Alicia Keys opened the 2019 Grammy Awards among a diverse cast of women whose presence filled the room on Sunday night. Surrounded by the likes of Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, J. Lo and Michelle Obama, Keys delivered an inspiring message as the host of the evening. The first woman to host The Grammys in 14 years, Keys was praised for her calming demeanor throughout the night, but when she took the stage to perform for the audience, she was nothing short of fierce.
Straddling a piano and a keyboard, Keys hammered her instruments, the tools of her trade, to belt out some exciting covers. While it wouldn't be a stretch to think Grammy performers like Alicia Keys get paid a pretty penny to play at the awards, our investigation into the topic suggests they don't. Instead, Keys would have received an agreed upon amount to host the awards show. Generally, non-hosting artists don't get paid to play, and Grammy winners don't take home a check with their trophy.
How can that be? The truth is, a Grammy mention itself is valuable. Performers and winners receive a substantial boost from the publicity, and then the trophy becomes an expensive paper-weight. How expensive varies considerably depending on who's buying and who's selling. Here's a look at the value of a Grammy:
The Grammy Bounce
In 2012, Forbes was the first to coin the term the "Grammy bounce", at least in the media. In their article exploring the value of a Grammy, they talked to rapper and producer David Banner, who said he doubled his producer fee from $50,000 to $100,000 after getting a Grammy for his work on Lil Wayne's release, Tha Carter III, in 2009. His 50% increase was modest compared to his contemporary, Jim Jonsin, who increased his fee by 90% after also working with Lil Wayne for a Grammy win. A random sampling of producers and performers showed most raise their rates a minimum of 55%, with some receiving a boost of up to 150%.
In 2010, Taylor Swift arguably butchered a Grammys duet performance with Stevie Nicks on the Fleetwood Mac track Rhiannon and then went on to take Album of the Year for her second album, Fearless. Even with the bad press that resulted from her lackluster take on a classic, her demand soared, allowing her to increase her performance fees by 380% and bringing her nightly earnings to a whopping $1.1 million.
As far as who can expect a Grammy bounce from last night's event, following a string of Grammy wins, including Record of the Year, it remains to be seen what impact this might have for Donald Glover, who performs as Childish Gambino. Glover was not there to accept awards for the album and song of the same name, This is America. While accepted on his behalf by his production team, these designations made Grammy history as the first rap songs to be given the prestigious awards. If history tells us anything, Glover's wins and the subsequent press around his calculated Grammy snub are sure to offer him a boost if he chooses to capitalize on it. That's even if he didn't receive the gift bag door prize, the value of which has been said to be upwards of $50,000 in the past.
How Much Does a Grammy Cost?
If artists who receive a Grammy more than double their revenue afterward, a Grammy itself must be pretty expensive, right? That really depends on who you ask. For instance, ask any manufacturer of awards and you might learn to make a diecast Grammy perfect replica with the same materials as an actual Grammy, gold-plated zinc alloy, likely costs around fifteen dollars. That doesn't include access to the equipment it would take to make it, though, just the value of raw materials needed. Zinc currently goes for about $0.80 per pound.
That being said, depending on who the Grammy went to and the circumstances under which it is being sold, it will likely cost you much more to buy an artist's original Grammy. For example, in the aftermath of Johnny Cash's death, an estate sale auction saw his Grammy for Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording (1986) go to one lucky buyer for $187,000. However, in the rare case that a Grammy is sold, they sometimes go for much less.
In an episode of the show Pawn Stars that aired for the first time in 2010, an attorney sold Ron Dunbar's Grammy for Best R&B Song (1970) for the song Patches, which topped the Billboard charts that year. While the seller asked for $15,000 initially, he settled on just over $2,000. The reason for the price cut? Dunbar is a songwriter and not a performer, and therefore it's less valuable. On the bright side, that Grammy made its way back to Dunbar after the show aired and before his death in 2018.
The Grammys are much less strict on regulating re-sale of the awards than their counterparts in other parts of the entertainment business. The Oscars and the Emmys both take precautions to ensure winners don't sell and will pursue legal action on the auction of the prizes. However, it's surprising that there aren't a lot of Grammys for sale on the black market, in general, given the lack of strict regulation preventing it. The rarity of these items is sure to stoke the flames of their value, but when it comes to pricing a Grammy, what we know is that you have to take into account the life of the person awarded, their role in the production, and the vintage of the award. In other words, if you're trying to buy a Grammy, don't hold your breath.