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Behind the Music 

The Grammy Awards are about much more than what you see on TV

click to enlarge Marc Fechter at his Perfechter Productions studio. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Marc Fechter at his Perfechter Productions studio.

It's Monday morning and local music producer Marc Fechter's head is still reeling. Even from the nosebleed section of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Grammy glamour of the evening before hasn't faded. He sits outside of a downtown L.A. Starbucks recalling how the afterparty especially — where he and his girlfriend were so entranced by the aerial acrobats they didn't even notice Kanye West and Kim Kardashian — left him breathless.

The long weekend wasn't about the show, although that was a perk. Fechter says he passed out handfuls of thumb drives and solidified business connections. He knows what to expect for next year.

"I'm ready to work now. This is the kind of thing that motivates me," Fechter says. "I want to make more music. I'm ready to do more for our scene."

Last week — prior to Sam Smith snatching up four Grammys on Sunday night's rather mundane telecast — Fechter, of Perfechter Productions, sits in his cozy Northside basement studio explaining why the 57-year-old music awards are still worthwhile.

"Anyone in the music business cares about the Grammys," says Fechter, his keyboard armband tattoo peeking out of his checkered, button-up shirt. "A nomination still has the power to change careers."

The producer/engineer/promoter has been a voting member of the Recording Academy, the governing body that oversees the Grammys, for two years. This was his first time attending the live ceremony.

Membership doesn't just dictate the results of one inspiring night. Since joining, Fechter has attended Pacific Northwest chapter meetings in Seattle and Portland, making contacts and gaining insider music-biz knowledge along the way. He's also submitted musicians he's worked with for award nominations, like local singer-songwriter Glen Louis Schroeder and reggae artist O-Shen, a Spokane native.

"It's getting local talent on the same list as other guys," explains Fechter, a graduate of Florida's Full Sail University recording arts program. "Maybe that will get them a potential listen by other voting members."

The major categories are essentially popularity contests, but in a smaller field like reggae, there's more of an opportunity for lesser-known artists to earn recognition. This is where the Grammys, bemoaned by music critics for years for getting choices laughably wrong (i.e., Metallica losing Best Metal Performance to Jethro Tull in 1989), are still relevant. It's the idea that any submitted music can be heard by some of the best in the business.

The crisp, white Grammy ballot envelopes are sent out to the 13,000 or so Recording Academy members the old-school way, by mail.

"This year they offered an online option to hear the nominees' music, but that was new," explains Fechter, who has owned his business for more than a decade.

Selected to vote on 24 categories, Fechter takes the process incredibly seriously. He says that the big categories, such as Album of the Year, which he voted on, include more than a thousand candidates in the first round, making it nearly impossible to hear every song. But once whittled down to a manageable number of nominees in the second round, he scrupulously judges it all.

To become a member of the Recording Academy, music industry professionals must prove they've commercially released songs within the past year. Like most clubs, there is a membership fee. Getting invited to the Grammy telecast also isn't easy; you have to either be nominated or be an RA member. You pay for those tickets, too.

Shannon Roach Halberstadt, former executive director of the Spokane Arts Fund, knows firsthand the importance of the Recording Academy to the Pacific Northwest music scene. She was the executive director for the PNW regional chapter, which includes about 950 members from Montana to Alaska, prior to moving to Spokane in 2013. That was the year that North Central High School's music program was awarded $5,500 by the Grammy Foundation, improving the education of young musicians.

"That's what people don't always know about," says Halberstadt, now executive director at Washington's Artist Trust. "The show fuels what the Recording Academy is doing in local communities all the other days of the year. The ceremony is just the part that's most visible."

Before leaving for L.A., Fechter loaded lime-green disk drives — which also function as bottle openers — with local music and other projects he's produced to hand out to new contacts. Missy Califano, of the local blues band Blues Edition, is thrilled that Fechter included her music at the Grammys this year.

"I think the Grammys are something that inspires people to create," Califano says. "I don't agree with who they pick for the winners, but just that those artists are getting recognition is always a good thing for music."

Schroeder, the local singer-songwriter, is also all for Fechter promoting his music at the Grammys, even if he hasn't felt its benefits yet.

"Marc is always actively pursuing that next step, and I appreciate that about that him," he says. "And hopefully, this helps get our music out there. It's a pretty cool idea." ♦


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