When presenters ask "May I have the envelope, please" at music awards shows, there's a good chance Roy Elkins will be the guy handing it over.
At May 10's Madison Area Music Awards (MAMAs) he'll be backstage at the Barrymore Theatre, giving presenters the envelopes they'll use to announce the winners.
The next weekend, Elkins will hang out with Reba McEntire backstage at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He'll be holding the envelopes celebrities like Carrie Underwood will use to present the winners at the 43rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards.
If the MAMAs have the feel of the Grammys, Roy Elkins is a big reason why.
Elkins is the CEO of Broadjam Inc., a Madison-based company that helps musicians promote their music online. In 2004, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) selected Broadjam to create an online voting mechanism for their annual awards show.
MAMAs founder Rick Tvedt teamed with Elkins in 2005 to adapt the ACM online voting tools for local use. 2008 is the third consecutive year Broadjam has facilitated MAMA submissions and voting.
Elkins grew up in Michigan and made his music-industry connections working for Ensoniq Keyboards. "My job was to train sales staff and to handle artist relations," he says. "We'd lend our synthesizers to artists in exchange for their endorsement. I had the opportunity to work with Joe Walsh, the Grateful Dead, Yes, Will Smith and Boyz II Men, among others."
After a 2½-year run working for Madison's Sonic Foundry, Elkins founded Broadjam in 1999. The company launched its website in 2000. Today, Broadjam promotes the musical efforts of 86,000 members living in 170 countries.
Broadjam's role with the MAMAs had been lauded by some and criticized by others.
"There is little doubt that the MAMAs would not have survived to its third year without the aid of Broadjam and Roy Elkins," says Tvedt. "After two years of using a committee to do all of our awards selection, it became apparent that was not a feasible way for us to continue. Broadjam, with their work with the Academy of Country Music, had all the mechanisms in place for us to make the leap to the Internet."
But not all Madison musicians who submit materials through Broadjam for MAMAs consideration give the site good reviews.
"My personal experiences with submitting to Broadjam for the MAMAs have not been great, to be honest," says Nick Seward, who fronts the Madison rock band Flat Atom. "They ask for a ton of information for each individual song. When you finally get to the end of the process, there was no real confirmation that everything went through the way it is supposed to."
Seward is quality-assurance engineer for Sony Creative Software in Madison. "I'm used to working through difficult scripts and tedious processes, and even I found it difficult to navigate and submit on Broadjam," says Seward. "That's gotta tell you something."
For Elkins, the integrity of the voting process is his primary measure of quality. "We've had thousands of votes cast, and from an accuracy-of-voting standpoint, it's 100% accurate," he says. "We take that very seriously."
But Elkins acknowledges that the submission process isn't as convenient as it might be, and he's preparing changes to address that next year.
"The MAMAs voters are directed to Broadjam from the MAMAs site, which adds another step or two in the process," says Elkins. "Recently Broadjam moved our entire site to a new platform, and that will help us make substantial changes next year."
Seward says that despite his technical criticisms of Broadjam's work with the MAMAs, he appreciates Elkins' support of the event. "I know the guys who operate the site from my days at Sonic Foundry, and they are good people," he says. "I just have a fundamental difference of opinion when it comes to their overall site design."
With his laidback style, Elkins takes the criticism in stride.
"We donate $20,000 to $25,000 worth of services to this event every year," he says. "It can be taxing at times on some of our employees, but this is our business. This is what we love."