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Music Exec Buys Full Page Sunday New York Times Ad To Slam The Grammys

image from culturemap.com Updated. Veteran hip hop music exec Steve Stoute took out a full page ad in the New York Times this Sunday to attack the Grammys and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for losing touch with contemporary music culture and failing to acknowledge top selling artists like Justin Bieber and Eminem. "Where I think that the Grammys fail stems from two key sources: (1) over-zealousness to produce a popular show that is at odds with its own system of voting and (2) fundamental disrespect of cultural shifts as being viable and artistic," wrote Stoute. Full Text Of Steve Stoute's NY Times Ad:

An Open Letter to Neil Portnow, NARAS and the Grammy Awards

Over the course of my 20-year history as an executive in the music business and as the owner of a firm that specializes in in-culture advertising, I have come to the conclusion that the Grammy Awards have clearly lost touch with contemporary popular culture. My being a music fan has left me with an even greater and deeper sense of dismay — so much so that I feel compelled to write this letter. Where I think that the Grammys fail stems from two key sources: (1) over-zealousness to produce a popular show that is at odds with its own system of voting and (2) fundamental disrespect of cultural shifts as being viable and artistic.

As an institution that celebrates artistic works of musicians, singers, songwriters, producers and technical specialists, we have come to expect that the Grammys upholds all of the values that reflect the very best in music that is born from our culture. Unfortunately, the awards show has become a series of hypocrisies and contradictions, leaving me to question why any contemporary popular artist would even participate. How is it possible that in 2001 The Marshall Mathers LP — an album by Eminem that ushered in the Bob Dylan of our time — was beaten out by Steely Dan (no disrespect) for Album Of The Year? While we cannot solely utilize album sales as the barometer, this was certainly not the case.

Not only is Eminem the best-selling artist of the last decade, but The Marshall Mathers LP was a critical and commercial success that sold over 10 million albums in the United States (19 million worldwide), while Steely Dan sold less than 10% of that amount and came and went as quietly as a church mouse. Or consider even that in 2008 at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, after going into the night as the most-nominated artist, Kanye West’s Graduation was beaten out for Album Of The Year by Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters. (This was the first time in 43 years that a jazz album won this category.) While there is no doubt in my mind of the artistic talents of Steely Dan or Herbie Hancock, we must acknowledge the massive cultural impact of Eminem and Kanye West and how their music is shaping, influencing and defining the voice of a generation. It is this same cultural impact that acknowledged the commercial and critical success of Michael Jackson’s Thriller in 1984.

Just so that I’m not showing partiality to hip-hop artists (although it would be an entirely different letter as to how hip-hop music has been totally diminished as an art form by this organization), how is it that Justin Bieber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist, did not win Best New Artist? Again, his cultural impact and success are even more quantifiable if you factor in his YouTube and Vevo viewership — the fact that he was a talent born entirely of the digital age whose story was crafted in the most humble method of being “discovered” purely for his singing ability (and it should be noted that Justin Bieber plays piano and guitar, as evidenced on his early viral videos).

So while these very artists that the public acknowledges as being worthy of their money and fandom are snubbed year after year at the Grammys, the awards show has absolutely no qualms in inviting these same artists to perform. At first I thought that you were not paying attention to the fact that the mental complexion of the world is becoming tanned, that multiculturalism and poly-ethnicity are driving new meaning as to what is culturally relevant. Interesting that the Grammys understands cultural relevance when it comes to using Eminem’s, Kanye West’s or Justin Bieber’s name in the billing to ensure viewership and to deliver the all-too-important ratings for its advertisers.

What truly inspired the writing of this letter was that this most recent show fed my suspicions. As the show was coming to a close and just prior to presenting the award for Album Of The Year, the band Arcade Fire performed “Month of May” — only to… surprise… win the category and, in a moment of sheer coincidence, happened to be prepared to perform “Ready to Start.”

Does the Grammys intentionally use artists for their celebrity, popularity and cultural appeal when they already know the winners and then program a show against this expectation? Meanwhile the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences hides behind the “peer” voting system to escape culpability for not even rethinking its approach.

And I imagine that next year there will be another televised super-close-up of an astonished front-runner as they come to the realization before a national audience… that he or she was used.

You are being called to task at this very moment, NARAS.

And to all of the artists that attend the Grammys: Stop accepting the invitation to be the upset of the year and demand that this body upholds its mission for advocacy and support of artistry as culture evolves.

Demand that they change this system and truly reflect and truly acknowledge your art.

