Ever wonder what it's like to cover the Grammy Awards show?
If you imagine reporters in tuxes, sitting in the audience with all the big stars, think again. When the winners take the stage at the 41st annual Grammy Awards broadcast in Los Angeles this evening, the press will see them the same way you do -- on television.
The only difference is that their TV is in an auditorium adjoining the Shrine Arena in Los Angeles, whereas your TV is in the living room.
That's not to say there aren't advantages in being backstage at the Grammys. For one thing, of the 95 Grammys that will be awarded this evening, only 15 will actually be presented on live TV; the rest are given out in an afternoon ceremony.
Because they're right there, members of the press get the early scoop on those winners. You, on the other hand, will have to wait until the show starts and then listen carefully when the MC announces, "In categories awarded earlier today "
Also, the Grammy winners generally come backstage after winning to answer questions. So last year, after Will Smith won the award for Best Rap Solo Performance, inquiring minds were finally able to ask just what it meant to be "gettin' jiggy wit' it."
Jealous? Don't be. Because this year, you can have practically the same Grammy access as the press -- without having to leave home.
Log on to http: //www.grammy .com, the Recording Academy's Web site, and you're virtually backstage. Not only will you be able to follow the winners as they're announced, but you'll get an actual backstage view of the show, as well as exclusive interviews with the performers and winners.
That's not to say the folks at grammy.com are trying to steal the telecast's thunder. If anything, they're hoping you'll be logged on while you're watching TV.
"The idea is to support the telecast, to make it deeper, if you will," says Kelly Johnson, an IBM employee who is senior producer for grammy.com. "This is the fun idea of getting to see what's going on behind the scenes."
IBM designed and is host of the Grammy site, and it provides a technical staff of 25 to run the Webcast. The Recording Academy provides the site with its musical expertise and -- of course -- the recording stars themselves.
But unlike the Grammy show itself, grammy.com is an all-day affair. In fact, the site is up from early January, when the nominations are announced, until the end of March. (For the rest of the year, www.grammy.com is simply the home page for the Recording Academy.)
Johnson and her crew have been at the Shrine Auditorium for a week now, hunkered down in "Web central." There, they've been conducting interviews with Grammy performers such as Madonna and Stevie Wonder, uploading photos from Grammy rehearsals and holding "chats" -- online question-and-answer sessions -- with Grammy artists.
Today's schedule calls for a steady stream of activity, beginning at 1 p.m. and running straight through the end of the Grammy telecast. Besides offering chat rooms, the site will have non-stop audio programming with host John Sutton-Smith -- "We're calling him an IJ, as opposed to a DJ," says Johnson -- and quick-cam views of backstage.
All in all, it's almost as elaborate a production as the telecast itself.
"More and more, there is similarity between doing broadcast coverage and doing Internet coverage," says Johnson. "But we're still at the point with the Internet where, though you can have truly live elements, it's not really the same effect. Because even with live audio there's a delay of 30 seconds to a minute."
On the other hand, you can't tell your television where the camera should be pointed, but you can tell the quick-cams at grammy.com what to look at.
Whenever a star goes to "Web central" for an online chat, they're also picked up by the site's quick-cams. Net surfers can use an interface at the Grammy site to direct the camera via remote control -- in effect, making them the equivalent of TV directors.
"We learned in some user testing that we did at the beginning that a lot of users don't believe that they're really chatting with the actual celebrities," explains Johnson. "So this was our way to solve that problem, and it's actually turned out to be really great. We've gotten some great shots."
To access grammy.com, you'll need Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer (included in the current version of America Online), version 3.0 or above. The audio feed uses RealPlayer G2; the site contains a link for free downloading.
What: 41st annual Grammy Awards telecast
When: 8-11 tonight
Where: CBS (WJZ, Channel 13)
Online: http: //www.grammy.com Pub Date: 2/24/99