The Grammys have always been defined as an annual event that honors the best in music, but the brand recently expanded beyond just the February award ceremony for the first time. The Recording Academy partnered with destination and event production firm Upsilon Ventures and the New York City Mayor's Office for the inaugural Grammy Park, a multi-day live music experience.
The Grammy-branded ticketed event, which took place at Kings Theatre and Prospect Park's Lakeside in Brooklyn from May 5 to 8, delivered nine concerts from more than 30 artists—many of them Grammy winners—for a celebration of a variety of musical genres.
Monty Ross, senior vice president of marketing at Upsilon Ventures, says that the Recording Academy had wanted to dimensionalize the Grammy brand beyond just the award show for some time. As a multi-genre event, the brand targeted music lovers between the ages of 18 and 44.
“The Recording Academy was enamored with the concept of taking a destination space and adding activations and programming,” says Ross. “They wanted to create a destination for people in the city. It was one of those scenarios where there was enough excitement and rallying around the concept.”
After bringing the idea to New York City Mayor's Office and the Department of Parks and Recreation and working out the logistics, the Recording Academy and Upsilon chose the two Brooklyn venues as the event sites. Kings Theatre held concerts for big-name artists like Toni Braxton and Andra Day, while Lakeside, which Upsilon Ventures manages, was chosen as the venue for free programming that included emerging artist and jazz showcases, as well as a gospel concert.
“Manhattan is such a cluttered area, and we felt that everything going on in Brooklyn was right for the Grammy brand,” says Ross. “Kings Theatre was for more intimate, high-profile pop culture programming and Lakeside was for a mix of sophisticated, appealing, and family-friendly experiences.”
For its first edition, the event had little sponsorship. The largest brand presence was M&M's, which sponsored the emerging artists, Ne-Yo, Robin Thicke, and Aloe Blacc concerts and offered samples of three new flavors. Ross says the event plans to have more sponsors and activations if it continues.
“It's a tricky thing to be able to pull off big events without sponsors. For this year, it was primarily about the music.” says Ross. “Over time, we want to get into culinary and fashion experiences. Music touches all aspects of those areas.”
While no more Grammy-branded experiences are planned for this year, the Recording Academy hopes to turn Grammy Park into an annual New York event and a global platform, which would come to other music-centric locations during different seasons each year.