How to Get Your Music on Internet Radio (and Get Paid)

Meta: In order to get your music on Internet Radio and get paid your royalty fees you’ll have to jump through a few hoops and pay attention to the details. 

Where Do Internet Radio Stations Get the Music They Play?

Up-and-coming presenters like free, just like anyone else. Not every Internet Radio station has the muscle of a KEXP or a KCRW. They’re scouring services featuring royalty-free music like Hooksounds and the Free Music Archive. But they’re also looking for new discoveries on Bandcamp and SoundCloud. They receive unsolicited music from new artists and sometimes they listen to it and sometimes they play it on their radio feed.

Types of Internet-Based Music Sources

There are two kinds of Internet-based music sources, Interactive (on-demand) and Non-interactive (Internet radio). Examples of the Interactive variety are Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music and YouTube. These venues allow you to personally select artists and playlists. An Internet Radio station functions much like a traditional AM/FM broadcast. A DJ or presenter selects the music and you can tune in (or not) to stream from KEXP Seattle, or Dublab in Los Angeles. There’s an ever expanding list of internet radio stations that accept submissions. 

12 of the Best Internet Radio Stations At a Glance

KEXP 90.3 – Seattle, WA (Alternative Rock)

KCRW 89.9 – Santa Monica, CA (Eclectic)

Dublab – Los Angeles, CA (DJ, Beat)

XRay.FM – Portland, OR (Eclectic)

KUTX 98.9 – Austin, TX (“Adult Alternative”)

WFMU 91.1 – Jersey City, NJ (Eclectic)

WWOZ 90.7 – New Orleans, LA (Jazz, Soul)

WQXR 105.9 – New York, NY (Classical)

NTS Radio – London/Los Angeles/Shanghai (Indie/Eclectic)

Balamii – London (Electronic, Dance, Hip-hop)

TSFJazz – Paris (Jazz)

Cinemix FM – (Soundtrack scores)

How to Submit Your Music To an Internet Radio Station

Always be nice. (ABN.) DJs and presenters don’t owe you any favors. Believe it or not, the music industry isn’t big enough to overlook individual acts of rudeness. If you’re rude to one station or presenter, it could impact your entire career.

Foster relationships with promoters, radio stations and presenters. Take a personal interest in their life and work. Curate an ongoing dialogue and recognize that they might not be in a position to champion your music right now, but you never know what the future might hold. Promoting your music doesn’t begin and end with a single music submission. Overnight success stories are myths. You’re in this for the long haul. 

Radio presenters/stations inundated with bands begging for airplay. Most don’t get paid and therefore don’t have time to wade through pages of your personal histories to find where you exist and how to get your music. The lazy, short, info-less message reflects on the potential quality of your music before it even has a chance to get heard. Make that first impression count.

The Presentation

Develop a one sheet. This is a one-page advert that represents your personality, your music and details live music gigs and future performances. This .pdf or .txt document should include:

1.     Band / artist name

2.     Biography

3.     Musical influences

4.     Single name, release date

5.     Album / EP name, release date

6.     Story Behind Single / Album / EP

7.     Where to Buy Music

8.     Your Achievements / Awards / Famous Musicians / Producers / Festivals

9.     Upcoming performances

10.  Official website, social media links

Tailor each pitch to the radio station/presenter. Follow these people on social media, study their playlists on Spotify and sample their radio feed. Sometimes presenters will post playlists featuring the music played during their set. Do your homework on the kind of music they play. Find the platforms and presenters that are best positioned to help you gain notoriety as a musician.

Start small. There are many independent and student-run internet radio stations accepting submissions from emerging bands and artists. These smaller stations won’t receive as many requests, which puts you in a better position to be noticed. Every moment of airtime is valuable — no matter how small the venue. Remember that your goal is always reaching more ears. Consider the submission process a small snowball that you’ve just begun to roll downhill.

The most effective way to get airplay is to create hype around your music organically by developing a loyal fanbase that will force increasingly larger stations and audiences to take notice. 

Genre-specific stations. Locate stations and presenters that cater to your audience. It goes without saying that bluegrass fans would be more receptive to bluegrass music than punk rock.  It sounds blatantly obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that many new artists waste their energies pursuing opportunities that don’t support their brand.

