For the executives leading the Recording Academy into a new era — CEO Harvey Mason Jr. and co-presidents Valeisha Butterfield Jones and Panos A. Panay — evolution doesn’t just mean increasing membership. It means listening to and responding to the creatives who make up the wide music community the academy serves not just on Grammy night, but all 365 days of the year. So in the days leading up to the 2022 awards, the trio opened up to a group of artists — both established hitmakers and first time nominees alike — and encouraged them to ask them anything.
How can artists, especially newer ones, help the academy achieve its goals?
—DJ Khaled, artist, producer, We the Best Music Group founder, Grammy winner
PANOS A. PANAY: This is an organization made by peers to recognize excellence and give [opportunities] to peers for talent to shine. So for us, creating as many channels for conversation as possible is critical. If you’re an up-and-coming creator, we encourage you to reach out to us, to help us understand better ways to serve you. How are you using new platforms, new technologies to create? Where are you going to get educated about how to grow and evolve your talent? We want to be there with you every step along the way, from the minute you want to start creating all the way until you can’t create anymore because you’re so darn old. And even then, we want to support you with MusiCares or access to good resources.
VALEISHA BUTTERFIELD JONES: Participation is so important. Khaled’s global impact, the magnetic way that he can attract talent across every region, every country, every age and genre — we need that, and we can’t do it by ourselves. And so to Khaled, I say directly, “You are the best, we need you, and we invite you to be even more involved with us.”
What’s your favorite collaboration that has happened at the Grammys?
—Nathy Peluso, Argentine singer-songwriter, Latin Grammy winner, 2022 Grammy nominee
HARVEY MASON JR.: Beyoncé and Prince, Eminem and Elton John … there’s so many, I couldn’t even imagine one being my favorite.
PANAY: As a young person at the time, Elton and Eminem was just so powerful. People forget Eminem was at his all-time “dangerous” height, right? And there was all this tension. To see them coming together, joining hands, it sent a very powerful signal. It made my hair stand up.
BUTTERFIELD JONES: It wasn’t a performance, but earlier this year, when Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé held hands and took the stage [to accept the best rap performance Grammy for “Savage Remix”]. It just sent chills up my body to see the sisterhood, the women’s empowerment, the appreciation of each other.
What was the motivation behind the new 10-3 rule, and what is the desired effect?
—Dave Koz, jazz saxophonist, nine-time Grammy nominee
MASON: The 10-3 rule, instituted this year, specifies that as a voter, you pick three fields — basically three genres — and within those, you can vote in 10 [total] categories. So if you happen to be an expert in rock, you should clarify that and sign up on the ballot with that being one of your three fields of expertise so that you’re voting from a place of knowledge.
The other benefit: We want to make sure we’re not seeing people vote for each other frivolously. You have to be judicious when you know you only have certain categories you can vote in. So you can’t say, “Hey, I’ll vote for your person, you vote for my person.” That’s obviously against the rules and something we don’t want to see. Having 10-3 in place will make it almost like having a large nomination review committee — experts in a genre all voting for people in that genre.
What’s your most memorable Grammys performance?
—Sebastián Yatra, Colombian singer-songwriter, eight-time Latin Grammy nominee
PANAY: Adele honoring George Michael. She was interpreting “Fastlove” — the arrangement itself was brilliant — but she started off wrong, and I’ve never seen another performer on national television have the presence of mind and the bravery to just say, “I’m going to start again because I care too much.” We saw an artist at the top of her game acknowledge her own imperfection and vulnerability. That’s what music is about, and we forget.
The Grammy Awards are only one day a year — what is the Recording Academy doing the other 364 days?
—Giveon, R&B artist, five-time 2022 Grammy nominee
MASON: We’re doing some other things really, really well: advocating on behalf of music people in Washington, D.C., and locally, and making sure that we’re able to continue to make a fair living, making sure we’re taken care of with stimulus packages similar to what you saw during COVID-19 and just making sure that music people are top of mind for lawmakers and legislators.
Also, MusiCares — making sure there’s a safety net year-round in place for people who have fallen ill or can’t afford their rent or who might have lost an instrument or have a mental health or drug-addiction issue. And then, with education [initiatives] and our Grammy museum, making sure we’re preserving music and educating the next generation. A lot of schools don’t have music teachers or instruments, especially in underserved communities. And if we don’t [ensure] that we’re introducing people to music, we’ll lose artists, we’ll lose creators. We won’t have people even having an appreciation for music.
BUTTERFIELD JONES: A lot of what Harvey just said culminates through our 12 chapters. We have chapters in almost every major music market. We have webinars, master classes, programs focused on financial literacy and mental health. And that work is year-round. So thank you, Giveon, for the question — and I would love for you to be involved, too.
PANAY: This is an academy, and in some ways, the awards show is the equivalent of the graduation ceremony. It’s one day, there’s a lot of pomp and circumstance, but the other 364 days of the year, that’s where the work happens. Ultimately, our intention is to continue to develop those platforms because there are millions of creators and music people around the globe, but only a handful of them get to be recognized with a Grammy.