I’ve been thinking. (What else is new?) In the digital music space where creators can’t depend on streaming royalties to sustain their livelihood it makes sense that artists (and young bands) are self-releasing music and retaining ownership of their master. That’s where the lion’s share of the streaming pie goes. Right?
But the thing is… if we go it on our own we may have to give up our GRAMMY dreams. It’s virtually impossible to get on the ballot when you’re competing in an uber competitive field: Best Pop or R&B Anything….Best Video…etc. The Taylors and Cardis and Eds — mainstream proven superstars who have major label mojo behind them pretty much have the 5 slots in the bag.
So…given that the DIY business model is the new paradigm it would seem reasonable that The Recording Academy moving forward would choose to be more inclusive of this diverse and growing group of independent musicians.
This subject may seem a little self-serving as full disclosure, I’m in the process of making my own album (but I assure you I speak on behalf of many). Knowing my recent history (the audio version of Confessions of a Serial Songwriter was nominated for Best Spoken Word Album), colleagues have asked if I’d consider submitting my finished record as well — that is —if it turns out to be something I’m proud of. But it wouldn’t be as simple as a book as there aren’t thousands of authors vying for a nomination in “Spoken Word.” But in Pop Music? Yeesh!
To avoid the competition with heavyweights, I’ve noticed that some GRAMMY contenders have made efforts to have their material accepted in alternative (but perhaps less genre-appropriate) fields. For example, Aimee Mann (not to be confused with Weyes Blood, Aimee’s sound-alike doppelgänger), won a GRAMMY in 2018 for her album, Mental Illness in the category of Best Folk Album. I’m a big fan of Aimee. Always have been. But I don’t hear how this record is folk. At all.
It’s been suggested that I too, shoot for an alternative category like Best Traditional Vocal Album. But to be eligible for this award material must come from the Great American Songbook — influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century (not my re-styling of own more contemporary hits). Which is why Tony Bennett submits an album (and often wins) almost every year.
So where does a “Shelly” or someone like me go? Don’t we matter?
Just to be clear I do not create with the forethought of winning a prize. I wrote a memoire because I believed my journey was worth sharing. I’m recording an album because after being a professional songwriter for over 25 years, one who’s written songs for everyone else but me, I’m finally ready to come out.
Songwriters are artists too.
Of course a GRAMMY isn’t the holy grail. But in an industry where most of our phones are no longer ringing off the hook with news of “the next single” a nomination can be rewarding recognition for a meaningful contribution or a job well done.
So the question is, are only the most popular superstars worthy of recognition for outstanding work in their field? Given the current environment, that line of thinking seems antiquated. Listen, I’m all for the little fish fighting it out in a big pond as long as those little fish can get into the big pond. But what if they can’t? Maybe they need a pond of their own where they can swim freely and enjoy competition with like-sized fish. 🙄(Maybe they need their own GRAMMY Award telecast. Just kidding….But maybe not! )
Anyhoo…I propose that the powers that be allocate some real estate on the voting ballot for the non-conventional self-releasing artiste and that they move in step with the realities of a modern music-making business model. Of course, just like in the big pond, to be eligible they’d have to have reached some kind of streaming criteria, visibility, etc…). All good.
So…Hey Deborah Dugan (New Recording Academy President and CEO) and Recording Academy Board of Trustees! It seems like a no-brainer that these independents be recognized, validated and accommodated for their gifts and their courage to brave it on their own. 🐟