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  As you'll see from this week's Beef Of The Week, awards ceremonies are still very much in the news. In the UK, talk has turned to the NME Awards, where most seem to be wondering how Matt Bellamy can possibly have won the Hottest Man award four years in a row. However, in the US a debate is raging over the relevance of the Grammy Awards as a whole, when artists who are liked by the voting panel can beat artists who have huge fanbases.
 

The simple answer is that the thing that is the most popular is rarely the best or most creative. And assuming awards are handed out to the things that are best, rather than the things that are most popular, you're always going to get a more diverse selection from an industry judging system than if you just went and asked members of the public. Because then whoever has the biggest and most proactive fanbase will win, regardless of creativity.

Look at the NME Awards, for example. Voted for by the public, the award for best festival almost always goes to Glastonbury. And when it doesn't, it goes to Reading and Leeds. Why, because these are the biggest festivals, and the ones the highest number of NME readers go to. So much so, it's almost not worth asking.

That's not to say that having a panel or whole academy of industry judges is perfect, nor that they wouldn't occasionally pick Glasto or Reading to win the Best Festival prize. But other events would almost certainly get more of a look in, if only because some of the judges will be more aware of what else is out there simply as a result of their job. And where a small panel decides who actually meet, well then people are forced to argue the case for why they think their favourite is also 'best'.

And, of course, less mainstream acts do occasionally triumph even when the public decides, albeit not often. But some of you will remember the Best British Breakthrough Act category at the 1999 BRIT Awards, which was put out to a public vote. Despite being on their third album by that point, Belle & Sebastian beat the likes of Steps, 5ive, Billie Piper, Gomez, Cornershop and other chart toppers to the prize because they had a large (for the time) email database. With mainstream internet use still in its infancy in 1999, Belle & Sebastian just had more geeks amongst their fanbase than anyone else.

But judging panel based events will always throw up a few lesser known winners, and they always have done. Which makes all the debate in the US this week a bit odd. Okay, the initial burst of vitriol from fans of the likes of Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Eminem (who felt their favourite artists' rightful awards had been stolen from them by the like of Esperanza Spalding and Arcade Fire) was understandable. But now it's people within the industry who are fighting over the validity of the awards.

It's not like industry folk don't complain every year when their artists fail to take home any trophies, but this year manager and advertising exec Steve Stoute has gone one step further and accused Grammy organisers of booking big name artists to perform at the ceremony simply to grab TV ratings, before stiffing them on the awards by heartlessly handing them over to people the voting academy thinks are more important creatively.

But of course you're going to want the big names there, even if they haven't delivered the 'best' music that year. Because awards events aren't really about giving pop stars a warm fuzzy feeling inside. They are about selling records. Big names bring big audiences, who can then also be introduced to newer or more alternative talent. I'm no big fan of music awards shows, but surely that's a good thing? If you can expose Arcade Fire to tens of millions of people who haven't previously heard of them by getting Rihanna to mime along to a song, then that's a good job done well as far as I'm concerned.

And to prove just how that works, look, I've jumped on the bandwagon of a high profile, interest-wide debate just to make you read this here paragraph where I plug this week's CMU Weekly podcast, which is definitely a 'best' contender. Well, it's definitely the best CMU podcast we've done this week. In it we chat about Warner Music, Spotify, all that Grammy stuff I just mentioned, the far less controversial NME Awards, Lady Gaga selling a lot of records (despite not winning the Best Album Grammy), DJ Shadow talking at the Great Escape and Justin Bieber's shock haircut. Stream or download it by clicking here, or on the banner below.

Andy Malt
Editor, CMU

 

 
 

  This week's biggest stories and developments in the mad world of music making...

Crumbling former giant update...
MySpace Music chief quits

The continuing Warner sell-off story...
Warner to start considering bids this week
BMG appoint bankers to advise on possible Warner bid
Guy Hands reflects on EMI, as Warner bid rumoured

Spotify gets new cash as US launch draws nearer...
New Spotify funding values company at a billion
Spotify could be close to Universal deal in US

Very exciting Great Escape news...
DJ Shadow confirmed for Great Escape convention and festival

This week's award ceremony...
NME Awards awarded

And the rest...
Shock as Justin Bieber gets haircut
Miley Cyrus to star in Bodyguard remake?
Duffy quits music (maybe)
Lady Gaga's perfume to smell of semen
Script frontman apparently not a fan of Jarvis Cocker
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  Rab Allen, Glasvegas
Following the unlikely crossover sensation that was their eponymous debut album, Glasvegas return with a second offering 'EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\', scheduled to come out on 4 Apr through Sony/Columbia.

