How the Grammys Help Fans Create Visual Stories

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The 56th Annual Grammy Awards sparked laughter, controversy, eye rolling, and a lot of conversation in our living rooms, pressrooms, and social media worlds. Beyoncé’s risqué performance raised eyebrows, and Lorde’s dance moves caused some serious head scratching. Pharrell’s gigantic Smokey the Bear hat generated instant parodies and its own Twitter account. And Kacey Musgraves officially arrived. But what you see onstage is only part of the experience. Thanks to a live stream available on the Grammy website, Grammy viewers can go backstage with the stars and watch them as they exit the stage, prepare for their official Grammy portraits, and glow for the media in the press room. I used my laptop to become a backstage voyeur and content creator by snapping screen shots of the stars and posting my visual stories across my social spaces. This is the new world of entertainment: empowering everyday fans to create content. Here are a few highlights:


I captured a brief moment when Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Merle Haggard lingered for a pre-show interview. The Grammy Awards show really begins hours before the telecast, when performers and presenters arrive to rehearse. Moreover several entertainers and industry figures receive awards during a separate ceremony before prime time. Nelson, Kristofferson, and Haggard reminded me of three giant figures from Mount Rushmore. I used a black-and-white filter to accentuate that impression.

Similarly, I employed a black-and-white filter with my photo of blues great Charlie Musselwhite performing during the pre-telecast ceremony (which I watched via live stream):


Musselwhite and Ben Harper ended up winning a Grammy for Best Blues Album. Black-and-white seemed to capture the essence of the gritty blues giant Musselwhite.

When the prime-time telecast began, the Grammys really kicked into high gear (thank you, Beyoncé and Jay Z). The energy behind the scenes was palpable, too, as musicians began collecting their awards and celebrating. I kept my attention focused on the official portrait room, where handlers and photographers fuss with the stars before taking their official post-victory photos. Here is a screen shot I took watching Paul McCartney, Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Pat Smear prepare for a photo shoot with their Grammy for Best Rock Song.


McCartney gently showed Novoselic how to hold the Grammy trophy properly for the camera, pretended to chew on his hat, and then flashed him this sweet, unguarded glance before they took their official photo.

Black Sabbath, winners for Best Metal Performance, was hilarious backstage. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, and Geezer Butler strolled into the official Grammy portrait room in like three demonic comedians and quietly intimidated the photographers with their quiet glares. For some  reason, the photographers placed Osbourne  in a stiff chair with  Iommi and  Butler standing behind him, like three cast members of “Downton Abbey.”


The photographer kept asking Osbourne to tilt his chin up, but the Prince of Darkness blithely ignored him. They were ushered out of the room and then endured an excruciating interview with two gushy 20-something dudes who seemed totally uncomfortable and out of their depth. Sample banter:

Interviewer: “There are so many parties after the awards. What are you doing tonight after the ceremonies are finished?”

Osbourne: “Go to bed.”

Interviewer: “You all wear such dramatic clothing. Where do you get your ensembles?”

Osbourne: “Me wife sorts me out.”


The photo I captured here shows Osbourne flashing a malevolent smirk, as the band exits the portrait room to endure their interview. The Grammys never knew what hit them.

By contrast, Kacey Musgraves, winner of two Grammys, showed why she has emerged to challenge Taylor Swift for the unofficial title as queen of country. Backstage, she flirted and joked the Grammy photographers, playfully posing with simple props such as a table. The Kacey Musgraves behind the scenes was as engaging as the one who charmed the world during the telecast.


My one quibble with the Grammys: the prime-time telecast itself was not streamed live. The Grammys need to come to grips with the fact that we’ve broken free from the exclusive dominion of television. TV ratings no longer tell the complete story of the Grammys. Our eyeballs are glued to our laptops, iPads, and smartphones as we experience the event and share content. The Grammys need to measure the complete experience more effectively to give advertisers a true picture of the show’s popularity. But, for now, I’ll take what I can get: an opportunity to step out of the role of viewer and become a Grammy visual storyteller.

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