Hire a radio plugger. If you’re positive that your music is ready for prime time, but you’re struggling to get airplay, a radio plugger might be of assistance. A plugger acts as a mediator between you and the radio stations. A good one will come with a long list of industry contacts and might be able to expedite the process.

How to Submit Your Music To An Interactive Streaming Service (Like Pandora)

Each of the big streaming services such as Pandora and Apple Music features a slightly different submission process. It helps to have a licensed distributor (such as CD Baby) delivering your music, but it’s not essential. 


It could be a great boost for an indie artist to place their music on Pandora Radio. (You must have a distributor to appear on Pandora Premium or Pandora Plus. Conversely just because your music appears on Pandora Premium does not mean it will be available on Pandora Radio. You’ll need to do this manually.) 

Submit to Pandora via their online submission form. This is the best way to get your music in front of ears of Pandora’s curators. Even if you’re using a distributor, the submission form will probably increase your visibility. If accepted your distributor-supported music will then be made available through all of Pandora’s services.

Apple Music

Apple Music requires you to have a distributor or aggregator that offers distribution on iTunes. Through your Apple artist profile (which you’ll need to claim if you haven’t already done so) you can manage your profile and submit music and music videos. 

How Do You Get Paid When You’re Music is Played on the Internet?

Getting your music played on the Internet is only a part of this puzzle. Chances are you’d also like to get paid. If you’re a career musician the money has to come from somewhere. This section describes how to get those hard-earned royalty checks. That’s the big question isn’t it? 

The process goes like this. Whenever a licensed radio station or streaming service plays your music, they owe you a part of a penny. (If they’re not stream licensed and registered they won’t be paying anyone any royalties because they can only play public domain and royalty-free content.) Collecting that penny fraction isn’t always that easy, however. Thousands of dollars in royalties go unclaimed every year. These are the steps to ensure that you get your check.

Copyrighting Your Music

The most important step is one that might be easy to overlook. You must record your song in a “tangible medium.” The lyrics have been written down or the song has been recorded. This registers you as the owner of the song — the one who will financially benefit from the song’s success.

  1. Register for an account at the U.S. Copyright office
  2. Fill out a registration application and pay the registration fee. 
  3. Submit a copy of your song. 
  4. Wait for your registration to be processed.

How Internet Music Royalties Work, Very Briefly

Interactive Streaming (Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal) generates Performance and Mechanical royalties. Non-interactive Streaming (Internet Radio) generates only Performance royalties. 

In order to collect royalties, artists need to join a Collective Management Organization (CMO), which enables copyright owners to collect royalties generated by the different types of use. There are two types of CMOs.

Performing Rights Organizations (PROs): These organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SoundExchange) are responsible for licensing and monitoring the collection of Performance Royalties.

Mechanical Rights Organizations (MROs): Companies like the Harry Fox Agency (HFA), Music Reports (MRI), and SongTrust manage the collection of mechanical royalties generated from physical media releases.

To make all of this more convoluted, each country can have one or more of each organization. Meaning you’ll have to register with each International society (unless your CMO offers services connecting international agencies) to receive your royalties. Sometimes the same organization handles both Performing Rights and Mechanical Rights. 

This information isn’t meant to be discouraging. Keep in mind that access to your music has huge benefits, but don’t become deluded by the hope that you can make a living wage based on your Internet streams alone. It all goes back to the snowball effect. Every piece of your career, done right, can generate momentum rolling down that hill.


15 of the Most Anticipated Albums of 2020

Meta: 2020’s most anticipated albums feature new music from The 1975, Haim, Fiona Apple, Frank Ocean and The Killers. A whole year of killer jams awaits. 

2020 is already shaping up to be a massive year for music. We just haven’t heard much of it yet. It’s all just over a horizon too hazy to reveal exactly where or when. Our anticipation is based solely on rumors and a slow trickle of teaser tracks pointing the way towards a glut of exciting new records. The only trouble is that those crafty musicians like to play coy. They like to build buzz by repping their upcoming albums long before we get to hear any of it. 

Here are some of the fifteen albums to which we’re most looking forward and can, with some certainty, assume we’ll see before the bell tolls 2021. If we didn’t include your most anticipated record, you should give us an earful — but know that we left off big names like Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna and Adele because none of them have tossed out any concrete information that would lead us to believe their new records are imminent. 

