The Grammy Awards will be handed out February 8 and the event is considered to be the music industry's biggest night. But before the big show, the title "Grammy winner" can sound just as sweet as the music itself.
A Grammy Award is a small trophy, shaped like an old record player called a phonograph. But something so small, it seems, can carry so much weight.
Ron Roecker is vice president of the Recording Academy, which awards the Grammys. "The Grammys are considered to be the most prestigious because it is a peer-to-peer voting process, so musicians vote for other musicians. It is not based on popularity or record sales. And even, for instance, in the producer category, only producers vote for other producers. And that is why it is really the premiere music award out there," he said.
Since awards, like the Billboard Music Awards, are dominated by larger names based on album sales, smaller musical acts in the United States and around the world might not be recognized because they are not widely known.
But Roecker believes the voting process for the Grammys is such that even less well-known artists have the chance to be recognized, as long as their work has been distributed in the United States. "The people who are voting really have their finger on the pulse of what is happening. So if you have a world music category, for instance, the people who are really, really in it, who are creating the music that falls under that particular category, know who the up-and-comers are," he said.
Roecker says artists like Latin superstar Ricky Martin and U.S. jazz singer Norah Jones were featured on the Grammy Awards show before the mainstream audience knew anything about them. He believes the Grammy Awards help spotlight a diverse group of musicians and genres and recognize newcomers as well as more established artists.
The Recording Academy also presents the Latin Grammy Awards, which honor music released both inside and outside of the United States.
He says the Grammys bring not only pride for the winners and nominees, but can also greatly enhance their positions on the sales charts. "It is really a badge of honor for people just from a credibility standpoint and then also even when we do the nominations we see sales increase for their eligible albums, simply because what we are doing is we are helping to introduce a lot of these people that the mainstream does not know or they are interested in a different genre. So it really is an impact on record sales as well," he said.
Roecker notes that the Recording Academy is involved in more than just the Grammy Awards. He says the organization, which represents 17-thousand music makers, also sponsors year-long programs for music education and preservation. It is also providing aid to musicians from New Orleans, the Louisiana city flooded by Hurricane Katrina.