INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The recording industry holds its annual awards celebration on Wednesday night amid difficult times: artists fighting labels, record companies battling Internet piracy and an overall slump in record sales.
That hasn't affected plans for the Grammy Awards show, at which Irish rockers U2, with eight nominations, and R&B sensation Alicia Keys, with six, are this year's darlings. Neosoul newcomer India.Arie, with seven nominations, is hoping for an upset with her debut, "Acoustic Soul."
On the eve of the ceremony, however, a group of star musicians held four concerts in Los Angeles on Tuesday night to publicize artists' battle for less-restrictive recording contracts and more oversight of labels' accounting practices.
"This is to help artists get their fair share and we thank you for your support," singer Don Henley told thousands of fans who paid up to $170 to see him and the rest of the Eagles, as well as Billy Joel, Sheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks perform at the Inglewood Forum.
Similar concerts in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Universal City featured the Dixie Chicks, No Doubt, Beck, Eddie Vedder, Trisha Yearwood and others.
Money raised at the concerts will go to the Recording Artists Coalition, which is lobbying to change the standard contract that requires artists to produce no fewer than seven albums for a label.
Musicians say it can take decades to produce that many albums, tying them to one company for an entire career. They want the right to terminate contracts after seven years.
A bill proposed by state Sen. Kevin Murray, a Democrat and former music agent, would amend the state labor code to extend that right -- offered to other California workers -- to recording artists.
Record companies counter that they must bind artists to long contracts because it can take years for musicians to become popular, if they ever do.
The major record companies, smaller labels, and companies that press compact discs, make packaging and even provide limousines have formed a group called the California Music Coalition to fight Murray's bill.
They note that the $41 billion music industry is already suffering from disappointing sales, partly caused by Internet piracy.
Henley said successful musicians must fight to protect up-and-coming performers who lack their influence.
"We've organized for every cause under the sun but us," he said. "I hope nobody begrudges us for doing a little something for ourselves."
The audience Tuesday night was generally supportive.
"It's how they make their living," said Pat Fitzgerald, of Orange County. "It's only fair that they would be concerned with how their rights are being interpreted."
Others disagreed with the artists' cause, and said they came for the music.
"These are volunteer contracts and they don't have to sign them," said Dan Vesely.
The Grammy Awards show is to be broadcast live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.