The Grammys vs. New York City: Who Will Win?

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow (via Rob Kim/Getty Images for NARAS)

The Grammy Awards are beefing with New York City, the town that’s hosting the award show for the first time since 2003, and I can’t get enough of it.

We’re just days away from Sunday night’s big show, and the Recording Academy alleges that NYC hasn’t come through with contributing its end of the budget. Academy President Neil Portnow told the Associated Press that the 2018 Grammys cost $6 million to $8 million more than when the awards were held in Los Angeles, where they’ve taken place for the last 15 years. New York City officials... agree to disagree, claiming that they’ve held up their end of the bargain, raising close to $5 million from business groups, unions, and corporate sponsors, without tapping into public funds. “From everything I understand, the city and the host committee have met all their commitments to the academy and the foundation and the program is going forward without any issues,” Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, told the AP. Drama!


It’s hard to remember back that far, but the Grammys used to be a bicoastal awards show, switching between Los Angeles and New York City just about every year—until Rudy Giuliani, former NYC Mayor-turned-crazed shouting man got into a feud with then-Recording Academy President Michael Greene about whether he could read the list of nominees at a news conference (seriously). Giuliani swore that New York didn’t need the Grammys—“You say we’re going to lose $40 million? We’ll replace that with three other things in a day. I’m serious.” So they packed up and left for L.A. again. The awards returned to New York once in 2003, once Giuliani was out of office, but they’ve been in Los Angeles ever since.

The Grammy battle is so appealing because it’s just not clear how much either side really benefits from hosting the Grammys in New York. Sure, the pageantry and tourism is alluring for New York, but when has New York ever had trouble courting visitors? Hell, even University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson expressed doubts about how much of an economic boon award shows really provide to host cities. “I generally think that if you take whatever number they put out and move the decimal point one over to the left, it’s more accurate,” he told the AP.

Even before this fists-clenched, budgetary battle became public, the Recording Academy had revealed that the next four Grammy ceremonies are headed back to L.A. So any ill will between the Recording Academy and the City of New York might be something for the next mayor to worry about.

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