The 1975, Notes on a Conditional Form (April 24): 

Inarguably one of the biggest bands in the world right now, The 1975, fronted by Matt Healy, confirmed that their 2020 release has been pushed back until April. Notes On A Conditional Form follows 2018’s massive A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, which topped the UK charts and reached #4 in the U.S. Though the press jumped on Healy’s comments about the two records being part of a “Music For Cars” umbrella – the bandleader stresses there’s no intrinsic connection between the two. “It’s a completely different record,” he said. The album features spoken word from Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg on “The 1975” and a much more aggressive, punk-stained edge on “People.” What we’ve heard so far displays a different look and sound for a band that’s already done its best to avoid genre labels. 

Fiona Apple, TBA (TBD):

We’ve put our best cryptologists on the case. Here’s what we know about Fiona Apple’s upcoming release. It’ll see the light of day in early 2020. That’s it. That’s all we’ve got. And they had to work overtime for that. Okay, so they read this piece in The Vulture, but it’s quite long and talks about the movie Hustlers a lot. Apple fell on the scene in 1996 when she was only 17 years old. Since then she’s released only three more records, won a few Grammies and sold more than 10 million copies. We can’t wait to hear new music — whatever it is and whenever it happens.

Archers of Loaf, TBA (TBD): 

Forced to change his vocal style to preserve his health, frontman Eric Bachmann moved on to lead the far more mellow Crooked Fingers and focus on a solo career (also mellow). With Bachmann’s new singing mechanics on board (from the gut, not the throat), Archers of Loaf reunited in 2011 and have continued to play together intermittently without any concrete promise of a new record. In a 2018 interview with Exclaim!, Bachmann confirmed that the indie-rockers planned to release their first new music since 1998’s White Trash Heroes. In November, the band announced a 2020 tour starting in February and teased new music in a minute-long montage called “The Return of the Loaf.” A newly-edited video montage means business. 

The Cure, TBA x 3 (TBD):

Robert Smith says the seminal post-punk band (newly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) has not one, but three albums currently in various stages of development. In 2019, he’d expressed hope the world would hear new music sometime around Christmas. That didn’t happen, so “any day now” seems to be the going currency. Tentatively titled “Live From The Moon,” the album would be the band’s first since 2008’s 4:13 Dream. The second, which shouldn’t be far behind, includes “much freer pieces.” And the third? Smith calls it a “noise disc.” What that means exactly is anyone’s guess, but new music from the cure is an event. Three new records? That’s cause for celebration.

Grimes, Miss_Anthropocene (February 21):

Enigmatic Canadian singer, producer, and goddess of the dark, Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) says that her highly anticipated follow-up to 2015’s Art Angels is about “a modern demonology or a modern pantheon where every song is about a different way to suffer.” This comes from a conversation with Lana Del Rey and Brit Marling in Interview Magazine. Grimes’ meticulous observation of her craft produces some of the most idiosyncratic music of the era and a new Grimes record should be on everyone’s radar. Based on what we’ve heard so far, I don’t see this album causing too much suffering at the hands of her demonic new cuts.

Haim, TBA (TBD):

The sister trio released three singles from their upcoming and still untitled 2020 release. “Summer Girl,” “Hallelujah,” and “Now I’m In It” provided a snapshot of their progress as a band since the excellent Something To Tell You. Saxophones! Subtle, head-nodding grooves! They’ve expanded their sound. They’re pushing their well-worn influences beyond idol worship and becoming a new thing while maintaining the same hook-forward approach. This could be their coup de grace on critics who cite their music as fun, but overly familiar easy listening.

Kesha, High Road (January 31):

Kesha said this is the most fun she’s ever had making a record. She exorcised some demons on 2017’s Rainbow and seems poised to release a block of infectious, beat-heavy dance music. “Kesha got her balls back,” she says on a two-minute trailer for the January 31st album featuring song samples and the pop diva dressed as a pink-skirt suit wearing televangelist.

