Hey! Reminder – this Wednesday and Friday are Trapital days off. That “no days off” life is overrated. It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. Many of you will shut down work for the rest of the week as well. On Wednesday I’ll re-share a previous article. There will be no Friday Update.
Tomorrow’s podcast will be the Trapital Mailbag! Make sure you subscribe and listen so you get it once it drops.
Today’s update will cover the Grammy Bump, Spotify’s upcoming awards show, and recent free speech challenges for Morocco rappers.
The Grammy Bump
Now that the Grammy nominations are out, we are bound to see more coverage on the coveted, yet debatable, Grammy Bump.
In 2013, Forbes said that producers and performers get a 55% increase in concert sales and producer fees during the year following a Grammy win. In 2015, Billboard reported an 87% post-show sales bump. This past year’s Album of the Year winner Kasey Musgraves got over a 400% boost in album-equivalent units across all albums. All these stats are true, but they are singular data points that cloud the nuanced reality.
One of the biggest misconceptions with the Grammy Bump is its implied causal relationship with commercial performance. Most of the nominees already attained some commercial success to even be considered for an award. The Grammy Bump often takes credit for all success in the year following the award, which is overly-generous. It’s like a VC funding a modest series E round and patting itself on the back when the inevitable IPO comes. Take some credit, sure. But don’t act like you was with them shootin’ in the gym.
For instance, has Bruno Mars’ career been any different since winning Album of the Year for 24K Magic? The album was already massive. Bruno was already a big-time star. His album got an 89% sales and streaming bump after the show. But was it the awards alone? Or was it his performance with Cardi B that night where they performed a previously unreleased remix to “Finesse” that everyone wanted to listen to?
The same can be said for hip-hop. In February, Travis Scott was understandably mad when Astroworld lost Best Rap Album to Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy. But does anyone honestly think that either artist would have had a different 2019 if the award went to Travis instead of Bardi? The quick answer is no, but the award still matters for the folks who helped work on the album. This where the nuance comes in.
“As an artist, Imogen Heap knows the value of a Grammy firsthand. The UK singer-songwriter has taken home two of the awards, once in 2010 (Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, for her own Ellipse) and again in 2016 (Album of the Year, for co-writing and producing a song on Taylor Swift’s 1989). Winning the engineering award “changed my life,” Heap says, because she gained recognition for the technical studio work she loves but that women are generally undercredited for. She adds that a Grammy can still be especially valuable internationally: “In places like China and India, just the recognition of having a Grammy means a seal of approval.” Winning a Grammy also makes it much easier for people from outside the United States to gain a U.S. work visa. “If nobody knows you from Adam, but you’ve got a Grammy, then it does definitely open doors,” Heap says.”
So while 2016 Taylor Swift was already a superstar, her team still benefits from the 1989 victory.
When the Grammy bump matters
Rap’s superstars have already surpassed the threshold of long-term benefits from the Grammy Awards. At their stage, any “bump” is similar to another platform with short-term exposure—like a Super Bowl halftime show performance.
But smaller artists (and their production teams) stand to gain much more. It’s a stamp of validation on a platform that they wouldn’t otherwise have had access to until much later in their career, if at all.
That’s why this year’s Best Rap Album nominees are especially interesting:
- Meek Mill
- Tyler, the Creator
- YBN Cordae
- 21 Savage
No one on that list is a superstar (yet). Hip-hop’s superstars are Rihanna, J. Cole, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Cardi B, Travis Scott, Kanye West, and Jay Z. Everyone else is a tier below right now (or were once in that tier but no longer).
Meek’s album sold the most on that list, but Tyler has the most superstar potential of anyone. That means that there’s a big opportunity for anyone of them to benefit from an award. Much more than the nominees from years past.
Spotify Awards Show
This March, Spotify is changing the game with our first awards show—one based entirely on user-generated data. That’s right: your streaming choices—whether hip-hop or rock, reggaeton, banda, or cumbia—matter.
