As music’s most prestigious awards show, the Grammys aren’t decided purely by sales or online popularity — winners are chosen by music-makers, not numbers. But like anything in the music industry, those two elements certainly don’t hurt.
At the very least, comparing artists in terms of the figures they rack up online can help you understand the reach of a particular artist — where they’re most popular, and how popular they are apart from the media coverage they receive. One measure of an artist’s reach and popularity is YouTube views. So with the 2016 Grammys nearly upon us, Billboard and YouTube combined forces to create a few graphics demonstrating the global presence and comparative popularity of various Grammys nominees.
Specifically, we’re looking at three of the Big 4 categories: best new artist, record of the year and song of the year. In conjunction with YouTube, we created a few graphics to show the three cities where each nominee (be it artist or song) is most popular across the globe. All data is for 2015. Check them out below, throughout the post.
Some aren’t too shocking — Australian rocker Courtney Barnett, for instance, is most popular in Melbourne — but a lot of this data will definitely raise eyebrows.
For instance, none of the three cities where Meghan Trainor is most popular are in America. The “All About That Bass” singer racked up 26.9 million YouTube views in Mexico City, followed by about 25 million in Quezon City in the Philippines and 20.7 million in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Speaking of Trainor, she’s far and away the most popular best new artist nominee in terms of this data. Trainor’s 20th most popular city market (Los Angeles) still finds her netting well over 7 million views. That’s more than every other best new artist nominee’s No. 1 most popular city, with the exception of James Bay (he gets close to 9 million in London). As for the other two, Tori Kelly nets the most YouTube clicks in New York (1.7 million), while Southern-born country singer Sam Hunt, surprisingly, performs best in Chicago (2.8 million).
But back to Barnett. Looking at these YouTube numbers, it seems her reputation as a critics’ favorite is justified. While the Aussie singer-songwriter has received strongly positive critical attention and some late-night TV love, her YouTube views are less than a half-million in her most popular market, Melbourne — every other nominee’s biggest city market passes the 1.5 million mark. Her biggest total within the U.S. is New York, but even there, she pulled in less than 200,000 YouTube views in 2015. So when the Grammys say they vote based on quality and not popularity, her presence on this list is a testament to that.
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In the record of the year category, D’Angelo occupies the critical favorite position. His “Really Love” video netted 72,000 views in New York for 2015, the most of any city globally. Comparatively, the other nominees in that category — Taylor Swift‘s “Black Space,” Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk!” ft. Bruno Mars — earned anywhere from 7 to 34 million views in 2015. That’s an enormous gap, and partially explainable in that “Really Love” — unlike the other songs nominated — doesn’t have an official music video. Still, it’s evidence that the Grammys nominate at least some songs that don’t benefit from massive radio and marketing pushes.
Of course, it goes without saying that these numbers aren’t on a level playing field. Some songs didn’t release until later in 2015, giving them less time to rack up numbers; others didn’t benefit from heavy radio or marketing promotion. But regardless, the YouTube numbers do reveal that the Grammys nominate a wide-range of artists in terms of online popularity (which, in 2016, is closely tied with IRL popularity).
Looking at song of the year (which contains two record of the year nominees, “Blank Space” and “Thinking Out Loud”), there are two entries that net less than a million views in their most-popular city market. Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” clocks in with 869,000 views in Dallas, while Kendrick Lamar‘s “Alright” gets 949,000 in New York. The other nominee, Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” ft. Charlie Puth, got close to 13 million views in Bangkok.
So does any of this affect Grammy victory? Probably not. Does it help predict Grammy wins? Possibly. Although it’s unlikely any voters are making their decisions directly based on YouTube views, an artist or song’s ability to win Grammy gold can’t be entirely divorced from its popularity.
Check out the data in the graphics provided by Billboard, and compare them to the list of winners after the Grammys wrap on Feb. 15.