THE FOLLOWING BLOG WAS WRITTEN IN OCTOBER, AND INTENDED TO HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED THEN.
UNDER ADVISEMENT FROM A FEW FELLOW GRAMMY MEMBERS, I DELAYED THE RELEASE OF THIS PERTINENT INFORMATION, UNTIL AFTER THE RESULTS OF ROUND ONE. THEY FELT MY VOICE WOULD BE AMPLIFIED, IF I PULLED OFF ANOTHER NOMINATION.
THIS IS NOT AT ALL A “SOUR GRAPES” REPORT. NO NEED TO CALL THE WAHHMBULANCE. THE CHANCES OF ME GETTING THE FIRST NOMINATION FOR THE EVENING’S TELECAST, AS AN INDEPENDENT, WERE NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE. TWAS A TOTAL HAIL MARY. AND I CONGRATULATE ALL OF THE NOMINEES, ALL WELL DESERVED!
“HOW DOES AN INDIE COMPETE WITH THE MAJORS FOR A GRAMMY NOMINATION?” (Pardon the novel)
We have to work our asses off. That’s how. We have to jump up and down in Cyberspace, and plead, “Listen to me! Listen to me!” Listen to MY MUSIC.
Most Indies don’t have the luxury of exposure of national airplay, immediate name recognition, giant tours with giant audiences, or a budget to promote on a large-scale.
So how could I have been nominated two years ago?
Well, The Recording Academy set up this amazing, groundbreaking on-line site, called Grammy365, for it’s members to communicate. It was friggin’ spectacular! Ingenious! Wonderfully intended for networking. And I met a lot of great, talented people.
But was it set up for us to actually get nominated?
How can an unknown get nominated above a huge star with a machine behind them?
That question is answered with one word. Math. Well, two words….Math and Good Music. Well, that’s actually three words. So, yeah, three words. Oh wait! If you count the “and” that’s four words. Okay. That question is answered with four words. And if I added a “duh” I could make it five.
If an Indie can get enough votes, they can get nominated.
How many votes does it take to get nominated? The obvious answer we’ve all heard. One more that the top 6th guy.
And the only way to get considered by that many listeners..is to get your music to….that many listeners. (VOTING LISTENERS)
Two years ago I was able to get “Emotional Jukebox” to…that many listeners.
So. What if I could not have gotten my music to….that many listeners?
I would not have been nominated.
You may ask, or not, “But I thought you were an Americana artist last time?”
Yes, I was. But it seems that my music is deemed to cross over many genres, even “Pop!” I don’t care what you call it, as long as it’s music. I’m not much into labeling things.
Last year a decision was made by The Recording Academy, without informing its’ voting members, to place a committee in Americana and all “Roots” music, (As well as Children’s music), to pick the final five from a group of the top 15 voted in. And it is my understanding that this committee can opt to pick 2 more artists that didn’t even make the top 15. From that 15-17, they vote on the final 5. So it is of my opinion, that if there had been a committee when I was in the top 5, I would not have gotten the nomination. Just a hunch. I cannot say for sure…but I would bet my life on it. (Which was actually threatened for getting the nod! Yippy.)
Fortunately, Pop has no committee, (allegedly)…it is a true democracy. Jazz, Classical, Country, Christian, and a bunch of others have committees as well. (I won’t even comment why Christian music would need a hierarchy to control.) I have also made the suggestion that members have a right to know if they did, indeed, make the top fifteen. Why not give them a certificate of acknowledgement for this achievement? Why the big mystery behind closed doors? And why not even reveal the identity of the wild card artists? Transparency is fair.
Now let’s get back to jumping up and down, working extremely hard to have members listen to our music as an indie…we are talking full days, seven days a week…for THREE weeks. Last year in an article from NPR, they had written double the amount, that I allegedly jumped up and down, for reasons unbeknownst to me. It actually says,
“Walser is not the first person to aggressively lobby on Grammy 365. Last year, Linda Chorney claimed she put in 20 hours a day for six weeks to land herself a spot in the Americana category. Freimuth says the Academy is now considering tweaking the rules on how potential nominees can use the site.”
What I took from the article is that it insinuated we hounded members, as an example, saying I spent every waking hour “aggressively” lobbying, thus supporting the need to “considering tweaking the rules.”
A) They tweaked them. (Although these new rules don’t apply to the Majors)
B) After Al was nominated…they put a committee in EDM to pick the final 5.
C) When I called NPR to ask them where they got that quote of “20 hours for six weeks”, as it says, “I claimed“, the writer said she got the information from The Recording Academy.
I replied, “You never asked me. It’s not true, And I would appreciate a retraction.”
It is now a year and a half later…no retraction. No correction. What is up with that?
Now I can absolutely understand how some members don’t want to be bombarded with musicians groveling to hear their music. There are some folks who put armies of members on their albums, and they all promote, ad nauseam. Their odds are increased simply by getting to more voters. Therefore, there is an option to not receive any messages at all during voting season. Problem solved…but what if you do want to hear from only certain people? One also has the option to accept/block/or de-contact anyone they want. Problem solved.
