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Grammy Numbers

by Ali Hibbs on January 23, 2014


“Spotify Predicts GRAMMY Winners.” That was the subject line on an e-mail I received from the music streaming service yesterday morning, a few days in advance of pop music’s biggest awards show this Sunday. It was news to me. That is, the fact that the Grammys are this week. Long billed as “Music’s Biggest Night,” the awards show has only tangentially caught my attention in recent years with pandering nods to the Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, a desperate attempt by the Recording Academy to avoid obsolescence and counteract a reputation for fixating on commercial performance rather than artistic merit in their selection process. The show has largely become a glitzy occasion to force unrelated megastars into overblown and incoherent medleys, usually featuring Sting or Stevie Wonder, before handing a golden gramophone to the one whose song you heard everytime you went grocery shopping last year.

My second reaction was a glimmer of Schadenfreude, that one crass corporate interest had been out-focus-grouped by another. How confident was Spotify about their projections and what was their method?

It’s simple: As streaming services like Spotify have come to dominate audience listening trends, the simple tally of most-streamed songs has become a fairly reliable indicator of Grammy success, much as Billboard chart placement once was. Spotify proudly boasts that last year they correctly predicted both Record and Album of the Year, and since the Grammy process has remained a quantitative race to supersaturation, it’s probably safe to say their projections will be fairly true this go-round.

Here’s the breakdown: Imagine Dragons will win Record of the Year for “Radioactive.” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will win Album of the Year for The Heist as well as Best New Artist. Lorde will win Best Pop Solo Performance for “Royals.” And Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers will win Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Get Lucky.”

What’s Spotify get out of the deal? Well, other than smug self-importance and some listener traffic to a Grammy playlist, not much. It’s not like they’re staking their credibility or taste on these projections. This is a robot predicting the action of other robots. And why should you care? This is further evidence that you probably shouldn’t, unless you’ve got some office pool going. In which case, trust the numbers.