The Killers, Imploding the Mirage (TBD):

At this point, fans of The Killers are running on fumes. The band’s 2017 album Wonderful Wonderful failed to light a fire, and they arguably haven’t released a good record in more than 10 years, but there’s always just enough of a spark to suggest that Brandon Flowers and co. could return to form with whatever comes next. They’ve announced a tour of the UK and Ireland and have pre-orders for the new LP up on the website. In 2019, they released “Land of the Free,” a political call to arms against border walls, institutional racism, and the country’s failure to move on gun control reform – but that song wasn’t teased on this Instagram post so we still haven’t heard a single lick.  

Matt Berninger, Serpentine Prison (TBD):

The frontman for The National and El Vy somehow found time to write and record a solo album. This is news in and of itself — but seeing as how it’s produced by the legendary Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the M.G.’s it becomes kind of a generational event. Only time will tell if the combined forces of the soulful duo will open a rift in the time-space continuum. Berninger never fails to surprise us, so this seems especially on-brand.  

Alt-Text: 2020’s most anticipated albums feature new music from The 1975, Haim, Fiona Apple, Frank Ocean, The Killers and Matt Berninger. 

Title: 15 of 2020’s Most Anticipated Records

Caption: Booker T. Jones produced Matt Berninger’s forthcoming solo debut, Serpentine Prison, one of our most anticipated albums of 2020.

Description: Booker T. Jones and Matt Berninger in the studio recording Serpentine Prison.

Lana Del Rey, White Hot Forever (TBD):

Lana Del Rey, you just released one of the most acclaimed albums of the decade – what are you going to do now? You’re going to release a spoken word album and a collection of new songs? Well, alright. You sure you don’t want a vaca—oh. Okay. Just keep on doing what you do.

Frank Ocean, TBA (TBD):

We have no official word from Frank Ocean about a 2020 album, but headlining Coachella in April is a serious tell on the magnitude of scratching your ear every time you’re dealt a pair of aces. He’s also been talking up new music in interviews and citing influences such as “Detroit, Chicago, techno, house, French electronic.” So while he’s not showing his cards, he’s doing some serious ear scratching and being so specific we have no idea what’s actually going on big-picture wise. Expect a new, probably inspired album sometime before April.

Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 4 (TBD):

The beat-heavy, rough and rugged rap duo bromance of Killer Mike and El-P have announced the release of Run the Jewels 4… sometime this year. They’ll be at both Coachella and Bonnaroo spreading the gospel. They’ve even tossed out a five second hit from the record on their Twitter account. We’ve been waiting a little more than three years since RTJ3 – and the wait has been excruciating.  

Tame Impala, The Slow Rush (February 14): Australian psych-rockers Tame Impala last released Currents in 2015. Frontman Kevin Parker refuses to rush the creative process to completion, saying that he has “to feel kind of worthless again to want to make music.” We’ve heard at least four exceptional tracks from the forthcoming release. The latest, “Lost in Yesterday,” appeared on January 7. Tame Impala also announced a substantial tour and a headlining gig at Bonnaroo for 2020.

U.S. Girls, TBA (TBD):

This might feel like a sleeper pick for hype albums in 2020, but Meg Remy’s avant post-rock pop project released one of the great records of 2018 (In a Poem Unlimited). U.S. Girls has already released a soulful, saxophone laden single called “Overtime” and if it’s an indication of greater soundscape experimentation on the upcoming album, the band’s going to be an even bigger deal. Get in on the ground floor before everyone’s raving about the new U.S. Girls record. 

The xx, TBA (TBD):

In a New Year’s Eve Instagram post, the band confirmed they’re working on new music for 2020. Romy Madley Croft, Jamie Smith and Oliver Sim released their third (and arguably best) studio album in 2017 but have been largely mum about music ever since. Hell, Fiona Apple’s had more to say and if you’re less forthcoming than Fiona Apple that’s also something to talk about.


2020 Grammy Nominations Once Again Undermine the Pageant as Farce

Meta: The 2020 Grammy Awards will be filled with the same farce and pageantry we’ve come to love and hate. Is it possible to praise and criticize in equal measure?