The album was written and demoed over five months in the distinctly un-Glaswegian setting of a Santa Monica beach house, during which time drummer Caroline McKay elected to leave the band to pursue outside interests. Having returned to the UK with new drummer Jonna Lofgren, the band recruited famed producer Flood (PJ Harvey, U2, The Jesus And Mary Chain) for the recording process.
 
With a free download of towering new track 'The World Is Yours' available for a limited time on their website, Glasvegas have also announced a UK tour to take place later this spring. Meanwhile, new single 'Euphoria, Take My Hand' is available for download now, and will be released physically on 28 Mar.

In anticipation of all this, we asked guitarist Rab Allan if he'd kindly put together a Powers Of Ten playlist for us, thereby shedding some light on those artists who have most inspired and influenced him and the band.
 
GLASVEGAS' TEN
Click here to listen to Rab's playlist in Spotify, and then read on to find out more about his selections.

01 The Bee Gees - You Win Again
I really got into this band when I was in Santa Monica. Real talent. They were ahead of their time. The drum loop on this is great.

02 Cocteau Twins - Fifty-Fifty Clown
In my opinion, the best Scottish album ever made is 'Heaven Or Las Vegas'. This is one of the best songs on it. Really under rated.

03 Etta James - All I Could Do Is Cry
Every once in a while I hear a song and I believe the person singing it. This was the last great one. Always get a lump in my throat. It's heavy metal.

04 Pulp - Razzamatazz
When I was sixteen, James tried to get me into Pulp, but I guess I wasn't ready. Ten years later and they are one of my favourites just now.

05 U2 - Ultraviolet
After playing with U2 in 2009 I gained a lot of respect for them. Not just for being a great band but for still being inspired to make great music. Bono's lyrics are something that's never spoken about but if you take the time there's some crackers.

06 Bruce Springsteen - Brilliant Disguise
I heard this song in Santa Monica and it floored me. I was never a Springsteen fan but after this I was converted.

07 Britney Spears - Toxic
This is pop genius. The production is great. One of her best songs.

08 Shakespeares Sister - Stay
I remember seeing this on Top Of The Pops when I was a kid and being fascinated. Genius song.

09 Visage - Fade To Grey
One night we got caught in a snow storm in Denver. James played this to me and I was outside dancing in the snow. A big influence on the new record for me.

10 OMD - Enola Gay
This is the same as before. Another big influence on the new record. Love the bass line.
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  Artists, tracks, videos, tour dates, release updates and other online nonsense to check out this weekend...

This week's CMU Approved acts...
Emika - Count Backwards
Justin Broadrick FACT mix
Love Inks
Drop/Dead

This week's Same Six Questions interviews...
Robert Miles
Paris Suit Yourself
Little Comets

Some other cool stuff...
Listen to the new Foo Fighters single
Watch a trailer for the new Wild Beasts album
Watch the new Patrick Wolf video
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  #54: Steve Stoute v The Grammys
So, in last week's Beef Of The Week we saw Justin Bieber fans attacking Grammy Award winners for not being famous enough to win them. This week we have a high level music exec doing the same to the ceremony's organisers. Apparently no one is aware what the word 'best' means any more.

Best known as the manager of rapper Nas, Steve Stoute also runs an urban-music focused marketing partnerships agency called Translation. And while Bieber fans were taking to Twitter asking who the hell "Arcadia Fyre" were, Stoute was penning a stern letter to the Grammy's parent organisation the National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences, and its president Neil Portnow, which he then published in a $40,000 full-page New York Times advert. Presumably most Bieber fans don't have access to that sort of cash.
 
Stoute said that the US industry's big awards show had become "a series of hypocrisies and contradictions", and called on the pop stars of America to make a stand against the awards machine.

The letter says: "I have come to the conclusion that the Grammy Awards have clearly lost touch with contemporary popular culture. My being a music fan has left me with an even greater and deeper sense of dismay ... We must acknowledge the massive cultural impact of Eminem and Kanye West and how their music is shaping, influencing and defining the voice of a generation. How is it that Justin Bieber, an artist that defines what it means to be a modern artist, did not win Best New Artist? While these very artists that the public acknowledges as being worthy of their money and fandom are snubbed year after year at the Grammys, the awards show has absolutely no qualms in inviting these same artists to perform. Interesting that the Grammys understands cultural relevance when it comes to using Eminem's, Kayne West's or Justin Bieber's name in the billing".

Calling on artists to demand that Grammy bosses change the "system", Stoute continued: "I imagine that next year there will be another televised super-close-up of an astonished front-runner as they come to the realisation before a national audience... that he or she was used. To all of the artists that attend the Grammys: Stop accepting the invitation to be the upset of the year and demand that this body upholds its mission for advocacy and support of artistry as culture evolves. Demand that they change this system and truly reflect and truly acknowledge your art".

