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It’s Easy to Win an Award (If You Know How)

September 10, 2018

It’s almost “awards season,” when every branch of the entertainment history holds lavish, televised parties to give one another trophies to recognize greatness. While Grammys, Emmys, and Oscars are voted on by a winner’s peers, there are some ways to game the system…just like these people did.

Who is Al Walser?

The 2013 Grammy Nominations were announced in December 2012. The category of Best Dance Recording recognized some heavy hitters, and looked to be a competitive category—chart-toppers including Avicii, Calvin Harris, Skrillex, and Swedish House Mafia. The fifth nomination, however, went to Al Walser. If you’re not familiar with dance music, you probably haven’t heard of him. Actually, if you are familiar with dance music, you probably haven’t heard of him either. At the time of his nomination, his Facebook page had 1,400 likes and his music videos on YouTube had amassed just 7,000 views. Walser is a Liechtenstein-born producer and DJ, and author of Musicians Make it Big: An Insider Reveals the Secret Path to Break into Today’s Music Industry. Perhaps the book covers his scrappy path to a Grammy nomination: He marketed himself on Grammy 365, a social network solely for Grammy voters, sending out 7,000 individual messages asking people to listen to his song. It worked (although he lost the award to Skrillex).

The Tourist and Burlesque? Seriously?

Two of the most critically savaged movies of 2010 were The Tourist, a confusing spy thriller starred Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp; and Burlesque, a Cabaret-meets-Showgirls project starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. Neither film had any Oscar buzz, but both secured nominations for Best Picture: Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. How did that happen? The Golden Globes aren’t presented by an organization of film professionals (the Oscars, for example, are handed out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). They’re awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association—a collection of entertainment journalists. In the midst of the hubbub over the nominations for The Tourist and Burlesque, it was revealed that Sony, distributor of both movies, provided lavish, all-inclusive trips to Las Vegas for members of the HFPA. While they were there, writers got to attend an exclusive concert from Burlesque star Cher.

Who is Linda Chorney?

The musical genre of Americana is a soulful and hearty blend of country, folk, blues, and rock—think acts like Bonnie Raitt or Emmylou Harris, both of whom have won a Grammy Award for Best Americana Album. At the 2012 Grammys, Levon Helm beat out formidable nominees Ry Cooder, Lucinda Williams, Harris…and somebody named Linda Chorney, a singer-songwriter with six albums to her credit, all of them self-released. The album which landed her the Grammy nomination was called Emotional Jukebox, and at the time of her industry plaudit, not a single copy of the record had been sold. How did she get such top-shelf recognition? Like Walser, Chorney took a “grassroots” approach to Grammy campaigning, befriending and messaging Americana category voters on Grammy 365, the awards show’s social network. Chorney didn’t win of course, but she detailed her conscious plan to score a nomination in a book…which the very DIY-minded musician self-published.

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