Your plays, patterns, and habits will help determine the award categories, finalists, and winners, for the Spotify Awards by providing a true reflection of what fans are listening to. You can get excited for an awards ceremony that actually speaks to what the people are streaming.”
Through a partnership with Turner Latin America, the Spotify Awards will be broadcast live on March 5 from the streaming capital of the world, Mexico City. The Mexican capital has the most listeners on Spotify globally, ahead of even New York City, London, and Paris
Do we need ANOTHER music awards show? Well, yes and no.
The case for yes
We need award shows that don’t just repeat the same cycle over and over. There’s no discernible difference between the American Music Awards, the Billboard Music Awards, iHeartRadio Music Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, and at this point the MTV Video Music Awards (wasn’t always the case, but it is now). They don’t have brands. We expect the winners to reflect pop music popularity, which is exactly what they do.
Some argue that the same can be said about the Grammys, but it still holds its (relative) prestige in its field, just like the Oscars, Tonys, and Emmys.
Spotify makes it clear that its award show won’t be U.S. centric show. It’s hosted in Mexico City, three of the five genres listed are popular in Latin American, and the promo ad is in Spanish.
We currently have the Latin Grammy Awards and Billboard Latin Music Awards, which do have distinct brands! Latin Grammys are more artistically focused and not necessarily reflective of mainstream Latin music. Meanwhile, this year’s Billboard show should have been renamed the Ozuna awards with the 11 trophies he took home. I expect that Spotify’s show will look more like the Billboard Latin Music than the Latin Grammys.
With that said, Spotify should still take an even broader focus beyond its heavy Latin American subscriber base. There’s an entire world of music out there.
The case for no
There’s a business case for everything. Awards shows are no different. The challenge with many awards shows run by distributors (e.g. iHeartRadio) is that they are self-serving. Spotify’s largest “international” playlists are Viva Latino and Baila Reggaeton. It’s in Spotify’s best interest to award the artists in the markets it serves.
The “glass half full” approach could see this as an opportunity to recognize those artists in regions it isn’t successful yet. But do artist wants to be used as a marketing ploy? Some artists are fine with that kind of exposure, but others may have understandable hesitations. I am sure we will hear more about nominees and awards between now and March. Stay tuned.
Moroccan Rappers and Free Speech
From Associated Press:
Moroccan rapper Gnawi knew the police would come when he and two friends released an unusually outspoken video exposing their country’s problems with migration and drugs and expressing frustration with the king. And sure enough, they did.
Gnawi, a former military serviceman whose real name is Mohamed Mounir, was handed a one-year prison sentence Monday by a judge for insulting the police in a case that his supporters say is a backlash against growing public anger at authorities and over a lack of economic opportunity.
Most shockingly to many Moroccans, the song also directly criticizes Morocco’s king and his adviser, taboo subjects and a criminal offense. “The song added insult to the injuries of my country. We didn’t do this project to point fingers or create controversy. We voiced what the majority of Moroccans feel but fear to say. We said it all and it naturally upset those who do not want change,” Lz3er told The Associated Press in an interview.
This sounds like 1989 N.W.A. at the concert in Detroit. Remember, this was the era of hip-hop that still inspires hip-hop artists across the globe. Here’s what I wrote two weeks ago in The Globalization of Hip-Hop, Part II:
“Public Enemy’s rise was a cultural inflection point. In the late 1980s, Chuck D used his voice to challenge the American government and media to do better. “Black CNN” was an outlet for the overlooked and misrepresented. That sentiment gained attention across the world. The worldwide class of unprivileged and disenfranchised identified with Chuck D’s lyrics.”
For those who listened to my podcast with SoundCloud President Mike Weissman, he mentioned that Egypt has been a popular market for its music that highlights the political instability. This isn’t a “trend.” This is life for much of the global hip-hop community. The U.S. hip-hop landscape has evolved considerably since 1989. But we can only hope it doesn’t take 30 years for other countries to get there. Gnawi and Lz3er were brave in their efforts, but it’s shocking to think about the number of artists who would follow their footsteps if the stakes weren’t as high.