment being created. I think the challenge is going to be, how do we equitably come to solutions that are fair for all parties— the creative side, the business side, the people making the investment?
I think we have a ways to go, and that’s one of the reasons that I wanted to be involved with the Recording Academy, because we can be a voice to represent all parties. A big part of our role is going to be helping to make sure that it’s fair and representative and reflective of how music is being made today.
How do you find time to do everything you do?
There’s a lot of times where I’m trying to do two things at once. And then there’s a lot of times where I’m just staying up really late working on projects. The other thing that has really been important to me is that I have a great team of people that run the business side and then also creators and musicians and producers and writers that definitely make it a team effort.
It’s not me doing everything. I like to be involved in everything creative, but I also know that it takes more than just one person to do great work at scale. I want to be able to do different things—produce films, make music, make records. That all takes a team, and I’m lucky to have great people that I work with.