How the Grammy Awards Is Staying in Tune With the Times

CMO Evan Greene knows they are a changin’

If you were among the 25 million people who watched the Grammy Awards last month, you also watched Evan Greene's act. As CMO of the Recording Academy, Greene's responsibilities include all the PR and digital strategy for the legendary awards show.

But Greene's 12-year tenure coincides with the music business' most challenging period as downloads and record sales continue to slip, and it's now not unheard of for a musician's paycheck to come from a brand, not a record label. With the post-Grammy hoopla settling down, Greene found a few minutes to talk from his Santa Monica, Calif., office.

The Recording Academy is a year-round organization that just happens to have one of the biggest nights in TV. Is it difficult to get the public to pay attention to what the academy does the other 364 days?

The double-edged sword for us is that we have this globally iconic brand that's associated with a single TV event. And while clearly the Grammy telecast is music's biggest night, we are engaged with music fans on the other days. We're always introducing some kind of innovation into the conversation. We have 8 million engaged friends, fans and followers, and we make sure to have alignment across the social channels.

Last month's Grammy Awards had over 25 million tuning in, but viewership in the 18-49 demo was down 16 percent. Does that erosion worry you?

Well, it was actually 27 million and that gulf has shrunk when you account for current viewership patterns. But that being said, one of our biggest focuses these days is data measurement and analytics, and we know today's consumers consume content in far different ways. The question for us is how to create more amplification and drive more conversations among the millennial group. 

A "Grammy Moment" with Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye | Grammy: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

How has the reality of music and branding becoming intertwined change what you do?

I don't know that it's changed what our organization does, but I will say that, based on the shifting economics of the business, brands have proven to be valuable partners to artists. Brands are investing more heavily in getting artists' music out there.

Ellen DeGeneres' selfie at the 2014 Oscars was a branding coup for Samsung, and Oprah's Lego Oscar last month was nearly as good. Why haven't the Grammys embraced product placement?

What happened with the Oscars was one of those real lightning-in-a-bottle moments, and it's hard to plan something like that to go viral. It's hard to legislate something into becoming reality. We look at the Grammys as having the most prestigious moment in music, and to start integrating brands is a very slippery slope. Once we start, where do we stop?

The Grammy Awards has become famous for its "Grammy Moments," including this year's performance with Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney. How do you guys come up with these mashups, anyway?

Believe it or not, the show comes together about seven weeks out. We don't start planning the show until early December. Then we take a close look at the nominations and move very quickly to identify what we think will be the most compelling moments that nobody is expecting. The telecast appeals to a broad audience, and we came up with the idea of the moments to bridge the generation gap. If we can align a current global superstar with a legacy artist, we broaden the appeal overall. It makes the show that much more interesting, and shareable.

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