The 55th Grammy Award nominations were announced this week and amongst the news that Kelly Clarkson nabbed a bunch of nods for her amazing pop vocals and Justin Bieber was snubbed for his, is the accusation that unknown electronic dance musician Al Walser stole his first and only nomination.
House.net, an electronic music blog, was the first place to break the story that Al Walser may have cheated the system to get his nomination. They base this on the fact that he is a man who makes his living teaching people “secret tools” to make it in the industry, his song is terrible and they had never heard of him prior to the nomination. I had never heard of Al Walser either, but I learn about new music by watching trailers for films, hearing a song I like and then googling what song it was. So, when Esperanza Spaulding won Best New Artist last year at the Grammys, I clearly hadn’t heard of her either. The difference between Spaulding and Walser is that jazz experts had known about her for years and she really is very, very good. The electronic music experts, however, have no idea who Al Walser is.
Do you know who does know who Al Walser is? Grammy voting members.
Daniel Weisman, a former Grammy board member, pointed out on the Huffington Post that Walser prides himself as being a Grammy voting member. He also points out that you can sort of buy your way into this position if you have the right connections. He also goes on to point out that on Grammy365, the Grammy’s private social networking site, Al Walser has over 4,000 friends, or as Weisman calculates, about a third of the Grammy’s entire voting body. Most of the people who vote on the Grammys are artists, producers, industry experts and, well, older people who were influential in their youth, but who may not have their finger on the pulse of electronic dance music.
Weisman’s theory is that Al Walser spammed his Grammy365 friends with info promoting his work, so that when the time came to nominate the best EDM song, they recognized his name amongst the Swedish House Mafias, Skrillexes and Simian Mobile Discos they don’t usually listen to.
So, basically, the rumor is that Walser bought his way into the Grammy voting body, self-promoted using spamming and then banked on being part of a lesser watched category to “earn” his nomination. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.
I’d like to tell you that I was surprised by this story. I’d love to say that I think it’s shocking that someone like Al Walser could have earned a Grammy nomination through money, spamming, personal connections and clever social media strategy. Except, in my own experience, this is how the world often works. People can buy their way into fantastic schools where they’ll make important professional connections. I’ve seen people I know spam editors and producers on facebook and twitter and then the next day, their work is featured on one of the dozens of outlets they targeted. I’ve seen people get their resumes to the top of piles not because of their merit, but because of whom they know. And if you can’t believe that someone could engineer a pop career via social media, tell me how you found out about Rebecca Black?
Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with using the connections you have or promoting work you’ve done that you’re proud of. Really. I mean, I only got my first job at Bath & Body Works because my sister knew the manager. Friends will always help other friends out. But the difference between 17 year old me and Al Walser is that once I was given that opportunity, I delivered. I did a really good job on the salesfloor, drove up sales and had an open invite to come back to Bath & Body Works whenever I needed or wanted work. Al Walser’s song is not good. In fact, it’s borderline terrible. And it’s nominated for a Grammy.
The one comfort in all this is that Al Walser will not win a Grammy. At this point, it’s very clear that despite having all the promotional tools in the world, his music is not world class. Moreover the scandal this has sparked will ensure that his social media “friends” will try to stay away from being associated with him on Grammy night. Someone more deserving will win. The cream not only will rise, but the cream stays on top.
The world is an unfair place. You’ll see people get recognition they don’t deserve or opportunities they haven’t earned. The only thing I can say to comfort you–or myself–is what I said before: the cream not only will rise, but it will stay on top.
There’s a famous anecdote that gets passed around comedy circles. Someone asked Steve Martin for advice about how to make it in the face of all that can discourage you. He replied, “Be undeniable.” Basically, be so undeniably good that the people who are trying to push you down so they can boost their friends up can’t ignore how good you are without looking like fools.
That’s basically what’s hitting the Grammy’s so hard this week. Al Walser is so undeniably bad, he’s making them all look like fools.
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