I'm not exactly sure how he thinks the voting system should be changed. Presumably he wants Grammy voters to write a list of which artists they think are most popular, rather than the ones they think are best. Actually, in that case you could get rid of the voting system altogether and just use existing sales or airplay data, which would save time at least.

Following the New York Times ad, The Hollywood Reporter pulled together a handful of responses to Stoute's letter that had been posted online by US music industry players, including Tommy Boy founder Tom Silverman, industry commentator Bob Lefsetz, and former Grokster head Wayne Russo. None seemed to agree with him explicitly, though all had their own strong opinions on the matter.

Lefsetz came closest to being in full agreement, though took Stoute's ideas further, saying: "I don't think only the acts should revolt, but the entire NARAS membership. What we've got here is a self-interested dictator in bed with corporations. This helps music how? Don't get caught up in Stoute's anger about who won what award. Do get pissed off that popular acts are being utilised for ratings when it's clear they are not going to win. Where was that segment where the two accountants come out on stage and say that the voting was confidential? Obviously NARAS knew Arcade Fire was gonna win. Otherwise, why would they close the show?"

Russo, meanwhile, thought it was all a fuss over nothing: "I would have been more upset if Justin Bieber had won Best New Artist. The little snot is irritating. I doubt that anybody will be humming along to 'Eenie Meenie' ten or 20 years from now. You'll probably not be hearing Michael Buble, Bono or Eric Clapton singing Kanye's immortal lyric: 'Let's have a toast for the douche bags'. I happen to really like Eminem but the Grammys are like the Oscars in many ways. In 1970, John Wayne won the Oscar for Best Actor in 'True Grit'. It wasn't a great performance. He was just being John Wayne. He won for his body of work. So consider Eminem to be a 21st century John Wayne. He'll have his day... and by the way, none of these guys are on food stamps".

Jeff Rabhan, chair of NYU's Clive Davis Department Of Recorded Music, felt similarly: "There's that age-old joke about the Grammys: that they're a total sham and completely unrepresentative of the modern world, unless I win, in which case it's the most important award there is".

Meanwhile, producer Jermaine Dupris, who was a member of the Grammy voting board until he resigned from NARAS in protest in 2004 over the reaction to then girlfriend Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, took the opposite view to Stoute. Well, he agreed urban music wasn't always well represented on the winners list, but he didn't agree that the way to overcome that problem was a boycott. He argued that what was needed was more representatives of urban music getting involved with NARAS.

He wrote: "[When I was on the voting panel] I was the youngest person in the room; not that being old has anything to do with it. Not only was I the youngest person in the room, but I was the only valid hip hop person in the room. We are not on the board as young executives. We have so many young, black executives that claim they're executives, and say they do this. But they're not out here doing the work. It should be more people like Steve Stoute on that board".

Whether anything will come of any of this remains to be seen. But certainly everyone involved seems to have forgotten that awards ceremonies are really designed to make money, both for the organisers and their respective industries. In the case of The Grammys, it's debatable how many more records Eminem would sell off the back of winning an award. However, the exposure a band like Arcade Fire will get from both winning and performing at the ceremony can't be denied. Clearly, despite the fact that they've already had a number one album in the USA, there are still a lot of people out there who don't know who they are. Or didn't, at least. And surely the more good artists and quality music you can boost to higher levels of commercial success through awards programmes the better.

But I'll give the final word to Arcade Fire's manager Scott Rodger, who said in an email to the aforementioned Lefsetz: "Arcade Fire deserved the win this year. They made the best album. If the award was names 'Album Sales Of The Year' award, there would be no discussion. Stoute's letter was a nice piece of self-publicity. Did he see Kanye's tweets when we won and the praise he gave us? He needs to tune in. Eminem made a big selling album but it was far from being his best work. Katy Perry made a big pop record that simply didn't have weight or credibility. Gaga's repackage, great album but it was a repackage of the main release. I think everyone felt it was going to be Lady Antebellum's moment having won five out of six awards to that point. We all felt that way, too".He continued: "I'm proud of this band and what they have achieved. We didn't lobby any organisation for this, nor did the band play the game. We paid our own overhead to do the event, thus the lack of on stage gimmicks. No label picked up the tab. Arcade Fire are now one of the biggest live acts in the world. It's not all about record sales. It's about making great records and it's about building a loyal fan base. The band make great albums, they're not a radio-driven singles band. On top of that, they own their own masters and copyrights and are in complete control of their own destiny. Things couldn't be better".
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Andy Malt
Editor
Chris Cooke
Business Editor &
Co-Publisher
Caro Moses
Co-Publisher
           
Eddy Temple-Morris
Columnist
Paul Vig
Club Tipper
Arcade Fire
Who?

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