With Its First Brand Campaign, the Academy Behind the Grammys Looks to Bolster Music Makers

Recording Academy work also gives hip-hop and R&B their due

Rising R&B star H.E.R. is a centerpiece of the Recording Academy's first campaign that goes beyond promoting the Grammys. Recording Academy

Making music is more than a job—it’s a passion, and a lifestyle.

The first brand campaign from the Recording Academy, the music industry organization best known for producing the Grammy Awards, is celebrating the collaborative creative process behind great songs—and great records—with a rah-rah affirmation of the hard work that goes into them.

It includes a 1-minute TV commercial and series of print ads, created with agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, that feature a variety of talent—including performer and songwriter H.E.R., producers Swizz Beatz and Chad Hugo, recording engineer Ann Mincieli, and music director and composer Rickey Minor, all members of the Academy.

“If you’re moved by a steady beat, and a strong story…yes,” says the voice-over in the opening line of the centerpiece video, directed by well known music photographer Danny Clinch. “If rejection after rejection only made you feel more redemption…yes,” it continues. “If the sound of a note saved you…yes.”

In other words, it’s a big tent—meant to capture the industry’s various contributors across professions (and, in less explicit terms, genres). “We Are Music,” reads the tagline—a theme so universal, it’s sure not to offend or exclude anybody.

“I was thrilled to be a part of this campaign because it captures the very essence of music-making, and celebrates the many hands and hearts and minds that work together to bring new music to life,” says H.E.R. in a statement. “As an artist, I know I wouldn’t be where I am now with out the brilliant writers, producers, musicians and engineers that make me better and take my sound to a new place. ‘We Are Music’ is about the community of music—all of us—and I think its an incredibly important message to share.”

But it’s not just about the good vibes.

“If you believe all musicians should get paid fairly…yes,” says another line of the ad, in a rallying cry that also nods to the persistent financial issues still looming over the music business—and especially the recorded music business—in the wake of consumer shifts from physical media to digital and streaming formats. (That, even as an increase in paid subscriptions to services like Spotify and Apple Music marked a bright spot for the industry in 2018.)

While the Recording Academy (formerly the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, founded in 1957) regularly advertises the annual Grammys telecast, the new campaign represents a different kind of marketing push—aimed at promoting the organization and its constituent members more broadly. It also follows a logo redesign launched early this year.

“Several years ago, we undertook a research project to gain deeper insight into our core constituency: music creators,” explains Evan Greene, chief marketing officer for the Recording Academy. “This clearly showed that the Recording Academy, and the work we do on behalf of music creators, did not enjoy the same level of awareness or understanding as our marquee GRAMMY brand. Music creators who told us what they wanted from us and what they expected from us, both practically in terms of advocacy and community support, and philosophically in terms of tone and communications.”

The campaign also comes at a time when the Grammys are facing ongoing criticism for what many see as a history of snubbing hip-hop artists and black music more generally—a perception that’s led some to call the awards show irrelevant. In 2017, hip-hop and R&B combined became the most consumed genre in the U.S., driven by streaming and surpassing rock for the first time—and its influence on contemporary music is readily apparent in genres ranging from pop to country.

Notably, all of the creators featured in the campaign are significant figures in hip-hop and R&B—in addition to H.E.R. and super producer Swizz Beatz, Chad Hugo is a longtime collaborator of Pharrell Williams, Ann Mincieli has worked for decades with Alicia Keys (to whom Beatz is married), and Rickey Minor spent 10 years as Whitney Houston’s music director (among other high-profile roles).

As for the campaign’s goals, Greene describes it as the first phase in an ongoing strategy to “re-establish and reinforce our relevance in the community… to do this respectfully and authentically takes time, so initially, we are looking to increase recognition, recall and perception.”

And in broader terms, the organization hopes to lift the industry. “We’ve believed for a very long time that music and its makers specifically need to be recognized and celebrated, not just promoted, but actually celebrated and valued,” says Greene. “After all, the purpose of this campaign, in short, is to elevate music makers, honor their commitment to the craft and celebrate the creative community.”


Creative Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day New York
CCO: Chris Beresford-Hill
ECD: Evelyn Neill
Senior Art Director: Adam Naccarato
Senior Copywriter: Steve Stenholt
Head of Production: John Doris
Executive Producer: Shannon Barnes
Producer: Sarah Healy
Director of Business Affairs: Theresa Maranzano
Chief Executive Officer: Rob Schwartz
Managing Director: Nancy Reyes
Account Director: Diana Gonzalez
Account Manager: Meredith Zambito

Production Company: Milkt
Director & Photographer: Danny Clinch
Director of Photography: Josh Goleman
Executive Producer: Lindha Narvaez
Producer: Jon Dino

Editorial: Beast Editorial
Editor: Dayn Williams
Producer: Michael Beltrame

@GabrielBeltrone gabriel.beltrone@gmail.com Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.