The Grammy Awards are a farce. Before this reads like a spurned lover indictment resulting from this writer’s favorite artists never winning (they don’t), let’s clarify the boundaries of that not entirely original thesis, especially as deeper concerns about the legitimacy of the nomination process (in addition to troubling “boys club” accusations) have come to light in allegations brought against the Academy by former CEO, Deborah Dugan

Throwing a dart from twenty yards is more accurate than pinning medals on a particular artist or song or record in any given year. (Sometimes they can’t even get the year right.) So while the Grammys are absolutely a farce, they’re also attempting to perform an impossible task – weighing and measuring the human emotional response to sound wave patterns, arguably the most personal and elusive of all artistic evaluations. There’s a reason that Pitchfork’s reviews read like LSD-fueled prose poems

The Grammy Awards exist for the same reason as any other major awards show. They’re a self-congratulatory marketing campaign masquerading as a quantification of merit. One could toss about the term “subjective” in defense of the National Academy of Recording Artists choices, but that anticipates a certain amount of evaluation in measuring one song against all the others – but that’s an impossible undertaking, even under the most noble conditions.

People tune in to the Grammys to watch live musical performances from buzzy pop musicians selected to draw more eyes to the television in order to legitimize the proceedings by claiming that 19.9 million viewers watched the January 26th broadcast of the Grammys on CBS (check the nominees list for your favorite or less than favorite artist). We’ll continue to watch. They’ll continue to broadcast. But for the sake of every musician out there struggling to make a dollar in this business, let us not pretend that the nominees represent the best music created during the prior year – even though the voting members are instructed to consider quality alone

Even if you refuse to call the Grammys a “farce,” consider using the term “charade,” which acknowledges the false pretense without implications of overt humor. 

The Grammy nominations reflect the best music that the most people heard. When jazz musician Esperanza Spalding bested Justin Bieber for the 2011 Best New Artist trophy, online Bieberbabies vandalized Spalding’s Wikipedia page with death threats. If there’s any category which is going to elicit vengeful memes, it’s the granddaddy of the Grammys. All of these potential pitfalls come together in the damning Album of the Year nominations.

The Album of the Year Fallacy

2020 Nominees:

i,i, Bon Iver

Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Lana Del Rey

When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Billie Eilish

thank u, next, Ariana Grande

I Used to Know Her, H.E.R.

7, Lil Nas X

Cuz I Love You, Lizzo

Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend

The typically snubbed indie-rock darlings came out in full force for the Album of the Year, but the choices highlight one of the most unfortunate aspects of the nomination process. While Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! has been hailed as a career defining masterpiece and one of the great records of the decade, the Academy also selected Bon Iver’s i,i and Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride – two choices that feel lesser in direct comparison to prior efforts (For Emma, Forever Ago and Modern Vampires in the City, respectively, both of which were nominated for awards with lesser stakes attached). These indie artists were only allowed a spot in the big dance because they were pre-vetted by past critical successes. The Academy has a troubling track record when it comes to recognizing greatness before greatness has been established elsewhere. (More on this in a bit.)

Meanwhile Lizzo and Billie Eilish caught a zeitgeist with their debut albums. As the newest, buzziest acts of the year, their positive critical appraisal served as bonus points on top of the millions of records sold. Ariana Grande feels like an elder stateswoman in comparison. H.E.R.’s I Used to Know Her might be her weakest album, but a devoted fan base boosted her 2019 profile.

And then there’s this confounding love for Lil Nas X. It seems like he gained some kind of weird corss-generational credibility by working with Billy Ray Cyrus on “Old Town Road.” The genre mashup comes with the added boost of being a TikTok meme and forcing Billboard to reassess its definition of country music. That’s powerful anti-establishment sauce. However – and this is a big however – it doesn’t really seem like anyone listened to his other songs. Just shy of 19 minutes, the underbaked (and widely panned) EP only features six tracks that aren’t “Old Town Road,” and those six feel like internet fads for which we’ll have to apologize to future generations.

It’s time for Taylor Swift – who recorded a full 18 mature cuts on her well-received Lover – to write her Grammy break up song. Swift’s three nominations, only one major, will be seen as one of the major snubs. Consideration for Angel Olson’s existential, angsty All Mirrors would have been nice, but we can’t expect miracles.

Here’s where things could go sideways, Esperanza-style. There’s something interesting about the three frontrunners for the prize. Below you’ll note the name, followed by their album’s 2019 year-end Billboard chart position. 

