Web Words - MP3GrammyAwards

By Ken Casper

One thing I've found missing on the Internet is a website that ranks indie music based on its `real' musical merit. Most ranking sites are either easily manipulated or indie artists must compete with major label artists who have the advantage of name recognition.

For example, Mp3.com is by far the largest of the OMD sites with over 1.2 million songs and 200,000 artists. Each song has an overall ranking from 1 to 1,200,000. When you add a song at Mp3.com, you select a genre into which you want to place that song. Most genres have sub-genres and some sub-genres are further broken down into more sub-genres. Each sub-genre has a chart which is ranked based upon the overall rank.

Mp3.com management won't disclose the ranking formula for fear that the system will be manipulated or "gamed." They can't have undeserving songs atop the charts. In essence though, the Mp3.com rankings are based on number of song plays and/or downloads and number of songs sold through CD sales. The higher a song rises, the more plays and sales it takes to keep it climbing.

If a song is getting increasing numbers of daily plays, say 50 to 100 and the CD it is on is selling multiple copies per week, you can find your song topping one of the sub-genre charts for a while. Then, hopefully, the masses will hear your song, like it and play it regularly. Suddenly you can be charting in the top 40 of one of the larger sub-genre charts. But to chart in the overall Top 40 chart is going to take some major success and name recognition. Those slots are taken by the likes of Bon Jovi, Avril Lavigne and Linkin Park, raking in 7,000 to 15,000 song plays a day for a single song.

I'm pretty fed up with this sort of ranking mechanism, as it's basically impossible for the unknown indie artist to climb the charts. There is a fine, indeed, indefinable, line between "gaming" and promotion and if you cross it, Mp3.com will pull your page.

Out of this frustration has come the Mp3 Grammy Awards website, www.mp3grammyawards.com, created with input from artists around the globe and the help of a gifted website developer Andy Schmidt. On this site, artist-nominated songs will be ranked annually by a vote of the artist's peers.

We tried this last year for the very first time. By "we," I am referring to 140 Mp3.com artists from around the globe who nominated a total of 180 songs in five broad music genres: Rock, Pop, Jazz, Country and Electronic. Artists voted within each genre for best song, best artist, best male and female vocalists and best production. Visit the website to see the results and listen to all of the nominated songs, ranked in order of the voting results. To this day, those stations get consistent play. They are great listens from top to bottom.

This coming year, artists with music hosted anywhere on the Internet, not just on Mp3.com, can nominate one or more songs (only one per genre). There will be ten genres into which songs may be nominated: Rock, Alt Rock, Pop, Country, Jazz, Hip Hop/Rap, R&B, New Age/World/Film/Ambient, Electronic and Classical. There will be a $10 nomination fee for a single song. Additional songs may be nominated into other genres for $5 per song. Sixty percent of the revenue raised by the nomination fees will be returned to the artists in the way of cash prizes. The remaining proceeds will be spent on advertising and website development. Nomination and voting details can be found at www.mp3grammyawards.com.

The competition is modeled loosely after the Recording Academy's Grammy Awards. The main similarity is that the voting is by the members. The artists have a voice in all policies and voting issues. My role is as the director. Even if you don't win, the process of seeing your suggestion implemented and of voting for your peers will be challenging and rewarding.

This is something we've organized collectively for the love of indie music and is just a small beginning. Eventually it could be a huge global event with a music showcase and TV awards ceremony. (I'd like to make Louisville the capital of the Indie music world.) Record your best song. I'll see you at The Palace in February where I'll present you with your trophy and your check.

Ken Casper is a lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter for Crush! and can be contacted at kgcasper@bellsouth.net or through www.mp3.com/crushrocks or www.mp3grammyawards.com. email to have your band's Mp3.com listed tunes added to the Mp3.com Showcase Louisville station www.mp3.com/stations/lky