When it comes to producing a show like the GRAMMY® Awards, nobody understands more than Ron Basile just how hectic things can be. In this exclusive interview with the Talent Executive at AEG/Ehrlich Ventures LLC, we learn what role Ron plays in putting together one of the music industry’s biggest nights.
How did you get started working on the production side of the GRAMMYs?
I’m the Talent Executive, so it’s close to producing, but it’s still a little different. But, anyway, I started out with Ken (Ehrlich) as his assistant and worked my way up from there.
What I do as my job function is, when the talent gets booked, I am the conduit for the talent and everything on the show. So it starts off with me connecting with the talent and gathering information on them, then gathering information for the production manager, and from the tour manager as far as what they’re going to bring and not going to bring. Also, who they’re going to bring, what they can and can’t do scenic-wise and creatively.
After I gather that information, I have probably 30-40 people on an email list who I actually clue-in all the time. So, everyday I’m shooting out emails to our entire team. On that list is a series of people from lighting team to the scenic team, to the video guys, to the…oh gosh, you name it. I let them know what’s coming, as far as the show is concerned because (leading up to the GRAMMYs) there’s only a handful of people who know who’s going to be on the show. So I clue them in; like the director, letting him know who’s going to be on stage, if they’re going to have pyro(technics), if they’re going to have dancers or not. I just keep everybody informed.
Like I said, I started as Ken’s assistant and just worked my way up. So, my job is very rare. All of the categories that Ken picks, I go and get all of the videos and all the music. I also pick all of the music, like the play-ons and playoffs you hear when somebody’s walking onto and off the stage. I’m also the producer for the Stevie (Wonder) show we’re doing.
LISTEN TO RON BASILE ON THE MIEWS PODCAST [CLICK HERE]
A lot of people may think your job is all glam because you get to do the GRAMMYs and work with all of these superstars, but your job is pretty labor intensive. How long does it take to put the show together?
That’s a good one. You know, the show used to happen the second week of January. But, now the dates have moved back and forth because the Oscars moved (dates). This year the Super Bowl is right before GRAMMYs, and a lot of the same people who work on the GRAMMYs also work the Super Bowl half-time show. So, we lose people for a couple of days because they’re multi-tasking. The Oscars happens the week after the GRAMMYs, and it’s the same crew. Only a handful of people do these shows.
Normally, the nominations come right before the holidays and then everybody leaves for two weeks for Christmas. But, I work through the holidays; sending out emails. It would be nice if we had an extra two weeks it would be helpful, but last year (2014) the show was January 26th so we were coming right out of the holidays and a few weeks later we had a show (to do).
Sheesh! That’s crazy!
It’s consuming. It really is!
Let’s talk about talent. How do you guys go about picking the artists who will perform?
No, that’s all Ken (Ehrlich). It’s kind of a process, you know? It’s him and the Academy (RIAA), but Ken’s the executive producer of the (GRAMMYs). He’s my boss and I’ve been working with him for 27 years now.
Candy and I have had the opportunity to sit down with you over lunch and learn the inner workings of your business, and man, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes at the show, right?
A lot going on! (laughs) We’re a live show so, we start off with everybody. All of those dancers and performers are backstage, either in their dressing rooms or preparing to go on stage. As the evening plays out, you start to see it thin out, but there’s hundreds of people backstage. They do, however, keep the aisles and halls clear because everybody knows the rules. We’re all underneath the stage, so that’s why you see the presenters come up from those steps under the stage.
I feel that it’s “Get Smart”, with chaos. We have all these tunnels; one leads to a little private area, one leads to where all of the audio gear is, one leads straight out to the back. We have security down there so, when you see these acts come onto the stage, they’re led either left or right. We don’t have any monitors for people to watch backstage while they’re waiting to go on because, the last thing you want on a live show is to have people in the way of all that gear that’s being moved around. We do our best to keep the space really clear, so there’s a white tape that we put down, and if they cross it they get kicked out. We have LAPD there and they don’t take much, you know?!
Yeah! (laughs) For those who may want to work for you at AEG/Ehrlich Ventures; how do they get a job working with you. Like, where do they send resumes for job opportunities? Should they even try? (laughs)
Don’t! (laughs) We have enough here. No, you know there are some great kids who come through here and everybody starts from the bottom. We have a lot of people who repeatedly work these shows each year. After the show’s over, they go on their merry way. But, we actually have a core team (at Ehrlich) that rarely changes. Every year we know who’s going to work on the shows. So, don’t think you’re going to get out of high school and come to work for us because, it doesn’t work that way.
I hardly ever hire anybody, but when I do, I hire someone who can think fast on their feet. They’ve got to know where to go and what to do. Don’t just sit there playing games on a cell phone, doing nothing. The people I hire are learning, they’re reading the script, they look at the schedule and the acts on the board to see how we place things; they’re busy. I like people who are motivated, rather than somebody who’s just going to come in here to work on the Grammys just so they can see Beyonce in person; you know what I’m saying? (laughs)