Do the Grammys Matter Anymore? The Latest Data Doesn’t Look So Hot

Grammy interest
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Grammy interest
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Photo Credit: Sudhith Xavier

Are the 2021 Grammy Awards in for a rude ratings surprise? The latest data shows that fans are far less interested in the Grammys — and it’s not just because of the controversy or snubs.

The Recording Academy announced the 63rd annual Grammy Awards nominations earlier this week on Tuesday. But the announcement has been met with sharp criticism from superstar artists – and total ambivalence by the general public. First, let’s dig into what the artists are saying and how that might be impacting fans.

Almost immediately following the latest nominations, The Weeknd — who was notably absent from the list of nominees — took to Twitter to blast the Recording Academy for the nominations this year. “The Grammys remain corrupt,” the Canadian pop star wrote. “You owe me, my fans, and the industry transparency.”

Drake chimed in, defending The Weeknd’s stance while questioning the show’s relevance. “I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones that come after,” Drake tweeted. “It’s like a relative you keep expecting to fix up, but they just can’t change their ways.”

Drake’s comments on how the perception of the Grammys is changing appears to be spot-on.

Last year, the Recording Academy became mired in an ugly political battle just days before its Grammys telecast aired. The infighting witnessed the abrupt firing of then-CEO Deborah Dugan, with appropriate lawsuits and accusations dominating the days leading into the event.

The fallout was swift, with a number of superstars potentially skipping the showcase to sidestep the controversy. After the event, viewership ratings hit a 12-year low, skirting 2008 levels.

That was followed by brutal ratings drops for competing awards shows. The Billboard Music Awards, which aired in October, plunged 55% to an all-time low. Similarly, the recently-aired American Music Awards plunged 50% to another all-time low, even though viewers were theoretically glued to their couches amidst continued COVID-19 lockdowns.

People are tuning out of kudos-fests. And leading into the 2021 Grammy Awards, the preview data looks similarly foreboding.

A cursory glance at Google Search trends this year shows that public interest in The Grammy Awards is seriously waning. Whereas previous years caused quite a spike in Google Search results, this year was barely a blip. People seem to care far less about this year’s Grammy Awards – and artists appear similarly unmoved.

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The large peaks in the chart above represent the actual Grammy Awards airing. But those little spikes are the Grammy Awards nominees announcements, and this year, pre-game interest is significantly down.

Compared with 2012 highs, Grammy Awards interest for the 2020 show was also down nearly 50%.

All of that suggests that music fans are moving away from awards shows. But the continued drubbing by artists — especially on the hip hop side — isn’t helping.

Nicki Minaj recently brought up her old beef with the Recording Academy and Grammy Awards from 2012 when she was a new artist.

“Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on Billboard and bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade,” the rapper wrote on Twitter. “They gave it to the white man, Bon Iver.”

After the outrage and uproar on Twitter over The Weeknd’s snub, Recording Academy interim president and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. responded. “We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated,” he says. “I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent, and his contribution to the music community and broader world is worthy of everyone’s admiration.”

He’s right – The Weeknd’s work is worthy of everyone’s admiration. But the Grammy Awards might not be the best way to show it anymore.

14 Responses

  1. Jim Kasmar

    The artists have to accept some responsibility too for turning awards shows into never-ending political statements. That’s why I stopped watching years ago and I know I’m not alone.

  2. Buck

    As much as some want to say politics is the reason for a diminishing return on award shows, that’s a copout answer. Political statements have always been around and always will be. The reason these award shows are getting more and more irrelevant is that the industry is consuming itself as opposed to investing in itself. The quality of music is terrible and the substance of artists is weak. Long gone are the days when an artist was truly look at for development and long term viability. It’s now all about social media, flash-in-the-pan, quick fame and revenue.

    • CollectiveYawn

      I agree with Buck. Look at all the creativity that happened in the mid to late 60s around the social upheaval – so called protest music.

      We’ve been living in a crazy stupid divisive time the last 4 years, and I cannot think of a single protest song that was released that will transcend the ages.

