For musicians, few awards are move coveted than a GRAMMY®. Its role in establishing a career is well documented, and its winners and nominees are among the most successful artists in the community with a global appeal. Since 1998, dance music producers and artists have been recognized at this level, thanks in large part to a successful grass-roots campaign piloted by industry veteran, Ellyn Harris. With her own singing career and promotion company Buzz Publicity, she's had a seat in the front row on both sides of the issue.
For this grooveTV interview taping at club 12West, Ellyn shares information about NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences®) how we can get our voices heard and how she's still keeping it hot behind-the-scenes with insights on what's changed in music the last few years.
Ellyn Harris: Hi! Great to see you!
Great to see you, too. Thanks again for coming down.
EH: I do want to tell everybody (for those who don't know), we have two categories for dance music at the GRAMMY awards [that] took me and The Committee for the Advancement of Dance Music (CADM), two years to convince the GRAMMY organization to establish.
What are their names?
EH: One is Remixer of the Year and one is Best Dance Recording. You know, Cher won this year for "Believe." And uh…
…That would be the reason why we're here because if you know anything about dance, and you don't think that Cher should have been the one to win in that category, we want to create the awareness that you need to vote. You need to become a member of NARAS.
EH: Yeah definitely. I think even though it was not underground, it was a great dance song, it was very popular. Anyway, people that are professional in the music industry can join NARAS and [if eligible] can vote on whomever you want to win. It's not that hard. I don't work for NARAS - I want to let everybody know that - I just feel passionate about the GRAMMY awards and that's why we pushed to get the categories. A lot of people who were high-level in the industry, were trying to get it done but they couldn't. And I want to thank you, too, Donna, because you were always supportive of my efforts. You were there and always doing whatever you could. So I thank you for that.
I thank you for that. No putting me on the spot and just for that, we're going to jump right into this hidden life of Ellyn's…In case you didn't know, she's actually a dance artist. So why don't you tell them a little about that.
EH: Yes. I got started in the early '90s as a (dance music) recording artist. I also had a record label for about three years.
What was it called?
EH:UNITY RECORDS and I released a group called Plush from Italy, as well as my own stuff. I wrote and sang my own songs and a couple of them, "Got A Green Light" and "I'll Show You How," were popular with DJs in Europe and in the U.S. But when I started my nation-wide publicity campaign to get the dance music categories established - talking to the press, getting coverage in all the trades, doing interviews, appearing on TV talk shows and MTV - I fell in love with the Public Relations business.
That's what I am doing now, publicity for the last four years. I am very excited because I'm working with Zelma Davis, who you know from C+C Music Factory. She has a great dance single called "Power" coming out. She's back in the business on a label called, SWANG RECORDS [a new independent label based in NYC]. I'm also excited because Warner Music Group is launching their Essential Selection label in the States. It's already had great successes in the U.K. and is compilation-based. So they are now starting that label [here].
Tell everyone what the name of your company is.
EH: Buzz Publicity.
Get the Buzz baby! Let's talk a little about your impressions of the business over the last several years. Starting with what you think about the major labels in relation to the independent labels?
EH: Well, I know it continues to be difficult for the independent labels to get to a higher level, particularly with radio. But one thing I am glad about is that major labels are now having success with dance product, in particular Republic / Universal and the Warner Music Group - that, to me, is exciting. When major labels are willing to put money behind dance acts, it can help open the doors for us. Just as long as our genre of music gets to a higher level and we get more sales - more recognition, that makes me feel very good. It opens doors I think. Visibility and familiarity opens doors for indie labels.
How do you see that happening in the future?
EH: What I always hope will happen is that our genre will become more visible and popular. As you know, in the U.K. and other parts of Europe, dance music and all of its flavors, is really their pop music. It's very big, and I want that for us. With all due respect to those who want it to stay more underground, that's OK for them, it's a choice. I want to see us all being successful and surviving in the business that we love.
We know that there is an obvious difference between the "culture" [around dance music] that exists in Europe and the one that exists here, what do you think is going to have to happen for that to kick over for us?
EH: I think it's just a matter of getting the music in front of people. We should get it in front of those who are between the ages of 18-35. We need to get the music in front of them, let them know it's available. Kids and adults are listening to it all the time, but they don't know what to call it. They hear it on television in commercials, videos and stores - it's all over the place. But they need to identify it as dance music, club music - and identify with it. So I just want more of it …more of it all over the place!
I hear that! Coming up in July 12th-14th, they're having the Billboard Conference here. What do you think about what Billboard is doing, do you see it helping?
EH: Yeah! I think it's fabulous that Billboard is doing that. A dance music conference here in New York - this is the perfect place. I would definitely urge all of you dance music people to go to this conference. It's finally in New York where we all know it belongs.
There are parties that all the public can come to and support…
EH: Oh! The best!
Thank you so much for coming out.
EH: Thank you.
Interview :: donna ward II Videographer :: Jon Martin II BCAT Producer :: David Alan Poe