Billie Eilish: 1
Ariana Grande: 2

Lana Del Rey: 182

My pick: Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell! and watch the world burn. It’s not often that my pick for album of the year gets a nod. Lana won’t necessarily the “WHO THE *#%# is Lana Del Rey” tweets like Bon Iver, but the sheer volume of incensed Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande and Lizzo fans would inundate the Internet with scathing memes. Which is why I’ll be shocked if the Academy doesn’t toe the popularity line. 

Who Will Win: With a wink and a sneer, Eilish has fostered an enormous amount of critical and commercial enthusiasm. It’s the safe selection and won’t encourage angry mobs of teenagers to grab their pitchforks.

The Decline of the Mainstream

At their best, the awards serve as a critical evaluation of the most popular songs and artists. In 2020, genre and listenership have become so fragmented that even “pop music” doesn’t captivate a broad audience anymore. It’s cliché to say that there will never be another Beatles or Michael Jackson, but there really won’t ever be another Beatles or Michael Jackson to reach a controlling share of the human population. At their worst, however, the awards are a glorification of the fragmented, increasingly narrow gaze of popular culture. Either way, it’s a horse with blinders being led by 24 sparkly carrots.

While they claim to recognize “musical excellence” and advocate for “the well-being of music makers,” the Grammys celebrate the music that has already been singled out by consumers. Few risks are taken. Surprises come when attempting to appeal to a new generation (awards shows must maintain relevance and viewership). Unlikely winners and nominees arise to appease and honor past success – but just as often not. Less commercial artists and genres don’t register unless they’re explicitly celebrated within their own category and in recent years the Grammys have actually reduced the number of awards available to these supposedly fringe artists. See: Regional Roots.

The “Regional Roots” Melting Pot of Impossibility

2020 Nominees:

Kalawai’anui, Amy H?naiali’i
When It’s Cold – Cree Round Dance Songs, Northern Cree
Good Time, Ranky Tanky
Recorded Live at the 2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Rebirth Brass Band
Hawaiian Lullaby, Various Artists

I won’t pretend to have listened to any of these artists before reading the nominations, but the Grammy’s have created one of those impossible paradoxes of music criticism. How does anyone compare traditional Hawaiian with jazz-fueled South Carolina spirituals with New Orleans brass with Native American powwow music? 

During the great purge of 2011, the Academy compressed multiple music categories into something called the Best Regional Roots Music Album. Maybe there were too many awards… but they weren’t being broadcast on TV anyway. Who even noticed the contraction? Oh, right. The artists. I think the artists might have noticed when their chances of a gramophone shrank exponentially. What the hell — let’s pick a winner anyway. 

My pick: Gullah folk band Ranky Tanky weaves spirituals and regional gospel music into more familiar jazz orchestration and R&B vocals — and it’s clear I don’t really have an ear for traditional Hawaiian or Cree Dance Songs, but I’d throw Ranky Tanky on even without provocation from my editors to write about the Grammys.

And there’s there’s the flaw in presenting these awards as a pure “merit-based” competition. Isn’t the winner generally going to be the most broadly accessible nominee? It applies here, but the argument also carries over into categories that would seem more manageable. 

Let’s look at the Best Rap Album category.

The Rap Album’s Boys Club (Again)

2020 Nominees:

Revenge of the Dreamers III, Dreamville

Championships, Meek Mill

I Am / I Was, 21 Savage

IGOR, Tyler, The Creator

The Lost Boy, YVN Cordae

Looking at this list of nominees, you’d be tempted to call this a down year for rap music. It’s true that none of these artists managed crossover nominations in other categories, but I’m wondering who forgot to send invites to the ladies. Cardi B won the category in 2019 for Invasion of Privacy, which suggested a positive trend regarding the genre’s acceptance of female MCs. In order to be a trend, however, the trend must continue onward and upward.

The obvious fan-favorite oversight is Megan Thee Stallion, who brought all kinds of sass on her debut full-length, Fever. I’d add the lesser known U.K. MC Little Simz to this list. Her GREY Area displayed an oversized confidence, and sooner or later the guardians of the industry are going to have to accept her as a force of nature. And nobody would have scoffed at a surprise nomination for Rapsody’s Eve, an original and social-conscious concept album.

