Grammy Nominations Show Preview: Booking Strategies, the Move to Friday, Water Cooler Moments

Lorde, Drake, Katy Perry, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Robin Thicke, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban are among the performers on this Friday's (Dec. 6) Grammy Nominations Concer Live produced by AEG Ehrlich Ventures at the Nokia Theater at L.A. Live. The nominations concert show, where the year's Grammy nominees will be announced, has historically bounced between tributes and contemporary acts performing their hits of the last year--but booking artists for this show can be tricky.

“I’d hate to have someone appear on the show who is eligible to be nominated and then have to say sorry,” says executive producer Ken Ehrlich. “I went with big names and didn’t worry about who was appearing on other shows.”

CBS executive VP, Specials & Events Jack Sussman, however, tells Billboard he has a more strategic plan. “Our expectation is to open up big with a contemporary, very social media-friendly act and build on that momentum,” he says. “The idea is to create moments on television that become instant water cooler moments that are discussed in real time.”

To that end, this year's line-up includes both performances from abroad as well as unique collaborations: Katy Perry will perform from Canada and Taylor Swift will be in Australia. Also, members of  Earth, Wind & Fire and T.I. will join Robin Thicke and Miguel will perform with Keith Urban.
 
Last year, the Recording Academy’s research based on Bluefin, PeopleBrowsr and Mass Relevance showed the nominations special generated 24.8 million comments in social media.  “If you can generate positive comments in [the first 10 minutes] you’ve got a shot at increasing your audience,” Sussman notes. “It’s really no different from what everybody tries to do [with an awards show]: Open big and put the pedal to the metal. Now we have the added value of fans being able to talk about what you’re doing on the air in real time.”

For the first time in its history, the Grammy Nominations Concert is being held on a Friday night after five years of airing on Wednesdays. CBS says one key reason for the move is the ability to promote the show five days straight.
 
“Our air (time) is still our best opportunity to let the biggest audience possible know the show is there,” Sussman said. “From Sunday football into primetime through Thursday night, we bang this like a drum to get people to tune in on Friday night.
 
“’Blue Bloods’ on a Friday night does 14 million people so there are people who want to watch TV and be entertained. We need to get out the word out and having five nights a week of well-watched television enables us to do this.”
 
As a case in point, the post-Thanksgiving Friday broadcast of the two-hour “Garth Brooks: Live From Las Vegas” helped CBS win Thanksgiving week in total viewers; it was the network’s ninth win in the season’s 10 weeks. CBS has had a particularly strong season to date, winning Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in viewers and adults 18-49 throughout November.
 
By pulling 8.6 million viewers and placing first in the 18-49 and 25-54 demographics in the time slot, the Brooks special was watched by more viewers than have ever tuned in the Grammy nominations special. The concert peaked in 2008 with 7.1 million viewers, hit its nadir in 2010 with 4.58 million and 5.4 million viewers watched last year.
 
This year is largely a test of how much those five days of promotion can pay off as well as how well the program can engage the audience using social media while the show is airing live at 10 p.m. in the East and in the same slot taped in the West.

Thicke will give a concert, not televised, after the hour-long show.

This year's Grammy Nominations Concert Live airs on CBS, Friday, Dec 6 at 10 ET/9 C. LL Cool J hosts.