Every year, the music industry's favorite artists are nominated for a coveted gramophone-shaped award, bestowed upon a selection of winners in a presentation that's televised to audiences across the globe. The Grammys give the musicians even more exposure and recognition than they already have. But if that weren't enough, the artists also get a ton of valuable swag just for showing up.
Perhaps the best show next to the 57th Annual Grammy Awards (and maybe some of the after-parties) is the Official Grammy Gift Lounge, which is a kind of pop-up boutique adjacent to the site of the actual proceedings at Staples Center. But unlike your regular ol' boutique, everything here is free — that is, if you're a performer, presenter and/or nominee.
By all appearances, it seems celebrities already have everything they could possibly want. So why give them products when other, less fortunate folks could use them more? Well, the benefit of gifting celebrities is that companies can then claim that the star “owns the product” in future media pitches. It becomes a mutually beneficial exchange between brand and public figure.
But someone has to decide which goodies to put together for celebrities, and in this case, that person is Lash Fary, founder of Distinctive Assets, which has been producing the gift lounge at the Grammys for the past 16 years.
The lounge itself seems to have a different “look” each year, but Fary maintains there is no motif. “The theme is just free shit,” he laughs. Fary acknowledges the lounge's appearance has been inspired by different elements of pop culture in the past, including Candyland and Middle Earth. Regardless, it's always pulled together by the same woman who's been designing it for the past 12 years, Pam Morrison.
This year, the ad-hoc look is futuristic big-top, which Fary says is inspired by one of the presenting sponsors, the Japanese beauty company MTG, and American Horror Story: Freak Show on FX. From wrangling vendors to designing the lounge to executing it, Fary says, “It's almost a year-round endeavor.”
There are certain standards that determine which brands get to give out goods inside the official lounge. “The first criteria is, they've got to be able to afford to be here, because it's expensive. It's $25,000 to have a spot back here,” Fary points out.
Distinctive Assets also needs to work around the sponsors of the actual Grammys to make sure there aren't any conflicts. Other than that, Fary tells L.A. Weekly, “It just needs to be something [we] think would be a cool gift. It doesn't mean it has a high price tag, because as you know, when you're a celebrity and you have everything, it's not about the most expensive items.”
But there are expensive items. The total retail value of all gifts combined is just over $25,000. This year, the most pricey present is the Rocky Mountaineer luxury rail journey through the Canadian Rockies ($14,584). Other gifts include an Italian comfort food diet ($250), the world's first seven-blade shaving razor system ($274) — which actually debuted inside the lounge on Thursday — and a MiPosaur robot ($119), featuring a “mobile inverted pendulum.”
These are from just a few of the dozen-plus different vendors, which also include brands touting sunglasses, skate decks, smartphone and tablet cases, jewelry and guitars.
It doesn't stop there. Each presenter, performer and nominee also gets to take home a big, fat gift bag full of more than 50 other brands, with a total retail value of over $5,000. Items range from smaller things like hand sanitizer ($3.99), mints ($8.97), organic coffee ($10), pet food ($10.99) and auto detail supplies($28) to wine ($50), candles ($50), undies ($95), chocolate ($100), perfume ($250) and a car-shaped bag ($300) — just to name a few.
So, the back to the Grammys — who's nominated for which categories this year, again? Seems it may not really matter, as long as we know what the stars all got in their gift bags at the end.