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13 Things You Didn't Know About the Grammys, From Someone Who Goes

Xtine Elise and husband at the Grammy Awards

In honor of the 66th Annual Grammy Awards airing this Sunday, I thought I'd throw together this piece to share some of my own personal fun and interesting behind-the-scenes takes! For those that don't know, I've been a member of The Recording Academy (the organization behind the Grammys) since I was 18 years old. I had been pursuing a music career seriously for about four years by that point, and had just started my education at Berklee College of Music in Boston. As a member of the Academy, I am entitled to attend the awards show every year. So up until the pandemic happened, this was an annual trip I typically worked my work schedule around. Now having had three pregnancies in three years, I've made the choice to hold off on going until the kids are a bit older (and I am not actively pregnant, lolz). I've maintained my involvement with the organization and even had my recent music release in the running for the "Best Children's Album" and "Best Arrangement, Instruments & Vocals" categories at this year's awards. Unfortunately, I didn't make the final round of voting this time, but it was really awesome to be considered and I'm sure there will be lots more opportunities ahead! But in reminiscing about my experiences walking the red carpet, going to the Premiere Ceremony, televised live show, private events during Grammy Week in Tinseltown, and the official Grammy After-Party, I realized there are so many fascinating things that you'd never know if you hadn't had the chance to go yourself... so here's a juicy, insider's look at what happens!

#1 - The Grammys are really a week-long event

Little known fact (even to me the first year I attended): the Grammys are actually a week-long celebration of the awards and nominees! Events are held all around Los Angeles featuring celebrity hosts, music icons, gifting suites, and live performances. I found these pre-Grammy parties to actually be really fun and fascinating, as they are so much more intimate and exclusive than the actual event itself. You get a unique opportunity to rub elbows, take photos, and chat with all sorts of industry professionals. (Plus the food and drinks are always top tier, too!)

#2 - Only members have ticket access

Unlike most other events in the entertainment industry, the Grammy Awards limit their ticket sales exclusively to members of the Recording Academy. There is no way to buy tickets, as none are sold to the public. They are extremely strict about this, and pre-Covid, you had to go through an extensive in-person screening process with multiple forms of ID and a pre-scheduled, sit-down meeting in LA in order to get the hand-off of your tickets. The tickets are also specific to the name of the purchaser and are validated multiple times, so there's no way to get in with someone else's ticket either. Anyone who tries any "funny business" risks losing their Academy membership permanently. The only other way I've seen people go that are not members is through tickets provided to the sponsorship companies. In short, the corporate entities that sponsor the event in exchange for the marketing opportunity and exposure typically receive a set amount of tickets to share with people at the company. Their access is highly limited though, and they actually have a "fake" red carpet adjacent to the real one with company logos featured in the backdrop (that's how you can spot if someone is really there). Occasionally I've seen acquaintances attend that I know are not members, and they usually got tickets from someone, who got them from someone else who can't attend at the sponsor company.

#3 - The red carpet actually starts in the morning

To my shock the first year, not only does the time difference play a big part in how the day pans out (the show is arranged around New York time), but everything starts way earlier than you'd expect. I would leave my hotel around 9am to get to the red carpet on time! The festivities typically start around 10am. (And that's a long day to have your hair, makeup, and heels cooperate!)

#4 - 90% of the awards are not televised

The Premiere Ceremony is not televised, and that's where 90% of the awards are announced and given. There are currently 94 categories total, and it would simply be impossible to fit all of that into a nighttime TV special. So the biggest awards are saved for the live telecast, but that's why you see so many artists in smiling pictures with their Grammys long before the show has even started at home.

#5 - There are celebrities casually everywhere

Honestly kind of the way you'd hope it'd be if you went, there are lots of celebrities everywhere at the Grammys. Most are super low-key, often with family and significant others. Publicists are always close by to deal with press, and sometimes managers and other important personnel are buzzing around for the most A-list characters. But honestly, everyone has always been super chill and very regular in my experience. It's a humbling reminder that this is just another work engagement for them, and they are people too!

#6 - The bulk of the awards are announced in another location, and there are no assigned seats there

The Premiere Ceremony takes place in a secure location across the street from the arena that houses the televised portion. It's a big theater with a full stage, professional lighting, camera rigs, and tons of seating. The lobby area has lots of complimentary food and drinks (which you need to get through the very long day), and you can really come and go mostly as you please. But the coolest part is that there are no assigned seats for this portion of the Grammys, as there is in the televised show. Over the years, I have sat near the likes of Rihanna, Demi Lovato, Dave Grohl, Anderson .Paak, Tori Kelly, Brandi Carlile, Twenty One Pilots, PJ Morton, Tanya Tucker, Monica, Brittany Howard, Finneas O'Connell, Sofi Tukker, Leon Bridges, and more.