Steve Stoute

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46 Comments

  1. This guy is clueless. Does he really think that the Grammys were EVER in touch with popular culture? If so, then he hasn’t been paying attention. When the Beatles and Stones were ruling the world in the ’60s, do you think that they were winning multiple Grammys every year? They were not. Shouldn’t the Grammys reward quality, or are they simply a popularity contest? If so, go ahead, hand all the awards to Justin Bieber.

  2. “forr losing touch?”…wow, even I can use a spell check and I’m not writer or editor on hypebot. But what do you expect from hacks.

  3. Quality is in the eye of the beholder.
    You may not consider Justin Bieber, Britney Spears etc quality but someone else may and need to respect that.

  4. Funny, the comments of those not in the music business. He is correct in all that he says. The Grammys are out of touch. Because of what has happened this year and what happened last year, I am upgrading my membership to a voting member so I can possibly stop this nonsense from happening again.

  5. While he may have a point or two, and while rap and hip hop may be an art form, the Grammys attempt to reward musical accomplishment. Rap and hip hop are not music. I would have no problem with rap and hip hop having their own version of the Grammys, but let’s keep the Grammys for music.

  6. How can one ever say that rap and hip hop are not music? Do they not have rhythms, beats, notes and chord progressions? Your definition of music appears to be rather narrow.

  7. The Grammy’s losing touch? “No, couldn’t be, it just couldn’t be” they have been out of touch with culture and quality since decades ago! The recording academy and the whole freaking association suck! Let’s all give the awards and nominate more manufactured garbage, as long as we keep bringing in money and lots of money.,woooooo

  8. I’m a fan of Britney Spears, Justin Bieber works his butt off, that said… its not good music. It’s over produced lets sell to the masses and see how much money I can make music. Just because a CD can sell millions doesn’t necessarily mean its a quality piece of art.

  9. I completely agree with you! Hip-hop is not music. It is street poetry with the beat. Beat is an underdeveloped form of a song. It doesn’t devalue hip-hop, it just separates it from music.

  10. And your definition of music must be pretty wide. If you know music on a basic level (beginner) than you can call hip-hop music and feel good about it. If you know more, than you start to question it.

  11. And what if the goal of an award selection would be to highlight quality works that ARE NOT already highlightened by its label PR & marketing ?
    It would give those crappy and boring ceremonies a bit of interest.

  12. eminem is the bob dylan of our time?? did i read that wrong?? not knocking em, he’s a great lyricist. but…

  13. this is a marketing guy that used to work under iovine and interscope. now he just follows around urban and pop artist and try to put them in commercials. he is a fucking idiot.
    god

  14. Absolutely agree! If this were a popularity contest than artist like Justin Bribery would sweep up on the awards, however it is not. I like the peer vote because it gives an opportunity to other artists with quality not quantity to rise to the top. This particular record exec. is totally missing what NARAS is!!

  15. Hopefully this expenditure appeased his client, Eminem (The Bob Dylan of our day). Ask anyone who’s been nominated for a Grammy and they’ll say “I know it doesn’t mean anything but I hope I win.” It used to be meaningless only when you lost. When will little Marshall Mathers just learn to smile and roll with it?

  16. Way more people saw Iron Man 2 than the Hurt Locker and it made way more money. So why didn’t it win best picture?
    The Oscars are out of touch!
    LOL

  17. Just because its not good to you does not make it bad to someone else.
    Over produced has nothing to do with it; you may not like something that is over produced and others may like it does that make them wrong no.
    No music whether it be Pop, R&B, Country, Bluegrass, classical, Hip Hop, Rap, Reggae, Latin, Techno, J Pop, K Pop etc are good or bad it is all in the eye of the beholder. Just because one person doesn’t like something does not mean there are 6 billion others who feel the same way.

  18. What counts as quality; in Art (all types) everything is subjective and there is no way in which you can define quality, good or bad it is all up to the individual.
    Just because you consider something lacking in quality does not mean others feel the same way; you should respect peoples taste in art and just accept it as not your cup of tea instead of degrading something because you don’t like it.

  19. What is music than ?
    Please explain, what counts as music and how do you come to this conclusion without being bias ?
    Your response seems narrow minded trying to degrade something when giving no justification.
    You said Hip Hop is not music how so otherwise Jazz, Classical or anything else can be said the same.

  20. This is so wrong. If the Grammys are about popular culture ONLY, those famous artists don’t really need to receive the awards because they have already earned trucks of money; and those non-famous musicians will continue to be miserably making music in their creepy basement studios and no one would ever know about them. Music awards are about music, which certainly involves album sales and pop culture, but definitely not limited to those.