Or is that not the problem?
Wait, let me first randomly add part of what my acceptance speech was going to be…
To dedicate my award to all of the musicians (the 99%) that do it for a living. That believe in their music, sing and play their hearts out in bars and clubs, where you might be plunked in a corner of some restaurant, but it pays the bills…or it used to pay the bills. (Now drink prices have tripled and wages have been cut at least in half. ) Then you get that occasional person coming up to you during your break, saying, “Wow, you are really good. You wrote those songs? You should be playing in Matteson Square Garden.” Then you laugh and roll your eyeballs…”I wish.”
My wish came true, sort of. I had a very large audience to hear my music, via the on-line site, Grammy 365, exclusively for members. And they listened….and they voted…for me! (Old News, I know…making my point.)
This year, during round one, where Indies jump up and down in cyberspace, they decided to make our galaxy much smaller. They put us back in the corner of the restaurant, with a little 4 channel Peavey, and a radio shack mic.
They made our audience smaller.
At first, without notification, during the voting process, they spontaneously limited our messages to only reach 25 other members per day. I was not pleased with this, along with many other members, and communicated as such. (Assuming in a three-week period, that means, by the end of the voting period, I could reach 525 of my 2,360 contacts.)
Then it was increased to 50 messages to be delivered per day. Now, please keep in mind, during this process, you are also listening to OTHER people’s music. So, you want to show them the respect and courtesy to respond to them, giving them feedback on their music. As a voting member, it is my responsibility to listen. And there was some incredible music I discovered this year. But hearing this amazing music requires a little tennis match, back and forth, of communication. But not if you are being stifled! I felt like Edith Bunker.
Then around half way through the process, they increased it to 100 messages you could send. (I’m hearing Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams in my head…Too much too little too late) This could potentially be enough ears, IF these ears liked the music enough, to compete with the Majors’ support network.
EVERY WORD IN THIS SONG RINGS TRUE TO THESE NEW RULES. IT IS COINCIDENTALLY SPOT ON.
When this new rule was instated, or should I say, slid in, I couldn’t help but picture the Romans vs. the Gladiators in the Colosseum. The slaves are ill equipped, while the other guys have giant chariots, and full armor. And just when you think that’s bad enough, out come the tigers. Really?
In all fairness, the site might not have the capacity to handle the traffic. Is that the explanation?
When one accepts someone’s contact, they are inviting members to send considerations. Hence, it is NOT spam.
The only spam associated with the Grammys that I can think of, perhaps, would be a popular dish for some Hawaiian Musicians…but they cut out the Hawaiian Category. So that’s out. Below is a message I received.
It is of my humble opinion, (ooh! Linda, you have another opinion?) that membership has grown so much with Indies, since Al’s and my highly publicized nominations, that the voting power was shifting. (It has doubled from 6,000 to 12,000 on Grammy 365, since my nod) For dues at 100 to 260 bucks a whack, that ain’t chump change.
They created this monster, and didn’t know what to do to keep the big guns happy, and keep us out…in this non-profit organization.
Yes, they tweaked the rules.
When numerous people complained about the system not operating well, feedback was given… The issue would be addressed after Thanksgiving….after round one is over. As the Church Lady would say, “How convenient.” There was no sense of urgency to fix the problem. It seems as if their problem was fixed.
When I was last nominated, statistically, at least 30 percent of the messages I sent, were replied to. And I also received a good 30 requests per day of other people’s music to consider, as I am a voting member. Bottom line, I had the ability to reach 4 times as many voters in 2011, as I did this year, in a genre which demands a ton of support to be a contender with mega-superstars.
This year, oddly enough, for every 100 messages I sent, I got only about a 3% return. And only received an average of around 5 requests per day. I found that peculiar. “Hello. Is this thing on?” Tap tap on the mic, as I sing in the corner of the restaurant.
Suffice to say, this decreased my “audience” from an entire planet, to a small town.
Fortunately, there are people outside of this town that were able to pony express their music to me, and mine to them. Maybe 500 members TOTAL. That of course does not guarantee they would all like WHEN I SING.
Was it enough for any of us to compete with the majors? I dunno. Maybe in New Age, Reggae, World, or Spoken Word. Certainly not for Pop. I did my best to get it out there. (And enjoyed doing my best to fuck with the gatekeepers.) I think my little song has a big message. Is it worthy of a nomination? Who knows. I am in the company of astounding talent! (It made me blush to see their names next to mine.) Hey, Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Sting, Elton John, Kelly Clarkson, Will Lee, and other icons didn’t get the nod either. Who am I kidding? I didn’t stand a chance. It would have been nice to have a fair shot anyway, but they even took away my sling shot!
