Rich Bengloff is president of A2IM, the American Association of Independent Music which helps independent music labels improve business by promoting access and parity through advocacy, education and connection-building with one another and affiliated businesses.
When I started with A2IM seven years ago last month I asked what A2IM was doing to support our members’ award efforts, specifically since they were coming up, the GRAMMYsTM. When surveying A2IM’s independent music label members I frequently heard the same refrain, “we don’t really care about the GRAMMYs.”
Having been in the industry for 25 years I found that reaction strange since The Recording Academy’s members, recording artists, producers, engineers, etc. are the voters for the GRAMMY awards so, unlike many other music awards, the GRAMMYs are awards bestowed by our music industry creator peers. I then realized the lack of interest was, in large part, due to a lack of winning and a lack of education amongst independents about how to participate.
Since A2IM’s focus is, and always will be, on obtaining access and monetization for our community, we went to work educating our members on the rules and getting qualified music label members and their artists to join The Recording Academy. We thank Rob Accatino, Bill Freimuth and Nancy Shapiro of The Recording Academy for their help. Of course The Recording Academy is much more than just the award show. Our members got more involved supporting The Recording Academy’s good work, whether it be lobbying legislators on music issues, providing education in the schools or supporting music community members in need via Musicares.
In turn, as A2IM was growing, Neil Portnow of The Recording Academy allowed A2IM to use their offices for our A2IM Chapter meetings in NYC, Chicago, Nashville and L.A. (where we had the first event in their then new Santa Monica offices). As we pumped up our advocacy efforts in Washington D.C. Daryl Friedman, the Recording Academy Senior Vice President-Chief Advocacy & Industry Relations Officer, took us around D.C. and graciously made introductions and shared their legislative contacts and lobbyists. We in turn took a Recording Academy trustee on our Asia trade mission.
Getting back to the awards, while there are a few awards for producers and songwriters, the GRAMMY awards’ main goal is to honor artist excellence in creating sound recordings across a variety of musical genres, creating the big tent which makes the GRAMMY awards the industry’s most inclusive, honoring the entire music community! This is great for our members as A2IM members share the core conviction that the Independent music community plays a vital role in the continued advancement of cultural diversity and innovation in music both at home and abroad, in part because larger U.S. creator businesses, in many cases, no longer invest in the creation of the less mass market-driven uniquely American niche musical genres still invested in by our community. A community that has a key unifying thread in common; they are business people, about 15% of our member labels are artist owned, with a love for music while also trying to make a living.
As Indie label and artist revenue market share has grown over the past seven years, Billboard Magazine’s analysis of 2013 market share by master ownership using Nielsen SoundScan shows a share increase to 34.6%, the Indie label percentage share of GRAMMY nominations and wins has been on an upward spiral as well. This year independents scored 50% of nominations and last year independents took home over 40% of the awards. These wins are not just for the important niche genres, but also for top categories like Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album and the last five Album of the Year GRAMMYs have been signed to our A2IM Indie label members,* independent labels who participated in the creation of these albums. No surprise about that as our members sell a body of work, albums, not just hit tracks. These critical successes have helped fuel revenue increases as well so that our members can invest in new signings and marketing more artists. We look forward to Sunday night as do many of our members…and we wish them all the best of luck!
*Fact Check- Last Five Grammy Album’s of the Year:
2009- Raising Sand- Robert Plant/Alison Krauss-Concord/Rounder
2010- Fearless-Taylor Swift-Big Machine
2011-Acade Fire-The Suburbs-Merge
2012-Adele-21-Columbia/Beggars XL-Marketed by Columbia in the U.S. but signed to Beggars/XL and licensed to Columbia (and believe it or not a bigger hit outside the U.S. where it was released a month earlier and marketed by Beggars)
2013-Mumford & Sons-Babel-Glassnote
(2014- Hopefully Macklemore & Ryan Lewis or Taylor Swift to keep it going!!)
Billboard welcomes your responsible commentary. Please send ideas/submissions to site editor [email protected]