As The Recording Academy faces criticism for lack of diversity and inclusion at the Grammys and seeks a leader to replace Neil Portnow, who will step down next summer, new data-driven awards shows represent another potential challenge to the Grammys’ relevancy in the modern music business.
The Billboard Music Awards also base nominees and winners on data, reflecting U.S. consumption. But the Midem Music Awards are looking globally.
“Data allows us to create categories that are difficult to handle on a voting basis,” says David Weiszfeld, co-founder/CEO of Soundcharts. “If you want to create a category like ‘top Anglophone-African music export,’ that will be hard if you’re working with a human voter base skewed toward the U.S. and Europe.”
Another potential advantage is the flexibility to change category formulas from year to year to reflect shifting relevance and market share of streaming and social media platforms.
“If we had held these awards two years ago, Musical.ly would have probably been included as a relevant platform. But now, not so much,” says Bobby Simms, founder of music startup Emoticast and strategic adviser to Midem. “Next year, with its licensing deals in place, Facebook will probably be a more important platform than ever before. We’ll change the formula and platform mix to mirror the market.”
While the Midem Music Awards has no ambition to become an A&R crystal ball through data, they see their long-term impact as similar to the existing Midem Artist Accelerator in launching artists’ careers to new heights in front of the right people. “We want to work very closely with the platforms before, during and after the awards show, and in turn encourage the platforms to engage with the winning artists,” Alexandre Deniot, CEO of MIDEM, tells Billboard.
Yet even in a data-driven music industry, gatekeepers still have influence. “It might be true that if you’re giving an award based purely on data, then it’s more merit-based than voting,” says Weiszfeld. “But you also don’t become No. 1 by accident.”