  21. These comments just showed that Hypebot’s readers aren’t as smart as I thought.
    And when you say hip hop isn’t music, all you’re saying is you don’t know hip hop. No need to try to convince you, you just don’t know enough about and haven’t heard enough quality hip hop. Which is very easy to find in 2011.

  22. If you want a popular vote then watch the AMA’s Stoute. Grammy’s are voted on by members of NARAS that know more about music and culture than 16 year old girls with daddy’s credit card.

  23. like I said. underdeveloped form of a song. you have a guy reciting poetry on a breakbeat. And please don’t send me links. All you can do is grab a link from the roots who are respected and I respect them. Why didn’t you send me a link of the game and ask? Because clearly you know that hiphop is not music. Argue you not enough educated man to argue. Obviously, since the accent is on the lyrics, vocal acrobatics and rhyme it is POETRY, accompanied by the mostly sampled stuff.

  24. How dare you to compare hip-hop to jazz or classical? That explains how uneducated you are. You know what Quincy said about that moron Kanye? “He’s just a rapper”. And he’s right! Every rapper can’t call himself a musician! Oh yeah I clean toilets at the city hall, I’m a freakin’ mayor of this city!

  25. Way to go maestro. Now go write your symphony in your bedroom. I’ve heard too much hip-hop that I’m tired of rapping so far. I want to hear some quality music, some great voices, clever arranging ideas, songs about environment, love for all the people, about the lovely lady… Hip-hop degraded almost everything good in the music industry. Ladies are bitches, it’s all about the freakin money… And that’s the reason why it’s all going down. It’s not about the music (and where’s the music) it’s all about the money. You want the money? Go get it. Slice beats, chop samples on your mac and declare yourself as a new Beethoven. That’s what the majority of people in hip-hop community are doing. And what is the message of the hip-hop?

  26. So what is music?
    I say that it is any group of sounds that are pleasant to the ear of someone or thing.
    Give me a definition of what you think it is.

  27. How dare you call me uneducated; what degrees do you have ? I have degrees in Sociology and Anthropology.
    You are very narrow minded not willing to try and understand or accept different things. Have you ever listened to Hip Hop
    Jazz, Classical, Hip Hop, Pop, R&B, Blues, Country, etc all of it is nothing but sounds and noise. The only difference is that; they can be pleasant to the ear of some. None of them are better than the others its just your opinion which is subjective and does not make it right or wrong.
    All music, paintings and designs are subjective and can either be equated to good or bad when in reality neither is since it can change by the person.
    Do you consider the sounds from a drum, didgeridoo, hun, piano, guitar or horagai to be music
    Any sound is music, lyrics are a issue on the their own any one can be a musician. If a sound is likable to anyone it is music whether you think so or not.

  28. Steve Stoute’s “overzealous” full page ad in the NY Times lambasting the win of Arcade Fire rather than congratulating the band is this year’s Kayne West douche bag moment. WHAT A LOSER.

  29. Well, I have a degree in music. And that gives me more right to talk about it then you buddy. Consider that I have PhD cause music was part of my life for the last 22 years and I’m 30 and I have 17 years of musical education, from performing classical music, teaching music to kids and grown ups on one side and around 10 years of experience in contemporary music production on the other. Ok.
    Like I said I don’t want to devalue hip-hop and I’m not a hater. I’m just reacting because I was provoked by this act of stupidity. For that 40,0000$ this man with no shame spent money to lube himself for somebodies ass. For that money some artist who is struggling could have a music video, or an album, epk, few shows booked… A manager who dares to call himself “music exec”, who took the opportunity of hip-hop and led some rappers (not musicians) into this money machine, that is falling apart now.
    So when I turn back around and see what’s happening right now, I’m terrified how music got close to criminals. Or they are just pretending to be?

  30. You never answered my questions; you were just evading the subject at hand. I never asked about what you have done such as performing, teaching etc. I asked specific questions and you never answered them mind saying why.
    What do you think music is give your definition?
    Do you consider the sounds from a drum, didgeridoo, hun, piano, guitar or horagai to be music ? Yes, no why or why not.
    Art is subjective so how can you say what is or what isn’t apart of it when it is open to interpretation of individuals.

  31. Wow, wow. There is not much space but I would like to continue this discussion definitely. You asked me about my degree, so I told you.
    Sound is air vibration that our ears picks up. With no sound there is no music. Music is the art of making those waves pleasant for our soul and we like what we like, de gustibus non est disputandum.
    I’ll get back to this, stay tuned. It’s working time I got some work to do…

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