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How do the Grammys reel us in? Hint: It's not just the awards (+video)

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Since then, the complaints have quieted as many acquiesced to the fact that the Grammy telecast is essentially a marketing platform for the major record companies and a ratings boon for CBS, the network that has traditionally carried it each year. 

Smaller recording organizations like the Blues Foundation in Memphis and the Americana Music Association in Nashville have stepped up their efforts to fill the gap with their own awards ceremonies, including the Blues Music Awards given out every May and the Americana Honors & Awards held each September.

Jeff McCall, a professor of media studies at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., says the show “is about creating a musical spectacle that is watchable, and the awards are just the framework in which the rest of this happens.”

“The main thing to keep in mind is that the Grammy awards ceremony is not so much about the actual awards as it is about television. The program will be over three hours long and feature performances by artists who might not even be getting awards that night,” Prof. McCall says.

One reason why Grammy producers are increasingly emphasizing fewer awards and more performances is that instant media is well tailored to report on its celebrity mash-ups.

The awards show is heavily promoted for “exclusive” performances that bring unlikely groups together, and this year is no different. Among the 21 musical performances scheduled, nine are group outings, including Sting, Bruno Mars, and Rihanna; Alicia Keys and Maroon 5; Elton John and Ed Sheeran; and an all-star tribute to Levon Helm, the late singer and drummer for The Band.

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