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Grammys Aim High With Aggressive Social-Media Campaigns

Frank Ocean Point - H 2012
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Grammy nominee Frank Ocean.

The National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences allows fans to engage with their favorite performers though Twitter, Google+ and VEVO.

With the big show kicking off Sunday night, Grammy Week is officially here.  But on social media and behind the scenes at the National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences, it’s been feeling like Grammy Week for, oh, about two months now. This year more than ever, the Academy has pushed the Grammy's as a 365-day brand, reaching out to potential viewers via a list of ongoing digital and social media initiatives long enough to circle the Staples Center two times over.

“We have one of the best social teams in the business,” says Evan Greene, chief marketing officer for the Recording Academy. “Whenever we think we’ve done enough to add to the conversation, we keep adding more.”

The theme of this year’s ceremony “#TheWorldIsListening,” has been plastered on billboards and in big-budget commercial spots featuring artists such as Taylor Swift and The Black Keys. But as the hashtag in that slogan suggests, most of the heavy lifting has been done on social platforms like Twitter. In late December, the Academy first kick-started dialog on the microblogging platform with its Artist Interview Series, in which 18 new and established female artists (including Kelly Clarkson, Sheryl Crow and Joy Williams of The Civil Wars) Interviewed one another via Twitter.

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Elsewhere, the Academy rolled out Amplifier, its big, original online platform built specifically for this year’s ceremony. Meant to celebrate the journey from obscurity to superstardom, Amplifier allows amateur musicians to post their own tracks to the site via Soundcloud. The Academy has announced an all-star team of curators, including Linkin Park, Ozzy Oswald and RZA, to pick the best submissions and shout them out on their Twitter and Facebook pages. Amplifier was produced by TBWA/Chiat Day, the Academy’s advertising agency of record, which has created similar Web campaigns for the Grammys since 2010.

In the middle between the amateurs and superstars of Amplifier, of course, are the Grammys own Best New Artist nominees. This year, you can get to know the artists in that important category on VEVO, where the Academy partnered with Pepsi to produce a series of video Q&As. Music from the artists, including Frank Ocean, The Lumineers and Alabama Shakes, has been helpfully compiled on a mixtape that will soon be available for streaming on Pandora.

“We want to engage with music fans in as many credible and respectful ways as we can. And, as we all know today, fans exist in a lot of different pockets,” Greene says. “There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy.”

Broadening the conversation further, and capitalizing on the Grammys’ proximity to the Super Bowl this year, the Academy also reached out to professional athletes for a program it calls “A Champion’s Playlist.” Ball players including Aldon Smith of the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers, NBA star Jason Richardson and New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis, shared custom pregame playlists via the music streaming website Rdio.

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A few lucky fans following along with the fun at home also will get the chance to be at the Staples Center for Music’s Biggest Night. In honor of passing 1 million followers on Google+, the Academy is giving away Grammy tickets to the Google+ user who submits the most compelling hypothetical “Thank you speech” via YouTube. Fans have further means to win tickets in similar contests being held on Rdio and the image-based social network Pinterest.

Additionally, Google+ will be the site of a special Google Hangout on Tuesday with singer-songwriter and Grammy nominee Ed Sheeran. The live video chat will include user-submitted questions from Google+ and Twitter and will be hosted by the blogger Arjan Writes.

Lest anyone doubt the depth of the Academy’s commitment to fostering meaningful engagement between the social media and music industries, today it also announced its fourth annual Social Media Summit, which will take place Feb. 8 and feature a special presentation by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. Billboard’s Editorial Director Bill Werde will moderate this year’s central panel discussion at the summit, during which panelists, including Soundcloud founder Alexander Ljung and Roc Nation VP of Digital Dorothy Hui, will discuss the theme “The Music Industry Then & Now: How Digital Changed the Game.” The panel will be simulcast on Grammy.com and on the Grammy LIVE mobile app.

“The great thing about being a week out from the show is that there’s so much social conversation building right now, so many people who are getting excited,” Greene says. “We’re doing everything that we can to spark that conversation and to participate in that conversation in as many ways as possible.”

At 5 p.m. EST Monday, Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich will answer reader questions during a live chat on Twitter.