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Cashing In On Music Awards

Latin Grammys could generate $35M for region


June 19, 2001
Copyright © 2001 THE MIAMI HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

The Latin Grammys are expected to inject millions of dollars and immeasurable goodwill into South Florida's economy. Promoters say $35 million will flow into the region in early September, nearly double what the show generated in Los Angeles.

The reason behind the dollar amplification is that staging the show in South Florida is like bringing the mountain to Mohammed. Not only is the Miami event projected to draw twice as many out-of-towners, but the academy also has to truck in a third of its staff and build much of the set here.

``No question, the production costs in Miami are more expensive than L.A.,'' said Michael Greene, president and CEO of both the National and Latin Academies of Recording Arts and Sciences. ``We have a nice warm feathered bed at the Staples Center in LA. We would have a very difficult time replicating the quality of the show if we tried to start from scratch.

``But when we go back to L.A. and think about where to do this event next year, you want people to say `wasn't that cool.' ''

At a breakfast reception to drum up excitement from the entertainment and business communities at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel last week, South Florida's leaders made it clear they would do everything in their power to make sure Greene's bed was well feathered indeed.

``This event will cement our reputation as the Latin music capital of the world,'' Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas said. ``Now it's our job to put on our best face for this event, because the world will see not only what's onstage, but what's in our community.''

Lily Abello, executive director of the Latin Grammy Host Committee, is charged with drumming up sponsorship for the Sept. 11 event. ``My job is to make sure that when you ask the question, `where should we do this next year?,' the answer is `Miami,' '' she said.

Creating the extravaganza requires a 450-person staff, Greene said, and 30 percent of the production's masterminds -- directors, executive producers, set and lighting designers -- will be brought in from Los Angeles. The remaining 70 percent, ``from the general camera crew down to the wire pullers and the caterers,'' will come from South Florida, he said.

``We're certainly going to utilize the resources of South Florida as much as we can, it saves us money,'' said John Cossette, supervising producer at Cossette Productions, which stages both Grammy shows. ``Miami has been particularly good because vendors and individuals have been reaching out to us because they want to be involved.''

Cossette Productions has not yet designed this year's set and has one sitting in storage in L.A. Greene expects to ship a handful of those props from the West Coast, ``some major icons, reinforcements that we hang other things from,'' and to have the rest built in South Florida.

Organizers said between 12,000 and 15,000 people will flood Miami for the show, with each forking out $450 a day for four to five days.

Including production costs, at least $35 million will be pumped into South Florida, Abello said. Last year's West Coast Latin Grammys generated about half of Miami's anticipated cache, or $18 million, according to Jack Kyser, the chief economist of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.

The difference was that 50 percent of the 12,000 capacity crowd was local. ``The academy's here,'' Kyser said.

Abello has been entrusted with generating the $1 million requested by the National Academy to make the show's cross-country transition possible. Most will come from corporate sponsorships, which start at $50,000, with the rest being paid in kind, via limousine trips, air travel and complimentary hotel rooms, Abello said.

Sponsorship opportunities range from the glamorous, like buying loge seats and suites at the AmericanAirlines Arena, at a cost of $3,200 up to $62,000, or sponsoring the celebrity-packed nominee reception and Man of the Year dinner with Julio Iglesias; to the philanthropic and community-minded, by contributing to a host of artistic and educational programs leading up to the show.

Buying sponsorships is one of the very few ways locals can see the event live: tickets are reserved for academy members.

Another change from last year is that executives from Fonovisa, the powerhouse Mexican regional label, are expected to show up. Fonovisa snubbed last year's awards, saying there was a bias within the academy against Mexican regional music. Greene said he since has had ``excellent meetings'' with Guillermo Santiso, Fonovisa's president.

``In terms of representation, we have more members now in the academy because of conferences in regional Mexican music,'' he said. Mexico now has 305 Latin Academy members, more than any other country in Latin America.

There are other signs that the Miami-headquartered Latin Academy is coming into its own. Though it has consistently lost money since its inception in 1997, and needed to be propped up by the National Academy, Greene expects the organization to be self-sustaining within eight months. The Latin Academy now has more than 3,000 members.

CBS' live telecast of the event will be seen by 700 million people in 100 countries, according to Jack Sussman, CBS' senior vice president of television specials.

But Miami will have to fight hard to hang on to the Latin Grammys: the academy is eyeing New York as a possible future venue, and plans are already under way in Los Angeles to regain the event.

L.A. snared last year's Latin Grammys when opposition over possible inclusion of Cuban musicians drove them out of Miami. It made no pitch for 2001.

``We knew that unless Miami really screwed it up, it was theirs to lose,'' said Kathy Schloessman, president of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission. ``But we will definitely lobby hard to get them back next year.''

Herald staff writer Jordan Levin contributed to this report.

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