10
Dec
13

How does an Indie compete with the Majors for a Grammy Nomination?

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!

WAMBULENCE

REGARDLESS OF THE OUTCOME, I PLANNED ON PRESENTING THESE FASCINATING FACTS. I CANNOT IN ALL GOOD CONSCIENCE, CONCEAL ELEMENTS IN ORDER TO PERSONALLY GAIN, OR ENABLE CLIMBING LADDERS WITH MY SILENCE. I FEEL IT IS CRUCIAL TO TELL THE TRUTH. 
IRONICALLY, AS AN INDIE, I WAS ACCUSED OF “GAMING THE GRAMMYS” – AND NOW I AM ACCUSING THE GRAMMYS OF GAMING THE INDIES.
Now, without further a doo doo…

“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)

YAY! I GOT NOMINATED!

YAY! I GOT NOMINATED!

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.

This year, I put my song “WHEN I SING” into “Best Pop Solo Performance.” And it was accepted there! Yay!

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.”  

This article was from February, 7th, 2013, shortly after another unknown Indie, Al Walser, garnered a nomination in Electronic Dance Music. (EDM) This, too, caused the sky to fall in the industry.

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.”

Well,

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?

Which brings us back to the tweaking! Yay!

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.

How?

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.)

Stifle it!

Stifle it!

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?

That's fair.

Indius Maximus VS the Gatekeepers.

In all fairness,  the site might not have the capacity to handle the traffic.  Is that the explanation?

The justification given for limiting our messages was officially due to “spam.” spam

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.

“Due to recent spam issues, we are limiting the frequency of sending messages. The current limit is100 messages/recipients every 1 day . You can send new messages in 21 hours 9 min.”


 Even with this restriction, limiting the traffic by 1000 percent – the site kept breaking down. Crashing. Locking out users’ capacity to send messages. Random personal notifications appeared, after sending far less than the limit, stating you have to wait 2 hours and 7 minutes before you can send the next message. It made the Government’s new healthcare site look good.

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.

How Convenient.

How Convenient.

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!

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.

HUH?!

INDEPEPENDENTS BE HEARD? Say what?

INDEPENDENTS BE HEARD? Say what?

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.)

UNLEASHING INDEPENDENTSSPITTING TEAUNLEASHED?

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.

Get out your magnifying glass.

Get out your magnifying glass.

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20 Responses to “How does an Indie compete with the Majors for a Grammy Nomination?”


  1. 1 barry
    December 10, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    Nice. . .. mostly . .. 🙂
    So are you going to post a link to this in the clubs?? Barr

    • December 11, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      Hey Barr – Yeah, I forgot to change Eric to Edward! Thanks for reminding me, and I fixed it.

  2. December 10, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    Enjoyed reading the article. Being an indie, a few questions still remain in my mind though.

    Do the chances of getting topside as an indie also depend on which category ? I mean, if an album entered in a ‘specialized category’ is promoted on 365 through messages and posts, the chances on winning may be more because usually there are around a hundred entries on it (correct me if I’m wrong) which is not too large a number. On the other hand, a song or composition/arranging category may have well over 500 entries, so that will be a lot more harder. Am I right ?

    Secondly, let’s say that a 365-er has succeeded in sending around a thousand or more messages to other 365-ers promoting his/her entry. Do all the 365-ers even give a listen to that ? What if majority of them just ignore it ? I don’t mean to say anything against them, but it might be an usual tendency to ignore quite a few messages because not many may have the time for ‘combing’ their entire mailbox.

    Lastly, let’s say that all the receivers have heard what an indie had to present. If they like it, will they always vote for it ? This, I think is a crucial point because what if a lot many listeners are biased towards major labels or their own favorite artists, rather than the music ? Could it be that voting for a person/artist can be a stronger preference than voting for the music ? Again I don’t mean to offend anyone. These are just my 2 cents. It’s written on the Grammy® guideline that the voter should vote only based on his/her conscience. What if that conscience is biased less to the music quality and more to other aspects ?

    My take on this is, this whole voting process is kind of based on familiarity, recognition and promotion. For instance, getting one’s work spread out through efficient publicity and radio broadcasting, press releases and so on; and not to mention a simultaneous carpet bombing on the 365 airbase. I did learn a lot from this article. Thank you for sharing.

  3. December 10, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Just one omission here – how Indies are getting there doesn’t mean they have the best music – so how do we make that happen? If an indie with a great album doesn’t kiss enough butts they won’t get over the line – there is something wrong with that – right?

