Skip to main content

Grammy Breakdown By Label: Majors Sweep Major Awards, Indies Have Strong Collective Showing

You may be surprised to learn: The majors dominated the Grammys.

At the Grammys on Sunday evening, major labels won big across the most popular genres, and Universal Music Group nudged out Sony Music for the most wins — 13 to 12 — across 50 recorded music categories.

Major label-associated companies brought in 17 of the 20 Grammy categories — 85 percent — associated with pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop, country and dance/electronic. Universal-owned Capitol Records came away with five of these (three trophies for Sam Smith and two wins by Beck, which label head Steve Barnett was quite pleased with). Sony-owned Columbia Records had four wins across 20 popular categories; two for Pharrell (best pop solo performance for “Happy” and best urban contemporary album for GIRL), one for Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga (best traditional pop vocal album for Cheek to Cheek) and one for Beyonce (best R&B performance for “Drunk in Love”).

Independent labels won three of these 20 popular categories. Aphex Twin‘s Syro, on Warp Records, won best dance/electronic album, beating out four titles with major-label ownership. The win is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Warp had just a 0.09-percent track equivalent album market share last year, according to Nielsen Music. Second, the album is the only one of the three mentioned here without a major label attached in any way, as Warp Records is distributed by the independably owned Redeye Distribution.

Indie wins also came in the country and rock genres. The Band Perry‘s “Gentle on My Mind” from the Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me EP soundtrack is on Big Machine Records, which is distributed by Universal Music Group. Jack White‘s Lazaretto, winner of best rock performance, was produced by White’s Third Man Records and licensed to Sony-owned Columbia Records.

Indies fared better in other categories, winning 20 of the 50 categories most associated with recorded music and record labels (categories related to songwriting, arranging, production and packaging were excluded from these calculations). Major label-owned titles were less common in jazz, world and Americana categories, and were completely absent in bluegrass, blues and folk.

Label group shares of Top 50 categories:
            — Universal Music Group: 26 percent (13 wins)
            — Sony Music: 25 percent (12 wins)
            — Warner Music: 10 percent (5 wins)
            — Independents: 40 percent (20 wins)

Top 20 Grammy categories:
            — Majors: 17
            — Indies 3

Top 50 Grammy categories
            — Majors: 31
            — Indies: 20
Independent labels received nearly all their wins outside of the popular genres. With four wins in jazz categories, Concord Jazz was the only independent winner with more than 1 win. The rest of the independent-label wins were scattered amongst labels big — Disney Music’s Frozen soundtrack — and small — Jo-El Sonnier’s Kickstarter-funded The Legacy on Takau Records, among others.