HITS Daily Double


GOING LONG: Super Bowl halftime-show talk has begun to center on Taylor Swift, J.Lo and Roc Nation’s role. The game’s airdate, one week after Grammy, could be an issue for some possible participants; Pepsi (rather than Coke, which Taylor has endorsed in the past) is the key sponsor, and the telecast airs on FOX, not CBS. How will the Jay-Z deal affect the optics of the presentation?

UN-SNUBSTANTIATED: Will this year’s nominating committee help the TV team by putting some of the previously snubbed mass-appeal artists—Taylor, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, Beyoncé—back in the game? Might there even be a special award for Justin Timberlake that could entice him back to the Grammy stage after his multi-year boycott?

Those snubbed stars (the ones who’ve dropped music within the eligibility period, at least) still won’t appear on the Grammy show without getting nominations in Album, Song or Record from the Secret Nominating Committee—and the process by which the Committee operates isn’t changing this year. So here’s the big question: Will regime change at the Academy allow Grammy to blame the empty chair for past bungling of the process, clear away the personal agendas and get on with the show? All eyes are on the new Deborah Dugan-Harvey Mason, Jr. administration; can they pull this off? The feeling around the biz is that they just might—a real change, many believe, could well be in the offing.

Tay, Ari and Ed all appear willing to do the AMAs if invited, proving that the Grammys no longer come ahead of everything else—which could bristle some egos that in past years have taken exception to such independent action. But times have changed; artists, with access to the social-network world, don’t need the affirmation from the Academy that was so very important when traditional media ruled the jungle. Last year’s ratings, propped up by more adult-driven and Nashville artists, seemed to be the winning formula for the TV guys. But some of these snubs make for very poor artist/manager and label relations, as labels question why they’re paying millions in production costs when Grammy is getting $50m+ to produce a show that has ceased to move the needle. That said, Mason’s responsiveness to the biz—the sense that there’s someone to talk to in awardsville—has already altered the dynamic.

WHAT’S NEW: An official statement from Mason has swatted down rumors—which have been flying around the biz—that changes were imminent to the rules governing the Best New Artist Grammy category. Mason asserted that while there’s been productive dialogue surrounding the rules, no changes would be made this year.

Even so, much chatter continues in all corners of the biz over the eligibility rules, and whether Lizzo, who’s had a strong year, will make the BNA cut. The acclaimed artist/songwriter (who’s repped by Brandon Creed and Kevin Beisler) is locked in a head-to-head battle with Billie Eilish for the title of breakthrough artist of 2019. Billie, it should be noted, has the year’s biggest-selling project, with nearly 2m U.S. and 5m+ globally (only Lil Nas X has sparked as much talk, with his gigundo hit and shattering of barriers). The teen phenom has also enlarged her brand with a massive tour and conquered Top 40 radio while redefining the essence of pop/rock. Lizzo has done 700k+ RTD and clearly seized the moment after her VMA performance went viral; while there’s some been some back-and-forth about eligibility regarding the number of tracks she’s had in the marketplace, most in the biz believe this powerhouse artist will be a BNA contender. Will SVP Awards Bill Freimuth continue as Head Umpire for the contest?

SOUNDSCAM: Billboard, which will be buying SoundScan and bringing it in-house, has yet to lay down new rules to tame the wild-west environment now shaping chart bundles. Whether it’s concert tickets, keychains or energy drink-gate, there need to be clear-cut regulations, or the players are going to spend every week litigating what should or shouldn’t be tossed out. And then there’s UGC, which some insiders describe as an unverified and easily manipulated source of video streams—and which others describe as scam-a-lama-ding-dong. If these video streams are unverifiable and therefore not factored into the album chart, why are they used for the singles chart, where they can frequently sway the result? It defies all earthly logic that they’re legit enough for one chart but not another.

The SoundScan acquisition may or may not affect the above-mentioned problems but will certainly deprive the Bible of anyone to blame but itself. And without Nielsen to mitigate matters, industryites are asking, where are the checks and balances? Meanwhile, BuzzAngle founder Jim Lidestri has exited Rolling Stone, which earned headlines before rolling out its own charts—though nobody in the biz now seems to care.

STILL WILD ABOUT HARRY: Word has it we’ll be seeing new Harry Styles music via Columbia in the near future; we’re told it’s in a similar style to his acclaimed debut (which is now closing in on 1m U.S. RTD), and that those who’ve heard it love it.