    • December 11, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      Fiona, that is a given. Many of the huge label names get in, because of their names and power behind them. It is a popularity of who you know, and how much money you have behind you. HOWEVER, there are millions of brilliant musicians, and 99% of the people that get the nominations are worthy. The musician is not the enemy.

      • December 21, 2013 at 6:56 PM

        Don’t think for a minute that butt kissing has anything to do with it. The first hurdle is getting people to actually LISTEN to your record. If you can’t achieve that…… you’re doomed. What some people are calling butt kissing is just great networking. A&R wasn’t born yesterday. Many have had a career in that and in so doing, realize the value of gracious networking. Record companies have hundreds of thousands of dollars in their budgets for this very thing. It is now called “swag”. Alternatively, for the indie, word of mouth is crucial. House parties are one great way of spreading new music for those who don’t have a backer. Without ringing endorsements for an artist, who would bother listening? This goes far beyond hiring a publicist or spreading yourself thick on social media. Negative campaigns ruin only those careers of the ones who create them. Something I make sure none of my artists ever engage in.

  4. December 11, 2013 at 12:18 AM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your experiences. I too am an Academy member but in the Jazz category. I realized early that without an already well-known presence the chance getting a nomination, regardless of how good my music (or anyone else’s), would be nearly impossible. I applaud your efforts. Even though you didn’t get the nomination, you successfully introduced your music to a wide range of people that hadn’t heard of you before. And that, in itself, should be considered a success!

    • December 11, 2013 at 9:40 AM

      Thanks Brian. I would love to hear your music. I was astounded at the talent out there. And I thought 365 would be an opportunity for the rare gem to be rewarded. And I’m sure you know the objective of this is to just spread the truth. It has very little to do with me not getting the nod.

  5. December 11, 2013 at 7:07 AM

    Superb, let’s do a radio show about this Linda. At the same time we will track the album that garnered you the nomination a year and a half ago. Doug

    • December 11, 2013 at 9:40 AM

      Let’s do it, Doug!

  6. 11 lisatagaloa
    December 11, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    This was an eye opener. I’ve always thought of the Grammy’s as something to aspire to. If they are indeed implementing these tactics, it’s a sad state of affairs alright. I sitll have a naive outlook on the music industry, borne from coming from such a small country (New Zealand) and having had no idea as to how much money and clout is truly needed to ‘hit’ things like Billboard and the Grammy’s makes me a little sad.
    BUT – I’m still hopeful. Our band’s goal is to work hard enough to hit stages worldwide, so whether we win accolades or not, our focus is on our MERRIN family, building our fanbase and just eating up everything that can help us achieve what we want. Thank you for this blog Linda, it’s been like a crash course on the Grammy’s of sorts. Have an awesome one 🙂

    • December 11, 2013 at 3:49 PM

      Keep Rockin’ Lisa! Are you on the South or North Island? BTW. I think you would enjoy my book.

      • January 23, 2015 at 8:35 AM

        Oh wow, it’s been a year since I read your post? Crazy! My apologies, I never saw this notification, I was a newbie to wordpress and had no idea I got notifications in the top right hand corner 😉

        I’m in the North Island, Wellington area – I need to check out your book then! Hope 2015 is treating you awesomely Linda, big luvs from New Zealand 🙂

  7. December 12, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    I’m not shocked at all by this information. I’m a little perturbed that you mentioned and linked your song three times…. I refuse to bite. 😛

    • December 12, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      HI Lisa, thanks for reading. Are you a musician? The song is part of the story. Whether you choose to listen or not, is up to you….though, you might like it.

    • December 13, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      It never hurts to listen to music, so being “perturbed” about that is curious in itself…Be perturbed when you are duped by the bait and switch in the name of art uncool!

  8. December 13, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    Great stuff – thanks for taking the time and for having the courage to post it. I’m no Grammy apologist but I do hope this is just “growing pains” for them as they learn how to shift to a new paradigm. I hope that, 10 years from now, they’ll have it streamlined and logical. As you say, it starts with transparency. I don’t expect them to ever be fully transparent – after all, if an organization completely publishes the rules, 1000 people will instantly analyze them in hopes to find out how to game the system anew. The surest way to find flaws in any system is to publish the system! But if they would just give us more info, it would make things easier. Keep on rocking!

  9. December 11, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    Are you in Columbus?


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