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Recording Academy
Celebrating music through the GRAMMYs for more than 50 years. The Recording Academy honors achievements in the recording arts supports the music community.

Cage The Elephant, Tori Kelly, and Sammy Hagar talk about the impact of a nomination

By Steve Baltin

On December 7 , GRAMMY nominations for the 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 15, 2016 will be unveiled. Despite the continuing slew of predictions that lead up to the announcement, the only thing we can be certain of for nomination day is we will see, hear and read a ton of interviews where one phrase is repeated over and over: “It’s an honor to be nominated.” We spoke to a wide berth of people, including musicians, a producer and an engineer to figure out just how much impact a GRAMMY nomination really has and some of the very surprising ways a GRAMMY can help an artist.

Veteran rocker Sammy Hagar won for the now-defunct Best Hard Rock Performance category at the 34th Annual GRAMMY Awards while fronting Van Halen, and while he and his band mates didn’t make the ceremony, he does believe that everyone is indeed flattered to be up for a GRAMMY.

“I think any artist, whether they say it or not, digs the recognition and digs the fact they might be up for one,” he says. “I don’t care if you’re Pearl Jam or Neil Young and these guys that are anti it, when they see their name saying they’re nominated or they just won an award you get a little tingle.”

Getting a little tingle and the respect of your peers is an honor and thrill, no question. And a nomination is, as Hagar calls it, “A great thing on your resume.”

Beyond giving a tingle and a resume boost, what does a GRAMMY nomination really mean though? Does a nomination mean more work, more credibility, higher sales, a longer career? Guaranteed work is a big perk, as is a prime slot on a packed bill. Cage The Elephant’s Matt Shultz says that was one of the benefits his band enjoyed from their 2015 nomination for Best Alternative Album for . According to Shultz, people heard the record in a different light after it was GRAMMY nominated.

“It definitely opened up some doors for us and created opportunities that maybe weren’t there before. Even for some people who hadn’t quite seen the album in its right light yet, I think maybe they revisited it and changed their opinions on the record,” he says. “Everyone wants to have good billing at a festival and I think that’s where GRAMMY nominations and GRAMMY wins help the most for a band like ourselves.”

Both Shultz and 58th GRAMMY nominee hopeful Tori Kelly say that having GRAMMY on your resume is impressive. Though Shultz says it’s less about the GRAMMY title and more what it says about an artist’s work ethic and ambition.

“It makes a lot of sense that possibly producers and engineers and people of that sort would see an artist who had a GRAMMY nomination and be eager to work with them,” he says. “It takes a certain type of person and a lot of hard work to get to that place of a GRAMMY nomination or a GRAMMY win, so people want to work with people who are gonna continue forward and hopefully be successful and make great art.”

As for Kelly she feels the same. “When I see the phrase GRAMMY nominated or GRAMMY winner in front of something it kind of makes you feel like this person is legit,” she says.

From an audience perspective, Kelly points to watching as a fan and getting turned on to a few artists. “I think of Esperanza [Spalding] for sure. I didn’t know who she was when she won, but I was super curious cause she actually performed that year too. So when she was up there with her stand-up bass I was like, ‘Oh, this girl is dope.’ I became a fan when she won that year,” Kelly says. “Even earlier on I remember watching Alicia Keys win a bunch one year, she was so new, so fresh, that was exciting to me.”

Emily Lazar, an engineer who has been nominated for her work with Foo Fighters on , agrees making it on to the televised portion does make a big impression. “I do think that the nominations for the few GRAMMY Awards that are televised — Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best New Artist — definitely deliver more impact as far as overall exposure is concerned,” she says.

As for those artists, like Keys, Norah Jones, in 2003, or the undisputed current queen of pop, Adele, who was unbeatable in 2012, Hagar believes that GRAMMY domination has a profound effect on an artist’s career. “If you come out of nowhere like Adele and makes a great record and gets that much attention on the GRAMMYs she’ll never be the same, that’s life fucking changing.”

Malay, the GRAMMY-winning producer best known for his work with Frank Ocean, received his first nod in 2008. That first nomination did have an impact he believes, but all of the nominations had a cumulative bearing on his career.

“It definitely was a snowball effect. I think the first nomination* was back for John Legend in 2008,” he says. “So from that point on, that was a nomination for one song in an obscure category, then fast forward to when I did all the Frank stuff, I was nominated in multiple categories. So between ’08 and when that record came out, I was still steady working, but since the Frank Ocean record everything I’ve done has been really solid.”

One major benefit Malay received from Ocean’s six nods in 2012, including in major categories Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year and Best New Artist, is more creative license and freedom. “I got right in with artists, so it took the credibility to another level, especially to a label wanting to trust you’ve already proven yourself and you can do something as a producer that’s going to be critically acclaimed, commercially acclaimed or whatever. So you have an opportunity to lock in with doing bigger projects as opposed to pitching songs or hoping someone cuts your songs,” he says.

Regardless of the final outcome or who ends up making it on the GRAMMY stage, history proves that when nominations are announced December 7, there will unquestionably be a bump for several artists, especially for any underdogs who haven’t yet achieved mainstream recognition, a la Spalding. Who knows, maybe we’ll even have a surprise comeback this year, as we did in 2008 when veteran Herbie Hancock scored an upset win for Album Of The Year at the 50th Annual GRAMMYs.

