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Friday, December 3, 2010

The Indies Just Got 273 Grammy Nominations. But Will That Blend With Bieber?

Did you happen to catch the recently-broadcast "Life & Times of Justin Bieber"? It also went by another name - the "American Music Awards," does that now ring a bell? Sure, the teenagers stuck around, but the AMAs suffered its worst ratings performance in history. There was just too much Bieber, too many stale faces, and too many reasons to reach for the remote.

Looks like the Recording Academy was paying attention. This year, over half the Grammy nominees are technically independent - though of course, groups like A2IM are eager to stretch the definition (as in, Taylor Swift counts as an indie). But groups like Mumford & Sons, Esperanza Spalding, Band of Horses, and Arcade Fire will all be featured at the ceremony next February, among many others.

Sounds refreshing, but look closer at the top nominations, and you'll see that major label priorities are still dominant. Eminem got ten nominations, while Bruno Mars followed with 7. And Justin Bieber is up for Best New Artist (he's new?) and Pop Vocal of the Year. Others are also top heavy: Jay-Z, Lady Antebellum, and Lady Gaga each received 6 nominations.

Then, the list starts to diversify a bit. Jeff Beck, B.o.B, David Frost, Philip Lawrence, and John Legend received 5 nominations each. And, Alex Da Kid, the Black Keys, Drake, Cee Lo Green, Ari Levine, Katy Perry, Rihanna, the Roots, Dirk Sobotka, and Zac Brown each grabbed 4 apiece.

This isn't an indie rant, and the Grammys aren't an indie showcase. A huge market exists for mainstream artists, and no one wants a Long Tail Awards Ceremony. But the question is whether the Grammys can keep both crowds happy, and blend Bieber with the Black Keys, Jay-Z with Zac Brown, B.o.B. with Band of Horses.

Will it make any sense, or can these crowds mix? The variety hour is about to get a serious ratings test.

The complete list of nominees is here.

-Paul Resnikoff