This category also features the notable absence of DaBaby’s Baby on Baby, but he’s not a woman, just a curious omission (and a cunning linguist). Tyler, The Creator snuck into this category based on name recognition, but it wouldn’t be hard to argue that IGOR isn’t a rap album at all (but I also wouldn’t know where else the Grammys would celebrate it, so…)

Looking at this category, it’s not clear to me that the voting body actually listens to rap music. (Don’t @ me.) Subjectivity comes into play, of course, but I’d be hard pressed to pick any of these options (IGOR, excepted) in a head-to-head battle against the aforementioned ladies, DaBaby, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s Bandana, BROCKHAMPTON’s GINGER, or Dave’s PSYCHODRAMA

My pick? Of the nominees IGOR’s an easy choice. But since you asked, I’ll order off the menu and add some extra drama. I’ll call it a draw between Little Simz’s GREY Area and Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s Bandana. Rap music’s not dead — it’s spreading in exciting new directions, but you can’t rely on the Billboard charts to point the way forward.

The Reasons We Watch the Grammys

The Grammys entertain us as both farce and spectacle, a source of celebrity voyeurism and pop-culture skepticism. Let’s not place too much faith that Sunday’s recipients will have excelled at anything other than reaching the broadest possible audience. Whether you watch or hate-watch, it would be unfair to begrudge the winners and nominees for choosing to embrace a moment that celebrates the product of their blood, sweat and tears. 

Here’s the rest of the drama we’ve earmarked on our Grammy schedules.

Go Yola

As one of the most pleasant surprise nominees, British soul-singer/songwriter Yola received four nominations, including one in that coveted Best New Artist category. She represents one of the rare instances where an artist’s critical applause (and celebrity adulation) overshadowed lesser commercial success. The honor will garner deserved attention for Yola’s Walk Through Fire (produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach). Her other nominations are in Best American Roots Performance, Best American Roots Song, and Best Americana Album. 

Carly Rae Jepsen to the Grammys: “Call Me Maybe?”

The Canadian pop princess hasn’t sniffed a nomination since 2013 when “Call Me Maybe” received attention in the “Song of the Year” and “Best Pop Solo Performance.” A cute song, but let’s get real for a moment. 2015’s E*MO*TION has been hailed as one of the great pop records of the decade (and one could argue the album of B-sides was equally infectious). 2019’s Dedication received positive press for her “combination of self-aware innocence and mature restraint.” The continued disavowal of her talents has become inexcusable. It’s because she’s Canadian, isn’t it? This Jepsie deserves an explanation. It’s almost as if someone’s always nudging her out of the spotlight. 

Speaking of Billie Eilish… (because aren’t we always?)

17-year-old Billie Eilish becomes the youngest artist nominated in all four main categories. She could become the youngest artist to win Album of the Year, stealing the crown from Taylor Swift. who was 20 when she won for Fearless in 2010. She also just became the youngest artist to ever record a James Bond theme. Movie over, Tay-Tay. This angsty young lady’s come for your thunder. 

Wherefore Art Thou, Boss?

The universally praised Western Stars (and first new material since 2012) failed to garner any nominations for Bruce Springsteen, and his movie, Springsteen on Broadway, didn’t get any love for Best Music Film. It’s a stunning shunning of the 20-time Gramophone winner. Out with the old, eh, Academy? But he wasn’t the only Grammy darling told to stay home…

Maren Who?

The country star has earned prior 10 nominations and won one for “My Church,” but has only one in 2020 for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “Common” with Brandi Carlile. Oh, and by the way, her album Girl just won Album of the Year at the CMAs. Maybe it was her refusal to give up crop-tops in her third trimester. You wear your crops, Maren. The Academy can stuff it. 

In With the New

The Academy spread first-time nominees far and wide. Lizzo (eight), Billie Eilish (six) and Lil Nas X (six) found real estate in all kinds of major categories outside that Best New Artist category. It’s a surprising turn for a ceremony often criticized for fogey-ism – but one that also feels a little like overcompensation. It’s worth remembering all the ways that the Grammys have butchered the Best New Artist category over the years so you can question their ability to judge new talent. Now apply this potential madness to all major categories in 2020 and you’ve got a preview of the many ways this show can go wrong.