Scott Goldman On Refreshing the Grammy Museum and Fundraising In the Age of Trump

Scott Goldman
Scott Witter

“The Taylor Swift exhibit was big for us, and Frank Sinatra was bigger. And The Beatles always work,” says Goldman, photographed Sept. 5 at The Recording Academy in Santa Monica, Calif.

"We sometimes get branded as being the Hard Rock Cafe with the Grammy name on it," says Grammy Museum executive director Scott Goldman, 59. "That's not what we are at all."

Established in 2008 as a ­partnership between The Recording Academy and AEG, the museum displays ­memorabilia, primarily on loan from ­artists and estates, in rotating exhibits that ­underscore music's heritage and ­evolution. But the ­nonprofit also showcases ­everything from ­recording technology to music as a learning tool, plus a series of interview/performance programs yielding one of the industry's top-tier video archives.

In January, the museum merged with since-dissolved sister organization the Grammy Foundation and tapped the affable Goldman to succeed original executive director Bob Santelli, nearly 12 years after Goldman joined The Recording Academy as vice president of the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares.

In 2016, the museum ­welcomed 150,000 visitors and 25,000 students to its L.A. Live location in Los Angeles to see exhibits ­spotlighting Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson and The Beatles. And 16,000 people attended its interview series with the likes of Imagine Dragons and ­industry veteran Lou Adler.

Scott Witter
A letter sent from Ozzy Osbourne after MusiCares honored him in 2014 at its MAP Fund benefit, which advocates for supporting addiction recovery. “[It was] completely unexpected and one of my great personal treasures.”

For its first major fundraiser since the integration, the museum will present 16-time Grammy-winning ­songwriter-producer David Foster with the Architects of Sound Award during its third annual gala at The Novo in Los Angeles on Sept. 19. Goldman talked to Billboard about the decision behind the merger, what's ahead as the museum turns 10 in 2018 and the challenges of raising money in the era of President Donald Trump.

What prompted the merger?

About two years ago, Neil [Portnow, Recording Academy president/CEO] asked me to look at bringing the ­foundation and museum into closer ­alignment. For many years, people thought that MusiCares was part of the Grammy Foundation. It's not. Everybody saw that together we can tell one story, whether to the media or donors and ­community/educational partners. Now we're all singing from the same hymnal and playing on a national scale.

What's the vision moving forward?

When we opened, all of our interactive technology was top of the line, innovative. Ten years later, we need a refresh. We want to bring our retail store downstairs to make the street-level experience more inviting. We're going to launch a 10th-anniversary campaign. It will lead toward having the resources to do the things we want to do.

Scott Witter
A bobblehead doll of Bill Kirchen, guitarist in Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. “I’m a tremendous fan of his music and songwriting,” says Goldman. 

Who were you most nervous to ­interview?

This was all in my own mind because she was incredibly gracious and cordial: Annie Lennox. I was so nervous to talk to her. I'm a fan, and she's so put together.

How is Trump affecting fundraising?

We've found support in surprising places from people who believe in music ­education. I think some of this is a reaction to the negativity in Washington, D.C.: that the arts don't matter and education should be privately run. People understand that institutions like the Grammy Museum are going to need support to survive.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 23 issue of Billboard. 

2018 Grammy Awards