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How musicians get voters to take note

August Brown and Andrea Domanick, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

"What you often hear about the Grammys is complaints about injustices of who didn't win," said music mogul Clive Davis, 86. "A lot of people in the past have expressed the idea that the Grammys are out of touch, steeped in the past, not current enough. So if the effect (of 'for your consideration' campaigns) is that these ads highlight the number of nominees, if it helps restore the value of the Grammys, then I have no problem with it."

A Grammy-season stint on a digital billboard adjacent to the Sunset Strip can run up to $15,000 (companies such as Apple also take out Grammy-themed ad pushes for artists, which also promote their streaming services). Music trade publications like Billboard are booked solid for ad space this time of year, so much so that Portnow said the academy demanded a special ad rate for indie acts.

A sign of the changing times that illustrates the increased spending around the Grammys: The most recent Grammy nominations-timed issue of Billboard, which was sent to all members of the Recording Academy, is said to have brought in the highest ad revenue of any issue in the magazine's 125-year history.

Some of those pricey public options are beyond the means of indie acts.

"A lot of them are working on much smaller budgets so they can't afford the ads in the trades, they can't afford the big billboards on Sunset Boulevard," Lui said. The digital sphere brims with video and social campaigns that, while not able to specifically target Grammy voters, can get awfully close to their general locations and demographics.

But the industry is still figuring out what works in the new world of Grammy lobbying. "It's so new, in a way, that it hasn't been codified," Lui added.

The public campaigns can be helpful for artists in contention for marquee categories, such as Grande and Gaga. But lobbying voters can still be valuable for emerging artists or those in niche genres, for whom a Grammy win gives publicity and opportunities they could never buy otherwise.

The expectation, said Andy Hsueh, the U.S. label manager for Partisan Records, whose artist Bombino is up for world music album this year, is not to reap immediate financial returns. The label is working with Liu's Bampire, in the hopes of elevating "people's perceptions and optics of an artist."

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"There's still significance and weight and importance in being a Grammy-nominated or -winning artist that can have a positive effect on an artist's career as it develops and moves forward. It opens doors," Hsueh said.

Or borders.

"There's a tangible value for foreign artists," said Neil Harris, owner of Punkafunk and manager of duo Sofi Tukker, nominated in the dance/electronic album field. "If you have a Grammy nomination or win, basically the immigration service will let you in a lot faster and easier than somebody who has not."

(Staff writers Randy Lewis and Randall Roberts contributed to this report.)

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