from Rock & Rap Confidential/1998

In June 1996, RRC was the first publication to question the tactics and motives of the "anti-drug" program of MusicCares, the charitable arm of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS-the Grammy folks). We speculated that NARAS president Mike Greene, who on occasion has called for a boycott of musicians who use drugs, really had in mind the confiscation of royalties from artists who suffer from addiction, a disease, not a crime. Certainly, the major record labels who control NARAS would like to see that. Greene vehemently denied such intentions.

We only had to wait two months for a Billboard commentary by attorney Owen J. Sloane, a MusicCares representative, that proposed a royalty grab from drug-fiend singers and players. In private correspondence with RRC, Mike Greene claims that Owen Sloane doesnít speak for MusicCares. But the readers of Billboard have never been told that, and Sloane remains involved and hasnít taken his idea off the table.

Turns out we had barely skimmed the surface of the problems with NARAS and MusicCares. Since February, in a series of articles in the L.A. Times, Chuck Philips and Michael Hiltzik have revealed that MusicCares distributes less than 10% of its revenues to the indigent and drug-addicted musicians for whom it supposedly exists. Since 1992, it has provided small grants to only 524 musicians. In 1995-96, MusicCares disbursed $148,341 to musicians, a paltry sum compared to the $500,000 spent on a "Person of the Year" dinner. At that point, MusicCares sat on a $2.4 million surplus.

In 1994, $109,228 was distributed to musicians. But , MusicCares donated almost that much-$94,516- to the George Bush Presidential Library. This money came from the proceeds of a concert given in Nashville for George and Barbís 50th wedding anniversary. NARAS refuses to tell Philips and Hiltzik what the Bush Library has to do with MusicCaresí mission, which is helping needy individuals in the music community. Unlike any legitimate non-profit corporation weíve ever heard of, NARAS also refuses to give reporters access to its recent financial reports.

Philips and Hiltzik were able to learn that Greeneís salary is $757,000 a year. Thatís four percent of the entire NARAS budget.

Greene recently signed a record deal with Mercury after shopping his demo tape to various executives during meetings about Grammy matters. The tapeís producer, Phil Ramone, is not only the chairman of NARAS but the president of N2K Encoded Music, whose Music Boulevard division is the official Internet retailer of the Grammys.

While one hand so profitably washes the other in the executive suites of NARAS, countless musicians in the United States donít know where their next meal or fix is coming from. Mike Greene says NARAS doesnít give out more help because no one asks for it. If you believe that, you have to stay after school and write "conflict of interest" on the board fifty times.

Bonnie Raitt, a former MusicCares "Person of the Year," expressed shock at the "reprehensible" disparity between income and payout at NARAS. In fact, one of the outrages is that so much of the money is raised through hard work-performances, lobbying-by musicians themselves. Then, in typical industry fashion, executives come in and do whatever they please with the cash that rolls in. Itís up to the members of NARAS to add their voices to Raittís and ensure that NARAS comes under new, more responsible management.

[from Rock & Rap Confidential/1998]

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