#7 - Everyone crushes stadium fast food before the live show

So if you've done the Grammy Day before, you know you end up starving at some point if you're not careful. With having to start the event so early, most people can only get a quick breakfast in during the wee hours of the morning. After light bites at the Premiere Ceremony, you head into the televised portion at the arena. But the next time you'll be served any food isn't until after the show ends... and the show is long. During my first attendance, I missed the food at the Premiere Ceremony, didn't think getting arena McDonalds was something I would like to do in a black tie gown, and waited until the after-party where I knew there would be plenty to eat. Big mistake. I did not eat until after 9pm that night! Madness. So you inevitably watch hoards of attendees dressed to the nines absolutely inhaling burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets in the hallways of the arena. It looks hilariously out of place, but is totally necessary.

#8 - The stage is actually split into two different sets

This was something super interesting to me the first year! I had no idea there were literally two different sets set up on the stage at a time, because the camera only shows one on the telecast. In the meantime while one side is in live use, the other is being set up for the next performer. The sets are incredibly labor-intensive and elaborate, so this is the only way they would be able to make it work and keep up with the timing of their TV slot.

#9 - Commercial breaks are weird

Everything breaks down super casually between being on the air. The director is yammering into the microphone for all to hear (mostly yelling at celebrities to return to their seats), the screens play back old Grammy performance footage to entertain the audience while we wait, and people make a mad dash to the bathrooms. The lights are fully bright and there is typically rushed chaos all over the stage as things reset. Sometimes artists are sound-checking, and dancers and band musicians are warming up and getting into position. Then the countdown begins, lights go back down, doors to the hallways shut, and it's back to showtime!

#10- They use seat-fillers for the floor seats, and they're randos from outside the arena

I remember being so confused the first time I watched this going on. Every time an artist goes up to receive an award or make an announcement, some random person is hurried through the aisle (behind the camera rig) to take their seat! They have to do this so the floor seats look full at all times when the camera pans to the audience. The very weird part, though, is that these people are randos from off the street! I literally watched them line up outside of the arena to be seat fillers! It's literally normal people dressed up in black tie attire, just standing in humongous lines on the sidewalk hoping to be selected. Then periodically some sort of casting director comes out and hand picks pretty people from the line! Those people are invited in and given special permission to have guided access to and from floor seats to satisfy this important role. What's more, they are always seated around the "who's who" of the industry! Definitely a cool experience. Unfortunately, phones are banned - but still a unique opportunity to have that Grammy vantage point!

#11 - Travel to and from the bathroom is restricted during the telecast

Another con of being a part of a live show event, you can't just come and go as you please, even if you need to relieve yourself! The cameras pan the venue often, and it can't look empty. So you must wait until the commercial break to go, and same thing to return. I've had to listen to entire segments from the hallway while security blocked the entrance back inside the arena seating because I was too late getting back!

#12 - The show is so freakin' long... and then it ends abruptly

Your butt is sore. Your legs could use a good stretch. And you're usually starving by the end. You enjoy the show and you wait, and wait, and wait, and then finally... it just ends. Literally completely anticlimacticly. It's so bizarre to have such an over-the-top show for hours and then the music just cuts, lights come up, and the confetti falls to the floor. There's no goodbye, thanks for coming... nothing - haha! It's literally so weird. (Weird enough that I waited 15 minutes in my seat the first year I attended thinking "that can't really be it, could it?") People are usually super eager to go have dinner and party, so everyone hurries out of the venue as soon as possible. It's a full-blown madhouse trying to exit.

#13 - The after-party is legit

Surprisingly, the Official Grammy After-Party is pretty awesome. Every year has a different theme and there are multiple fully staged and decorated rooms filled with live music, entertainers, activities, food from all over the world, and a top-shelf open bar. I have to say, out of all of the parties, weddings, and events I've ever been to in my lifetime, nothing even comes close to some of the Grammy After-Parties I've attended. It's literally like something out of a movie! Plus the live performances are always by a star-studded lineup of artists and bands, and they never disappoint. I've literally been at arms-length from some of my favorite artists, singing along to every word like it was a private concert. It's a total blast, absolutely rivaling the live show. It wraps up around midnight LA time, and concludes with a snazzy little gifting suite as you exit the convention center.

...and there's your inside scoop!

I hope this was a fun and interesting read for everyone, and provides another layer to the home viewing experience this weekend. Welcome to the music industry inner-circle, my friends. ;)


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