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Steve Jobs to receive posthumous Grammy

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The Recording Academy has announced it plans to award a posthumous Trustees Award Grammy to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to recognize his role in revolutionizing the modern music industry.

“A creative visionary, Jobs’ innovations such as the iPod and its counterpart, the online iTunes store, revolutionized the industry and how music was distributed and purchased,” the Recording Academy said in a statement.

Apple was indeed a pioneer in the digital music retailing business, launching its iTunes store in 2003 with the support of all major record labels after much arm-twisting from Steve Jobs to get them all to agree to uniform pricing (then $0.99 per track), with the concession that all tracks were protected with Apple’s FairPlay DRM technology. The iTunes Store was greeted with some skepticism—after all, why buy digital tracks when CDs were often cheaper (especially for albums) and a vast library of pirated music was easily available (illegally) via peer-to-peer file sharing services? However, fueled by its iPod personal music player business, the iTunes Music Store turned into a strong success for Apple—although the store now has differential pricing, most tracks are now sold without DRM protection—another move Apple was early to embrace. As a result, Apple has long been the leading music retailer, leaving the likes of Walmart and Amazon in its wake.

Apple was also the recipient of the first Grammy ever awarded to a PC company—back in 2002 when Apple was still considered a “PC company.” The technical Grammy was awarded for Apple’s then-nascent iTunes and iPod business, as well as for recognizing the Mac as the first computer with built-in audio capabilities—capabilities that were one chapter in the company’s long-lasting legal entanglements with the Beatles’ Apple Corps.

The Recording Academy is expected to make a formal acknowledgment of Jobs’ award during the Grammy Ceremony on February 14, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Grammys have always been a bit of a publicity stunt designed to boost sales and focus attention on the music industry—awarding a Grammy to Jobs personally is as much a recognition of his role in the industry as it is an effort to capitalize on the continuing accolades and memorializing of Jobs since his death in October.

The Recording Academy is granting two other Trustees Awards this year, one to longtime producer/songwriter/big-band leader Dave Bartholomew (who wrote and produced for the likes of Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Fats Domino), and world-famous recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who virtually defined the warm, full-textured sound associate with many high-quality jazz recordings—if you love the Blue Note jazz catalog, Ruby Van Gelder is the guy who made it happen.

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