It took less than a week after the Grammy nominations’ splashy television presentation to realize that the shift to a nighttime showcase did not generate buzz or activity.
The Oscars would never let that happen, so why does the music industry — labels and retailers, specifically — fail to capitalize on the announcement of albums and songs deemed the best of the last 12 months?
The Recording Academy gambled last Wednesday night by turning its nominations announcement into a televised concert event. Theoretically, the move was supposed to play off the fluid nature of the modern information age: Nominations could be flaunted promptly to generate sales or, at the very least, information about the nominated acts.
But the noms came out at 7 p.m. Wednesday on the West Coast and by the end of Sunday e-tailers had barely responded. No Grammy categories on iTunes, no nominee listing at Amazon, just a curious “nominees sale” at Best Buy’s website for 42 CDs, 18 of which are not up for Grammys.
The Grammy nominations should be a fulcrum on the Internet to get people listening. More than 7 million people heard the announcement of the nominees in five top categories. Are they not potential customers?
In the digital age, everything should be lightning-fast. E-tailers were presented with a chance to capitalize on music being given a national platform; they chose to ignore it. The top-seller lists at all the retail websites suggest the Grammy noms show had just three beneficiaries: Taylor Swift, who co-hosted the telecast but had no recordings eligible for the awards; and two nominees: Coldplay and the duo of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.
Part of the logic driving the nighttime telecast — that newspapers were no longer interested in printing the noms list and TV coverage was limited the evening entertainment newsmags — proved prescient. Were the Grammy announcements held, as initially planned, on the morning of Dec. 4, you can bet your bottom dollar that none of the cable news channels would have interrupted the automakers’ bailout hearing to discuss Lil Wayne and Coldplay.
THE ONE PLACE the Grammy noms could have been a hot topic failed them: CBS’ “Early Show” opted to talk to a single nominee, the Jonas Brothers, and the hosts only mentioned the most-nominated artist, Lil Wayne, in a joking we-have-no-idea-what-we’re-talking-about manner. More than 500 individuals received noms and the TV network that stands to benefit the most couldn’t be bothered to create a news story. That’s disheartening.
The concert show itself felt like it was conceived as stars of the ’00s plays the hits of the ’70s, a primer for people who had not purchased a record since “At Seventeen” was a hit. The telecast did at least spread the word about the impressive and informative Grammy Museum that opened Saturday.
The selection of material and the acts was political so as to not curry favor with any particular nominee. Or so the Recording Academy says. John Mayer, who played the show’s finale and then gave an hourlong concert, received five noms for the 51st annual Grammys.
There’s more politics ahead, which may make the coming album of the year race a statement about the voters rather than the music. A Coldplay win, for example, makes a statement about bands sticking with a major label; a Radiohead victory suggests voters are siding with those willing to raze the old label system. Lil Wayne could register a rare victory for popular hip-hop by lining up support from those who see a new paradigm in independently owned labels receiving major-label distribution. Ne-Yo, who won R&B album last year, is a perfect example of the non-threatening, polished performer firmly ensconced in the major label system.
Which leaves the partnership of Robert Plant, who has never won as a solo artist, and Alison Krauss, who has won 21. They sit in the Academy’s wheelhouse — a legend and a Grammy darling — and their album “Raising Sand” has had insiders gushing for an entire year about the disc and their live perfs. A win for “Raising Sand” would also mean a trophy for T Bone Burnett, which could help make up the egregious omission of his name in the producer of the year category.