*Malay produced John Legend’s “Green Light,” which was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2008. This category nomination is for the performance of the song, not the production. Therefore, Malay’s first nomination came in 2012 for Frank Ocean’s .

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Until you’ve really attracted a following with your music, a ‘good’ DJ mix on your SoundCloud or MixCloud page is really unlikely to move the needle for you. Again, the industry has shifted towards booking producers and for the most part if you’re DJing is of a passable quality – you’ll absolutely be fine in the long run!

You’ll know when you’ve reached the point after a couple of sucessful remixes and singles under your belt that you might want to treat your fans to a mix.

And when you’ve crossed that threshold of fandom with a few releases to your name you’ll find that you’ll able to really maximize your fan’s attentions and actually get something out of a DJ mix.

Also, they’re a great way to put out fresh content with your name on it in between your release cycles.

Again, here’s the real essence of it in the simplest terms. If you have no fans or followers, you’re unlikely to incentivize people to listen to your sets and really move the needle – no matter how good they may be.

You’ll know you’re big enough when you check your socials and your fans are asking for you to make a mix chock full of your personal favorite records, rather than you making a mix and hoping they’ll evenlisten to it.


You might even want to start a branded mix when you reach that threshold.

Lots of established artists have their own mix series’ where they do this with regularity. Think of Gryffin’s Iris amp; Ink Woman Petra Leather Sandals Blush Size 39 IRIS amp; INK MiWRnH
or ODESZA’s No.SLEEP . These mixes are to showcase what music the artist is into at the moment, whether that be a throwback hip-hop tune from the 90s or a track that came out yesterday.

There is also radio mix shows like Diplo’s Diplo and Friends or Nice Hair by The Chainsmokers. These are usually also aired on satellite radio (BBC Radio 1 or Sirius XM) instead of just SoundCloud. These types of shows exist as yet another continuation of the artist’s brands. It’s a way for them to showcase some of their favorite artists byhaving them come on as guests with guest mixes.

Mix shows are more of a way that bigger artists recognize the efforts of rising talent and showcase them under their own brands, whereas mixes like No.SLEEP are there to build ODESZA’s brand and sound and primarily live on SoundCloud.

There are also mix shows like Group Therapy or Toolroom Radio ,geared towards showcasing new sounds within their respective genres or artists signed to related labels.

Again, if you don’t have a solid group of fans, more often than not it will take you far longer to build a following just through DJ mixes than it would if you put out a few releases and then did a mix when the time was right.

This brings me to my next point.

If you’re an artist who is just starting out and you want to grow your fan base, the best way to do that is to release great music. Both remixes and originals work but we always prefer a good hit single. Hell, a great collaboration works too.

Wikimedia/Public Domain

In 1902, competitive figure skating was a gentlemen's pursuit. Ladies simply didn't compete by themselves on the world stage (though they did compete in pairs events). But a British skater named Madge Syers flouted that standard, entering the World Figure Skating Championships in 1902 . She ruffled a lot of feathers, but was ultimately allowed to compete and beat the pants off every man save one, earning the silver medal.

Her actions sparked a controversy that spurred the International Skating Union to create a separate competitive world event for women in 1906. Madge went on to win that twice, and became Olympic champion at the 1908 summer games [] in London—the first “winter” Olympics weren't held until 1924 in France, several years after Madge died in 1917.

Keystone/Getty Images

Norwegian skater Sonja Henie was the darling of the figure skating world in the first half of the 20th century. The flirtatious blonde was a three-time Olympic champion , a movie star, and the role model of countless aspiring skaters. She brought sexy back to skating—or rather, introduced it. She was the first skater to wear scandalously short skirts and white skates. Prior to her bold fashion choices, ladies wore black skates and long, conservative skirts. During WWII, a fabric shortage hiked up the skirts even further than Henie's typical length, and the ladies of figure skating have never looked back.


A buxom young beauty from the former Democratic German Republic dominated ladies figure skating in the mid- to late 1980s. A two-time Olympic champion, and one of the most decorated female skaters in history, Katarina Witt was just too sexy for her shirt—she tended to wear scandalously revealing costumes (one of which resulted in a Cashmere Silk Scarf Cheryls Mountains by VIDA VIDA yx8gaXh
during a show), and was criticized for attempting to flirt with the judges to earn higher scores.

The ISU put the kibosh on the controversial outfits soon afterward, inserting a rule that all competitive female skaters “must not give the effect of excessive nudity inappropriate for an athletic sport.” The outrage forced Witt to add some fabric to her competitive outfits in the late '80s. But 10 years later she took it all off, posing naked for a 1998 issue of Playboy .

For the 2010 competitive year, the ISU's annual theme for the original dance segment (since defunct and replaced by the “short dance”) was “country/folk.” That meant competitors had to create a routine that explored some aspect of it, in bothmusic and costume as well as in maneuvers. The top Russian pair chose to emulate Aboriginal tribal dancing in their program, decked in full bodysuits adorned with their interpretation of Aboriginal body paint (and a loincloth).

Their debut performance at the European Championships drew faded cropped bootcut jeans Blue J Brand WgwctHL
from Aboriginal groups in both Australia and Canada, who were greatly offended by the inaccuracy of the costumes and the routine. The Russian pair, Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin, were quick to dial down the costumes and dial up the accuracy in time for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but the judges were not impressed. They ended up with the bronze, ending decades of Russian dominance in the discipline. (With the glaring exception of 2002, of course.)

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