Award shows like the Grammys are not what matters—the people are
While music award shows like the Grammys are capable of creating great, memorable moments for artists, it is not the Recording Academy—the council that selects the winning artists—that truly distinguishes artists and their impact on the music world. It’s the everyday Jane and John Doe who listen to their music and pay to see them perform.
The Recording Academy’s voting membership includes music creators, such as artists, engineers, producers and songwriters. “To be qualified for membership, however, voting members must have creative or technical credits on at least six commercially released music releases on a physical album, or 12 on a digital project,” according to The Balance Careers. Voting members are then allowed to vote online during the two balloting periods.
As Drake said in his acceptance speech for Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan,” “My point is, you’ve already won if you have people singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown. Look, If there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need [a Grammy]. I promise you, you already won.”
That really got me thinking. Do we even need the Grammys anymore?
Whether it be paying for a monthly subscription to Spotify, or scraping up leftover money for a ticket to a show, many “regular” people help fund artists’ careers, as well as increase their popularity. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know one of the things I look forward to most is attending one of my favourite artists’ concerts, no matter how expensive the ticket is. Escaping reality, even if only for a few hours, is all that really matters.
With increasing access to endless amounts of music, both technologically and financially, the listener’s ability to impact an artist’s career is greater than ever. Buying vinyls and cassettes has been replaced by online streaming—a substantially faster, easier, more efficient system of musical sales.
According to Nielsen, a research firm, Canadians streamed over 59 billion songs in 2018, a 47 per cent increase from 2017. In the United States, streaming numbers in the first half of 2018 reached close to 403 billion songs. Though the topic of the low streaming-to-money conversion is frequently discussed, I don’t think anyone would argue the power of streaming numbers. They more often than not have a significant impact on an artist’s success, including things like ticket and merchandise sales.
As the people continue to play a huge role in artists’ careers, award ceremonies like the Grammys have seemingly lost their notability. As I tuned in to watch the performances, curious as to who the council would choose to award, I couldn’t help but notice the many empty seats throughout the arena. I wondered if it had anything to do with the unexplained absences of major artists like Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Ariana Grande—all of whom won a Grammy that night. Maybe not, but I couldn’t help but wonder.
In recent years, the Grammys have come under fire for critiquing female artists, its low number of female nominations, as well as for failing to recognize the success and popularity of many significant hip hop artists. This is the suspected reason for Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino declining to perform at the show’s 61st edition.
Music award shows will undoubtedly always have their place as star-studded events with high-budget performances and a long legacy. Though, I think that the importance and notability of their awards will continue to lose value. More people will begin to recognize the immense power that regular people have over the select few of an elected council.