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How musicians get voters to take note

August Brown and Andrea Domanick, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES--Ally Maine is a fictional singer. But she's pushing for some very real awards above Sunset Boulevard.

The singer from "A Star Is Born," as played by Lady Gaga, is on a massive billboard in front of the Chateau Marmont. It's the exact spot where a similar advertisement appeared in the film.

Those who know the movie's breakthrough soundtrack single, "Shallow," will have the song stuck in their heads when they round Crescent Heights Boulevard. And if you're a voter for the Grammy Awards, which air live from the Staples Center at 5 p.m. on Sunday on CBS, you may also remember "Shallow's" nominations for song and record of the year, which could be the first tune from a soundtrack to win one of the top Grammy prizes in two decades.

But "Shallow" is not all that the Grammys and the Oscars have in common this year.

Increasingly, those in the music industry are opting for Oscar-inspired marketing campaigns -- those award season advertisements championing a work "for your consideration" -- in the hopes of snaring a nomination and bringing home a trophy.

Although Grammy campaigning is nowhere yet near the level of the Academy Awards -- having a few Oscar-screener DVDs on your coffee table is a status symbol in L.A. -- at a time when a big social media event can lead to a serious uptick in streaming numbers, a Grammy can be more important than ever.

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"It's a crazy time right now, with heavy concentration in so few places, so anything that moves the dial of something to talk about is so important," said Gigi Johnson, director of the Center for Music Innovation at the University of California, Los Angeles's Herb Alpert School of Music.

"With the scattering of content, the battle for awareness has gotten so rugged. How do you make human connections and take advantage of big things? The Grammys are one of the big things," Johnson said.

For most of its existence, Grammy lobbying was a cryptic process. That was by design, as the Recording Academy keeps its voters and process under tight wraps.

Enter the world of specialty companies, which claim to have a marketing secret sauce with the vast databases of suspected Recording Academy voters. By and large, compared with the Oscars and the Emmys, lobbying for artists was long done in private, often through Grammy-sponsored charitable and social events or more cloak-and-dagger campaigns personally aimed at industry executives.

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