Independent record labels and artists hauled off some heavy hardware at the 56th Grammy awards last night, claiming the largest share of all awards since at least 2006, when the American Association of Independent music began tracking the ceremony. According to A2IM, independent labels and artists received 50% of the evening’s honors, including big wins for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and Vampire Weekend.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who famously created their own label to produce debut album “The Heist,” took home the coveted award for Best New Artist, beating out major label hopefuls including Kacey Musgraves, Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran and James Blake. The Seattle duo also dominated the rap categories with wins for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. Taking the stage for the Best New Artist award, Macklemore touted the group’s alternative route to the hallowed podium.
“We made this album without a record label,” he said. “We made it independently and we appreciate all the support.”
Notably absent from Macklemore’s thank you speech, however, was Warner Brothers Record’s radio division, which eventually played a key role in promoting the duo’s breakout singles, including Billboard Hot 100 toppers “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us.”
In its count, A2IM defines an independent work as one whose master recording rights are owned by an independent label or artist. Independent labels and artists, in turn, are those not majority owned, or under contract with, any of the three major labels or their subsidiaries, namely Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. This doesn’t factor in partnerships between independents and majors, which can cover things like distribution, marketing, radio promo and more.
Independents also grabbed the honor for Best Alternative Music Album, with XL Recordings’ Vampire Weekend winning for third LP “Modern Vampires of the City.” Recent wins in that category for independents have gone to Bon Iver in 2012 for “Bon Iver, Bon Iver” and Phoenix in 2010 for “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.”
The winningest independent label of the evening was Concord Music Group, which took home six awards including Best Blues Album, Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best American Roots Song.
The success of independents last night was forecasted by a healthy representation in this year’s Grammy nominations. By A2IM’s count, 199 out of 398 nominees in non-producer categories were signed to independents.