Indie labels dominate Grammy nominations...sort of

Indie labels dominate Grammy nominations...sort of

Rolling Stone reports that an analysis of this year's Grammy nominations by independent label trade organization A2IM reveals that the majority are indie artists.  At first, this might seem like a triumph for the little guy and a stinging rebuke to the business-as-usual of the big labels; on closer inspection, though, it's more of a testament to the chaotic state of affairs in the music industry.

Obviously, it's a good sign when Merge artist The Arcade Fire racks up nominations and makes the public more aware of indie labels. But the Grammys also love to nominate people who have been famous since before the invention of cassette tapes, and this year is no exception:  Willie Nelson, Herbie Hancock, Robert Plant, and Paul McCartney are all nominees, and while they may be on indie labels these days, it's a bit of a stretch to call them indie artists.  Additionally, the fact that every single nominee in the jazz, folk and classical categories are on indie labels speaks less to the dynamism of the indie scene than it does to the fact that major labels have simply decided those genres are unpopular, and will no longer sign them.  The question of what constitutes an indie label, in these days of stealth ownership, is not even addressed.

The NARAS P.R. flacks will no doubt seize on this report and use it to sell the idea that the Grammy Awards are still relevant and cutting-edge, but, just like when they introduced a heavy metal category in 1989 and awarded it to Jethro Tull, it really just serves to highlight their cluelessness.