Top Grammy contenders find grassroots strength in streaming

Thu Feb 5, 2015 2:40pm EST
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By Eric Kelsey and Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The old-fashioned radio still reigns as consumers' top source for finding new music, but at Sunday's Grammy Awards, online streaming might show itself to be the fast track to industry recognition.

With the likes of record-of-the-year nominees Iggy Azalea and Meghan Trainor breaking out on YouTube and streaming services such as Spotify, this year's Grammys could be a celebration for one of music's few growing segments.

Among the nominees for this year's top awards - song, record and album of the year - only British soul singer Sam Smith and R&B artist Pharrell Williams had a hit that placed among the top 10 radio songs in total plays in 2014, according to Nielsen Music.

"I don't think anyone who is voting thinks that the Grammys happen in a world where streaming doesn't exist," said William Gruger, the social/streaming chart manager at Billboard.

The online success of Azalea's rap hit "Fancy" with singer Charli XCX and Trainor's ode to full-figured women "All About that Bass" underscore the power that streaming - and its young-skewing consumers - have in elevating a song's profile at the grassroots.

Such is the promise of streaming that Apple Inc bought headphone maker Beats for $3 billion last year, in part for its curated music service.

Grammy voters, however, are supposed to cast their ballots only on artistic merit, said Neil Portnow, the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which hands out the awards.

"The fact that music is available to consumers via streaming and via download or via traditional product, that doesn't have anything to do with the awards process itself," Portnow said. "There isn't anything about streaming that relates directly to how those awards are given."   Continued...

Iggy Azalea (C) performs "Beg for It" during the 42nd American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California in this November 23, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files