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Trouble Brews as Record Industry Prepares for Grammys - 2002-02-26

Preparations are under way for the 44th annual Grammy Awards, as the music industry honors its top entertainers. The presentation will take place Wednesday night in Los Angeles. Behind the celebration, there is trouble in the industry and worries about flagging music sales.

As always, the biggest acts in the business will be at Staples Center as the music industry distributes its annual honors. Among this year's nominees are perennial favorites like the Irish band U2, which has eight nominations, and the younger rhythm-and-blues singer India.Arie, who has seven.

The Grammys are presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. President Michael Greene promises a night of celebration, but with an acknowledgement of the testing that the United States has experienced in the past year. "This is a year," he said, "I think our spirits and our souls and our connection with each other has been tested and has ultimately been solidified."

Tuesday, the day before the Grammys, some of the music industry's top entertainers held four separate concerts in Los Angeles to protest the business practices of the major music companies. The artists, including Billy Joel, Sheryl Crowe, the Eagles and Dixie Chicks, belong to a coalition of 100 musicians who hope to place a seven-year limit on industry contracts. The industry says the artists want to be able to walk away from their legal commitments.

The music industry is also coping with slowing sales, as listeners make their own compilations using CD "burners" on home computers. Several major companies are embroiled in a legal struggle with the Internet music sharing-service Napster. Napster has curbed the illegal sharing of copyrighted music, but many young people are turning to similar services that offer free songs over the Internet.

Wednesday night, the industry will try to put all this behind it as it celebrates the best of this year's music - from nominees like Train, which heads into the Grammys with four nominations.

The Grammy telecast will be seen by 1.7 billion people and in 175 countries.