Inside the race for this year’s best new artist at the Grammys
So what does this mean for everyone? Several industry sources say Billboard that labels generally ignore potential competition when deciding which artists to submit, since those decisions are made at the start of the year. “We put our mantra at the top of the year,” says a source at the label, “and we follow it throughout the year. But strategy comes into play, given that even a nomination in the category has the potential to dramatically change an actor’s career. “Mumford & Sons have been nominated [in 2011] and they didn’t win, but I think that motivated them, ”said Glassnote Records Founder / Chairman Daniel Glass. “The next time they were nominated they took home the album of the year award.”
Artists and executives have long complained about the ambiguity of the Best New Artist rules, which have changed several times over the past decade. The award is given to the act that “made a breakthrough in public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape” during the eligibility year, according to the Recording Academy rulebook. Each year, an official selection committee reviews the list of nominations – which can have anywhere from 500 to 1,000 names, depending on one source – to determine who is eligible. Last year, the Recording Academy removed a rule that disqualified artists who had released 30 songs or three albums – better reflecting how artists publish music today, but making eligibility even more subjective.
Most labels and their artist teams identify this “breakthrough” by looking at factors such as multiple hit singles, good circulation, magazine covers, and placement in artist programs like YouTube’s Artist on the Rise. . “We’re looking at live footfall and merchandise sales,” says Glass. “You know you develop fans when they buy your t-shirt. »Another label source method? “My test is for people outside of the industry,” she says. “I will say to my friends and family: ‘Do you know [this artist]? ‘”
To complicate these calculations, an artist can be submitted up to three times for the best new artist. For acts on the verge of becoming famous, especially in a particular genre, they must choose between trying to capitalize on the initial buzz or wait for an even bigger breakthrough in the future. Margo Price had previously been hailed as the next country music star following the release of her debut solo album, Midwestern farmer’s daughter, in 2016, but the success of its 2017 follow-up, Made entirely in the USA, earned her the nomination for Best New Artist at the 2019 ceremony. “She had reached a whole new level of stature,” said Matt Pollock, co-CEO of Price’s management firm, Monotone. “It was a justifiable submission because she was always in a position in her career where she had this moment.”
Rodrigo will likely face competition from Australian The Kid LAROI, who has won two top 10 singles in the past year: “Without You” with Miley Cyrus and “Stay” with Justin Bieber, the latter having reached No. 1 on the Hot 100. Rapper Saweetie and young pop star Tate McRae are also set to receive nominations, while critical favorites like Japanese-British pop star Rina Sawayama and British singer-songwriter Arlo Parks could also get started. One of the biggest obstacles to a victory for Rodrigo could be his true leadership status. “People may think Olivia is a shoo-in and might not vote for her [because of that]Says a source at the label, who also wonders if Rodrigo’s retroactive credit to songwriters on Sour pieces to recognize similarities to other songs might stifle its own buzz: “She’s really visible everywhere, but I don’t know how she’s received in the artist community.”
If Rodrigo doesn’t win, it wouldn’t be the first surprise in the category. The 2011 ceremony, when jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding beat Bieber and Drake for Best New Artist, is proof that anything can happen at the Grammys. All factors considered, the winner is sometimes the result of good timing. “You never really know,” says a source at the label. “You are lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”
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