The state of urban alternative music was the focus of a seminar/membership outreach event hosted by the Los Angeles chapter of The Recording Academy at The Standard/Downtown June 30.

“Urban Alternative Music: a Global Movement” encompassed a wide-ranging discussion on various topics: the definition of urban alternative, its relationship to neo-soul and what the future holds for the genre.

Established as a singles/tracks vocal performance Grammy category in 2003 with 58 submissions, urban alternative generated 32 submissions for the 50th awards ceremony in February. Part of the problem has to do with defining just who is and who isn’t an urban alternative artist as many of those nominated in 2003 (including India.Arie and Erykah Badu) are considered more mainstream now versus left of center.

“Once a Gnarls Barkely, OutKast or Jill Scott receive heavy commercial
airplay, I don’t consider them urban alternative,” noted audience member Antero “Ant” Fail, a promotion executive with J Records. “Until radio has an urban alternative format like rock, that’s going to be the case.”

“It’s still an ongoing debate,” added panelist Garth Trinidad, music
supervisor for KCRW Los Angeles. “But it’s necessary for people like us to share, promote and help artists who don’t fit the tidy boxes of terrestrial radio and television. There’s a lot of great music out here that we have to support.”

A full house was on hand to hear comments from and ask questions of the five guest panelists who, besides Trinidad, included Grammy-nominated artist Vikter Duplaix, Hidden Beach Recordings founder Steve McKeever, artist Sy Smith and Temple Bar talent buyer/concert promoter Dexter Story. Serving as moderator was Urban Network editor David Mitchell.