Music for Sale or the Grammys Don’t Care
by Nina Gayleard
The all-powerful awards given by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to predominantly English music’s top artists encompass the greatest success for every singer or songwriter. The Grammys are an ultimate dream for everyone in the music industry, and most people consider a Grammy award to not only be validation of that artist's greatness, but absolute fact of superiority.
However, the Grammy’s do not represent all music as they so claim to do, nor do they represent all artists, simply because of one underlying rule: In order to be nominated to win one of the beloved gold record player statues, the music must be for sale.
The less than average person will think nothing of this fact, and conspiracy theorists will create an elaborate scheme about the music industry’s plans to take over the world. But think about the reasoning of this rule from a neutral standpoint. Why does it exist?
Maybe it is simply because it hasn’t been relevant until recently, as it is more and more common for artists to produce music independent from labels and to release free music online. But typically these artists are not as famous, accomplished or Grammy worthy. Yet, there is one show-stopper, and to quote him, an “independent contractor” who has been climbing up the success ladder of the music industry without a label backing him up; he is ready to make this academy rule known.
On February 14th, 2016, Chance the Rapper tweeted out, “Shout out to my big bro @Pharrell for telling me to let the world know about The Grammys rule that music must be for sale to be nominated.” It’s not clear why Pharrell didn’t mention the rule himself, but it is most likely because his music is sold for profit. However, both of Chance’s independent mixtapes, 10 Day and Acid Rap, were released for free as was his most recent compilation album with Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, entitled Surf.
While it’s rumored that Kanye West did not attend this year’s Grammy Awards in protest of the supposed lack of diversity, it is quite possible that he is also supporting Chance’s attempt to make this Grammys rule known. He has explicitly stated that his recently debuted album, The Life of Pablo, will never be sold on iTunes. Chance the Rapper collaborated on 5 songs on the album with Kanye, and it is evident that Kanye is in support of his friend’s acknowledgement of the Grammys sale rule. In a song in which Chance is featured, he talks about the future of his next mixtape, rapping, “[Kanye] said let's do a good ass job with Chance three/ I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy/ Let's make it so free and the bars so hard/ That there ain't one gosh darn part you can't tweet.” At least the foreshadowing of a peaceful protest through new free music has Kanye and Chance fans excited to continue receiving free entertainment. As for the Grammys rule, let’s hope it’s made redundant so all music has a fair chance of being recognized in the future.