So the Grammies have happened yet again – to the general public it’s musics biggest night. It’s a big party with all of their favorite musicians and if they’re lucky a scandal or two. It’s the sort of thing that people fantasize over and which is, admittedly a hell of an event to get to attend. That being said – there’s a whole lot about the Grammies that doesn’t add up – be it general misconceptions or the sort of disillusionment that makes so many musicians turn up their noses at them. I want to take some time to figure out what the Grammies really mean in 2018 and what their repercussions are for your career and for the industry as a whole. There’s always a lot of hullaballoo by people who don’t get it and this can be frustrating. At the end of the day a lot of people don’t put the Grammies in their appropriate context and end up being very angry because of it. So let’s take some time to figure out what they actually are and what they actually mean.
So first of all I think it’s important to accept that the Grammies are essentially an industry rewards show and when it comes down to it, most industry rewards shows are pretty decadent and over the top. It just so happens that the music industry is one that a lot of people feel personally connected too. That just means that this industry party is a little bit more decadent and over the top. When it comes down to it though, you have to appreciate any decisions made about the Grammies in that context. Which is to say that of course they are self serving and made to promote artists who have long been successful. It’s the exact same thing for other industry showcases, they support the mainstays, not the upstarts. This is what makes it all the more exciting when one of the upstarts gets a chance to break through and finds themselves with a nomination. Of course, this is also why the televised portion is the lowest common denominator stuff – they are just trying to make a buck, like any other big event in any other industry.
Now what does it tell us when we view the Grammies through this lens? First it tells us that it is of course a circle jerk and to pretend it is anything else is profoundly remiss. A lot of people think it’s like NAMM, the other big music industry convention that gets a lot of people excited every year. But at least with that you have actual artist reps there and it’s easy to figure out who is somebody and who is just a pretender who has some money and a friend with a minor position at a company that doesn’t actually matter. It’s so much bigger and so much more focused on the spectacle that to assume anything else is really just shooting yourself in the foot. That’s not something people want to hear, but it’s an unfortunate reality. However, EVERYONE is there and it means that the bands who DO get nominations are going to attract the attentions of movers and shakers, no matter what happens, and this leads to something important to realize about the Grammies – it’s surprisingly easy to get nominated.
To get nominated for the Grammies you need to get chosen by the voters. Of course – most of the voters only have a vested interest in a few genres. This means that if you’re in a fairly obscure category – like for example Children’s Music, it’s actually easy to network your way into getting a nomination. On the lower levels, that is to say, not the Grammies you see on TV, but the ones you might read about on your favorite music sites, there aren’t a TON of voters in smaller categories. This doesn’t mean it’s suddenly easy for metal or rock or indie bands to get somewhere, nor is it easy for rap bands, but there are definitely minor categories where you CAN easily get a Grammy. Honestly – do you think that many people have a strong opinion about their favorite Tropical Latin Album? I doubt it. Still – it’s an industry showcase so they are doing their best to honor every side of the industry. This makes sense. It also makes sense that if you get a nomination in a bigger category it’s a pretty big fucking deal.
When it comes down to it, the fact that the inspiration behind this article, Code Orange, got nominated for a Grammy isn’t a sign they sold out, it’s a sign people are taking an interest. And given that I, and everyone else I fucking know saw them play in a basement at some point between 2012 and 2015 it kind of suggests that this band is on to something. It is an indicator to movers and shakers that these guys are worth checking out That’s not a reflection of them being good or bad – it just means that they have been pushed hard enough that maybe just maybe it’s going to make sense for them to be taken out on the next Metallica tour or whatever. Simultaneously, if you get a nomination in one of the smaller categories you’re going to quickly find yourself getting some pretty substantial successes, even if it’s not always immediately obvious. You need to harness it properly, but that’s such a niche article it might not even be worth delving into.
The point being – realize that the Grammies are just a showcase like in any other industry and that is going to inform the choices behind them. Don’t watch them thinking they are trying to showcase new artists or that your band is going to get a nomination and go on TV by some fluke. You need to hustle these things, and if you do you can potentially get a little bit of coverage. That being said – they aren’t a be all or end all, unless you perform at them, and at that point you’re so huge that it probably doesn’t even matter. It’s an interesting event ot be sure though, and while they will always stir up controversy thanks to stupid people they will remain a useful barometer for the biggest things in music.