Of course, there is the option given, a special price for members to spend like 5 or 6 grand to put out an advertisement in Billboard Magazine. Such a deal! Apparently it is fair if you have the money to get your music heard. But your 100 dollar annual membership fee no longer holds that value, as misleadingly advertised. (See “The Independent” Below)
And ironically, last year, Billboard had an article, in a special Grammy edition, about the advantages of membership; how it opens doors…using my name as an example of an unknown getting a nomination…which was kind of cool. Except that at the same time, The Recording Academy had placed the committee in Americana, removing the welcome mat to the Indies there. Months later…..after the fact, (and after I had mentioned it in my book & a few blogs) they revealed the changes to the members. (And when I say Indie – I mean INDIE. No affiliation with a known label or popular music association.)
As a member of The Recording Academy, I feel it is my duty to respectfully speak out. Who else will? I am proud to be a member of such a wonderful organization that does so much good for the community in the name of MUSIC! And I still feel so honored and humbled to have been nominated. My concern is not ruffling the feathers of the miniscule percentage of the elite gatekeepers – – although it is not my objective to do so. My objective is to promote fairness and transparency…in my own little corner in my own little chair…(some of you got that Cinderella Musical reference.)
Is this a little personal? Yeah. A little. I wrote a book about my Cinderella story, had the honor of presenting my TED talk, but I’m no Edward Snowden. This is not a matter of National Security. There are way more important things in the world to focus on to make a difference. Does anyone care about this? Some Indies do. I do. Will the press or general public care? Most likely, not. Truth isn’t sexy.
Below is what is actually on the Grammy365 site in a section, under THE INDEPENDENTS: (October, 2013) Perhaps they will take it down after reading this.
The Recording Academy would like to invite you to become a Member. Why?
By submitting and voting in the GRAMMY process, your voice as an independent artist is amplified. The GRAMMY is a peer-voted award – not decided by a committee or the public nor is it based on sales. The GRAMMY is awarded by musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers and other recording industry professionals who are making music today, just like you. If you want to help shape and shift this industry, becoming a member is the first step to allowing your voice to not only Be Heard, but it’s also the first step to… well, everything.
How on earth do these words support having committees, and limiting our messages? Is that what “well, everything” means?
I was also informed of yet another tiger. I was told through the sour grape vine, that any unrecognizable name making the top 15 would be “investigated”. If they had accumulated many new contacts in the recent months, and campaigned aggressively, it will count against them, deciding the final five. Afterward, I received this message from the same source. I have no proof of the content’s validity, but this is what it said:
“If someone did a lot of politicking on G365, that will count against them in some way. Exactly how? I don’t know. This is what I heard from a source who got it from someone on a committee.”
If this is in fact, true, then why don’t they just tell members that “politicking”, (even though they limited it already) will be used against them, if they make the top 15? Why can’t they just be transparent? BEFORE hand. I just don’t get it. Who is in charge of making these decisions? I am sure there is a reasonable explanation. Can we hear it?
Fundamental fairness requires that the rules at least be made known to the membership before they are applied.
Is there a rule that you may only acquire a limited number of contacts in a year? A month? What ARE the rules?
My song says, “No one can hurt me when I sing”. But I feel these new rules hurt Indies chances of having a fair shot to compete with the majors for a nomination.
The good news is, despite these new restrictions, I was delighted to see a few REAL Indies, receiving enough support by using facebook and other means to communicate with other members, managing to get in New Age, Jazz, Classical, instrumental Composition & Childrens. We also had quite a few great submissions in World, which strangely, only had 4 Nominees. (None of which were “us”.) But no categories seen on the Grammy Evening Telecast. And I am pretty sure if they had not introduced these new rules, Indies may have dominated quite a few more categories.
In conclusion, do it your way. You make the rules. It’s your club. But be honest about it. If the gatekeepers don’t want us orbiting around their galaxy of stars, just let us know, so we stop jumping up and down wasting our energy in cyberspace. And if we still want to remain members, paying our dues, based on what is actually offered, that is our choice. It’s all good. But please don’t claim you are “unleashing” the Indies in your latest advertisements for the 56th, when you have leashed 12,000 members. (I nearly spit out my tea when I saw these.)
As I sit here hovering over the send button, I’m wondering if writing the truth will make a difference? I believe the majority working for The Recording Academy have ethics and integrity. I have spoken with many very nice staff members. I’ve never spoken with anyone I didn’t like. But, will the gatekeepers try to kick me out? Am I breaking a rule by telling the truth?
And too many people are complacent. Many members were very unhappy about these new rules, but they dare not speak up. Or they just shrug their shoulders. Or they think somehow if they suck up to the Mighty Emperors they will move up the ladder. Or if they associate with the likes of…me…it will also block their advancement. I think about the gladiators in the Colosseum. If we stick together, we are strong. If I’m abandoned, I will surely be slaughtered. But quite frankly, I am tired of the Monsantos messing with the farmers, the BP’s messing up our environment, the pharmaceutical companies messing with our health, greedy bankers getting slaps on the wrist for highly profitable unethical behavior, and Washington more concerned with their contributors than doing what’s right. It always comes down to money, control, and power. The only power I have? My words…and my music.
Here are all of the categories with committees to date.