NARAS President: Grammy Noms Concert Delivers Justin Bieber Now, Ratings Later

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Pamela Littky

Tonight, live from downtown Los Angeles, a slew of music stars will take the stage at the 2,300-capacity Club Nokia in what’s become a new yearly tradition: the Grammy nominations concert. Broadcast live from 10-11pm EST, every genre will be represented by a contemporary consigliere -- rock has Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, who’ll be presenting, country fans get a performance by Miranda Lambert, Stevie Wonder holds it down for R&B, Bruno Mars, Selena Gomez and Katy Perry parade for the pop world --  while host, rapper and producer LL Cool J hosts this kickoff to the Awards, which air on CBS Sunday, February 13, 2011.

If you can’t recall 2010's nominations special lineup, you may remember that the following 52nd Annual Grammy Awards saw stellar ratings -- the show’s best in six years – to the tune of some 25.8 million viewers, and NARAS President Neil Portnow gives credit in no small part to the warm-up show they’re putting on tonight. “We're getting between 6.5 and 7 million people watching this program, which is the kickoff to Grammy season,” Portnow told THR at a City of Hope benefit held in November. “It's not necessarily a ratings juggernaut, but it's six to seven million people that are jumping in on the process early, and it’s growing.” 

Indeed, a performance by Justin Bieber could offer a boost, which would delight the teen phenom’s manager Scooter Braun, who hopes Grammy voters will consider his client for honors this year and next. Or not, as the American Music Awards saw this year when it experienced a 19% drop in viewership despite giving the likes of Bieber, Rihanna and Bon Jovi top billing. Besides, adds Portnow, there are different measures of success when it comes to how you roll out the finalists for such a prestigious event as music’s biggest night. “What’s most important to me is how does this compare to what we did before, which was a press conference at seven in the morning that you guys hated having to go to,” he said. We couldn’t agree more with that assessment. 
He went on to explain that it’s really all about the resulting coverage. “We had artists on stage [reading the nominees], it got covered in print and a little bit in the tabloid TV shows like Access Hollywood and Extra, and that's kind of it,” said Portnow of the pre-concert years. “Now with all those millions of people watching, it’s one of the truly positive things we did to increase awareness of the show. Our ratings last year were through the roof… It was precisely what we needed.”