WGA Needles Music Stars, Putting Grammys in Jeopardy

Guild Presses Recording Artists With SAG Cards to Not Attend Awards Show

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Not to sound like a broken record, but it seems like yet another awards show may be scratched by the Writers Guild of America's strike, now in its 12th week.

Several top recording artists who also have Screen Actors Guild cards -- performers such as Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent and Queen Latifah, for example -- are being lobbied by the WGA to not attend the Grammy Awards telecast or present awards, in order to show solidarity with the writers, who are on strike to receive better compensation for material distributed online.

Waiver 'unlikely to be granted'
Gregg Mitchell, a spokesman for the WGA, said: "The [National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences] has not asked the WGA for a waiver or interim agreement for the Grammys. While no Guild decision has yet been made regarding the Grammys, if a waiver is requested for the Grammys, it is unlikely to be granted."

The 50th annual Grammy Awards will be held on Feb. 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast live on CBS.

The WGA figures that the issue of payment for internet downloads will particularly resonate with recording artists, who've seen web piracy devastate their record labels: Physical album sales totaled 500.5 million in 2007, down 15% from a year ago; by contrast there was a 45% increase in digital sales last year.

While talks between the WGA and the Alliance for Motion Picture Television Producers have broken off, interim WGA agreements have been reached with David Letterman's Worldwide Pants, which produces CBS' "Late Show," and with indie film companies such as the Weinstein Co. and United Artists. But any chance of such an arrangement being reached with the Recording Academy seems slim.

Calls to the Recording Academy press office for comment were been returned by deadline. Several calls placed to Grammys producer John Cossette were not returned at deadline.

A representative for Mr. Timberlake would neither confirm nor deny he would attend the telecast.

Makes strategic sense
Marc Norman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Shakespeare in Love" and a member of the WGA's negotiations committee, said that while he had no specific knowledge of which SAG card-carrying recording artists were being lobbied, he thought that the targeting of the Grammys telecast made sound strategic sense.

"I don't see why not, if it's [a case of] SAG members going on a show that only adds to the bottom line of a TV network. They're a production company just like [Golden Globes producer] Dick Clark."

The Golden Globes were, of course, canceled, spelling disaster for advertisers: Last year, the Globes had a 16.0 rating and 23 audience share on NBC; by contrast, this year's stripped-down hour-long news conference announcing Globes winners managed only a 4.8 rating and 7 share, according to early tallies from Nielsen Media Research.

Jack Kyser, the chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., said that while his office had never undertaken a formal study of the Grammys' effect on the L.A. economy, he did note that the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors bureau put the economic impact of the Grammys at $26 million.
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