UPDATE: Walser will not be stripped of his Grammy nomination as some reports have hinted: "The bottom line is he got the votes," according to a Recording Academy spokesperson.
Al Walser may have been relatively unknown in the land of EDM but that didn't stop him from winning a Grammy nomination for his single "I Can't Live Without You." When the official list of Grammy nominees was released late last week, the EDM scene got pretty worked up that Walser was on the list for Best Dance Recording. How did he do it? The most likely explanation appears to be that he networked effectively on GRAMMY365.
Last year a low-profile musician, Linda Chorney, surprised a lot of people with her Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album. At the time she was quite open and unapologetic about her GRAMMY365 networking process and has gone on to feature the honor in her branding.
Though no one quoted in media pieces about this year's surprising nomination of Al Walser knew anything about him, his official website explains a bit more about his background in music. A piece in Spin digs deeper into his web presence and some of the oddities revealed. But the question of how Walser got the nomination, given that his profile is so much lower than other nominees in the category, is ultimately more compelling than his actual identity.
Al Walser had a number of things to say about all this in an interview with MTV News:
"It comes down to two things...Great music that you stand for, and that you think is really good and worthy. And drive ... drive, drive, drive. If it wasn't for the drive, and just talent, our charts would be filled with Gospel singers. And they are not."
In addition to dissing Gospel singers, evoking the "make great music" mantra and referencing his "drive," Walser discussed his GRAMMY365 networking process:
"I've been a voter for years...And there were some relationships that were established. Especially me being in Los Angeles. They see me. I perform in Los Angeles, and I let them be a part of the process of the song growing. I'll shoot an email to a few of the guys and say, 'Look do you like this? This is how the hook sounds. What do you think?'"
Former GRAMMY board member Daniel Weisman weighed in with more on the GRAMMY voting process and Walser's use of GRAMMY365. He characterizes GRAMMY voters as old ("over the age of 40") and out of the loop (not "part of the zeitgeist") which apparently made them susceptible to what Weisman describes as his "theory":
"Al Walser gamed the Grammy noms by trolling/spamming the Grammy365 website, much in the way bands used to game Myspace back in the day."
To back this claim up, he shows a screenshot with a few messages about the single including simple posts of the video and the making of video. The other posts Weisman shows are announcements that Walser has a new radio show up. There's really nothing excessive here and certainly nothing that would qualify as trolling or spamming except to old school web purists.
But Weisman does point out that about 76 percent of GRAMMY365 members can vote. That suggests that at least 3200 voting members are contacts with Walser on the network which Weisman feels is enough to win a nomination in lesser known categories. In addition, he believes that most voting members are uninformed about EDM and would be likely to vote for names they know from Skrillex (via mass media) to Walser (via networking).
So when we get past the various insults being thrown around and remind ourselves that lots of music we don't like does really well in the marketplace, this nomination pretty much comes down to a musician succeeding in a highly competitive setting by making the right tactical choices for networking.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/App.net) blogs about music crowdfunding at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM). To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.