      Though kudos to Robert Cray for This Man

  3. Roberto

    The Grammy’s just don’t matter any longer. Nobody wants to pay for music. This means next to no revenues for the musicians. Flavor of the month, disposable trash is marketed and promoted to the fans who will always buy what they see and hear. QUALITY MUSIC costs a lot of money but nobody wants to pay for it in 2020. What is the solution? Well, the musicians need to do something to help save their business and start investing in a new and better Platform where the true music fans can buy great music again. No budget music has to be blamed on the music fans who think that we can get a new Beatles and a Sgt. Pepper album without paying for it. Will this ever happen? Of course not! The great music eras are gone and until the fans start paying for music again all we will have is an endless stream of mostly dreadful young girls showing their butts and gyrating to the same old drum loop over and over again. And then you wonder why music sales are down 70%!! And why people have lost interest in the Grammy’s ….

    • Seth

      More people pay more for music now than ever before. Smart money is buying the rights to music and UMG/Sony/WMG are reaping rewards they hadn’t previously imagined.

      If you aren’t sharing in the rewards ask your manager why. No manager? Bad decision.

  4. Paul Resnikoff

    I’d argue that the decline in ‘kudos-fest’ awards shows is caused by multiple factors. It’s a perfect storm, and awards shows aren’t adapting. For starters, linear, cable-based viewing is rapidly on the decline. But so is long-form, non-distracted viewing: even if the Grammys was widely available on every non-linear, on-demand platform, nobody would sit there and watch this multi-hour event without also using their phone or using other browsers (putting it on audio only and panning back when things get interesting).

    Long speeches don’t work because we have 1,000 better options in the moment. Thanking the blah-blah people just isn’t entertainment (arguably, it never was). The political statements probably aren’t helping either, given that Americans are notoriously split on contentious issues and more emotional about them than ever.

  5. James Ridley

    I’m with the consensus that the music of today isn’t up to par. While it may seem like “pop” music is popular, it is, move than ever, by design and by trendy 15-minute fame type appeal. So all the young kids using the internet blow up streaming numbers, likes, and follows. But the reality is they are not the ones likely to be interested in the Grammys. Anyone who might be been interested was only in it to tune into the incredible era defining artists of the time, which, today, simply do not exist. Quality is not a feature of today’s releases and it is what music fans crave most. (quality as to how it translates to generating raw emotion).

    • Ruell Bankasingh

      lol. no matter the style a grammy worthy sing is one that appeals to the masses, no matter their like and is enough to be chosen by all people. this means that it’s not based on what one set of people like, it’s based on what all sets like. for instance, blinding lights is liked by all ages, it’s the number one tiktok song by many older people, they love it in all communities, people of all ages and race love the song. it’s impossible for it to not be chosen. by the way. pop music that is that appealing appeals to everyone, and will continue to be so, this means thinking that wealthy or highly intelligent people dint like pop music is not making sense, since what you like has nothing to do with what you chose to part take in. people stop eating some cereals, but in reality they still like it mostly, but they chose the other for other factors like healthy, but realty is they would eat the other had it been the same and be healthy. pop music is liked by all mostly and if done right, is the top choice no matter who is listening.

      • Eilo

        Top line consideration; As the RIAA certifies Artists ongoing when they achieve product sales, streaming and live performance ticket levels, so could the GRAMMY’s as well, on going, say monthly. In other words when Artists hit certain streamIng and sales levels, they would qualify for A GRAMMY NOMINATION at each predetermined level (ie. Gold, Platinum, Diamond, etc) At the end of each year the GRAMMY’s would tabulate from all the nominations accumulated in various genres to determine the winners. The exception might be on specific CRAFT (production, packaging, humanitarian etc.) awards which could be voted on by committees, fans and peers.

      • Juvanda thompson-rile

        Way to not understand what the grammys is about. it isn’t a popularity contest

  6. Ruell Bankasingh

    See, This is what i’m saying, at first you think, hey, we’ll do it the easy and corrupt way and then boom, you killed the corporation. if they had just done it the right way, they would have continued to be a success in the industry and a lot of people would watch, sometimes more and sometimes less, but they would always be enough people that want to enjoy the show enough to keep the show successful. now no ones believes in it and so they are not going to be something that can represent the music industry and be something to look up too. they know it’s corrupt and so who is going to see you has anything else. they need to make real changes and do things the right way or they will not be around soon enough. no body believes the people being snubbed didn’t deserve the grammy, they believe that they do believe the grammy, and their pissed. they are real fans and they know the whole world is fans of the artist or group, so they know something is not right with the grammys.