This year’s first Grammy ballot is currently in the hands of the Recording Academy’s voting members. Laypeople may be under the false impression that the Grammy awards are rigged. On the contrary, the Academy has gone to great lengths to level the playing field and to ensure fairness.
Having said that, it’s a longshot for an independent artist, or even a major label artist without deep pockets, to make the leap from the first to the second/final ballot. The first ballot is basically a free-for-all. There are so many artists competing for voters’ limited attention spans that my mental image is that of the sea of faces in the iconic Woodstock photos snapped from the stage. A veritable multitude of individuals shouting, “Choose me!”, anonymously disappearing into an ocean of minuscule dots.
Similarly, everybody listed on the first ballot is hawking their wares to other voting members for their “consideration.” If you’ve ever seen those full-page ads in Billboard magazine with a banner that says “For Your Consideration” above an artist’s visage and some category names like “Song Of The Year” or “Best New Artist”, then you’ve seen ads connected to the first ballot.
I’m amused every October when new or indie artists announce that the have been “nominated” for a Grammy award. They are misrepresenting the process—the first ballot vote tally determines the official nominees. The voter package may list literally hundreds of entries in “consideration” for a category like Pop Vocal Album, but only four or five will be the “nominees” on the second/final ballot. Those chosen finalists are the same nominees announced during the televised broadcast right before we hear the words, “And the winner is…”
The nominees are typically artists with hit recordings on the charts. Voting members sometimes pick songs and artists with whom we are familiar because there are simply not enough hours in the two-week voting period to listen to everything listed on the first ballot, especially when we don’t recognize 90% of the names. (The second ballot is a different story: we have three weeks, skirting the holidays, to listen to the cream of the crop before casting our “winner” votes.)
So, the question is: how does one make the leap from “for your consideration” to “nominee”?
If you have access to vast resources like the major labels and superstar artists do, it’s simple. Saturate the market with a solid promotion campaign so that everybody knows about you and your music. Unless they are hiding under a rock, voting members will know who you are. It’s up to them whether or not they like you enough to actually vote for you, but at least they are aware of you. You have a shot.
If, on the other hand, you are an independent artist, you’re traveling a tough road. You may be the best band since The Beatles, but if nobody is aware of your existence, you won’t make the second ballot.
As glamorous as the job of being a successful record producer may seem to the uninitiated, I can emphatically tell you that I do not have the resources to promote my new artist album, titled Marchesano, to compete at that level. (You may stream the full album here.) Rather than writing off the opportunity, I decided yet again to “friend-source” the necessary support.
In Friend-Sourcing, Part 1, I discussed the importance of developing and nurturing balanced two-way-street relationships. Part 2 was about converting a surplus of good karma into significant and meaningful press generation and brand building. Now, in Part 3, I will describe yesterday’s successful call to action.
I looked at the calendar and counted only a few days remaining before the first ballot needs to be completed and mailed. My manager Jan Seedman and I discussed a few options, including an email appeal to everybody who worked on the album to let their friends know about it. Ultimately we decided to use Facebook as the vehicle. My appeal was simple: ask my friends to share links to my album and some individual songs before the first ballot is due.
I briefly let them know that I was on the “for your consideration” ballot in several categories, including Best Contemporary Instrumental Album; Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical; and (ironically) Best New Artist. I attached a link to stream the full album, and asked my friends to share it far and wide.
Some of my friends, including Michael Goyette, guitarist from Save Ferris and Artificial Joy Club, shared heartfelt posts encouraging their friends to rally the troops and “share, share, SHARE!!!” Michael’s friends actually did it! By the end of day one, nearly 1000 streams happened on Bandcamp alone, and 72 people shared my original post. Plus other folks began new threads with links to their favorite tracks from the album, which were in turn shared by others.
This may not seem like much traction when compared with The Weeknd or Taylor Swift, but it’s much more than I had happening a day earlier. A few voting members told me that the increased visibility put me on their radars, so they listened and voted for me. More importantly, I was gaining new fans with whom I can communicate directly.
If you want to help spread the word, you can! It’s easy. Click on this link to my original Facebook post, read it, leave a comment, and share it with your friends. For extra credit, follow up with a link to your favorite songs every day until Monday morning. I couldn’t ask for anything more valuable than this: a timely opportunity to make folks aware of my music.
Ask, and ye shall receive. Especially if your friendships are genuine.