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Grammys vs. indie labels: The numbers are improving ... slightly

December 10, 2008 | 10:52 pm

Scan the 2009 Grammy nominees for album, song and record of the year. There's one obvious omission: a strong representation of independent artists.

Even in the one major category that would seem designed for independent labels -- best new artist -- there is nary a pure indie act. So much for the early hype that this would be Vampire Weekend's year, the easy-going pop act that started off 2008 with a top-20 album. There is, however, one indie-affiliated artist, as Adele started on XL overseas, but linked with Sony BMG's Columbia for her U.S. release of "19."

But things are looking up, at least according to independent trade group the American Assn. of Independent Music, which goes by the shortened A2IM. The trade group, which counts such labels Barsuk, Epitaph and Sub Pop among its 200-plus members, reports that this year 34 of its member labels received a total of 88 nominations.

By comparison, two years ago A2IM claimed 46 nods in 31 categories, but the e-mail from president Rich Bengloff doesn't specify how much A2IM's membership has grown in that time. A more apt comparison might be one year ago, when A2IM tallied 74 nominations.

There are, of course, some heavy-hitters amongst A2IM's list, and the labels that got noms aren't exactly do-it-yourself operations. See ATO Records, a label founded by Dave Matthews, and whose TBD imprint handled the physical release of Radiohead's "In Rainbows." And then there's Roadrunner (best metal performance for DragonForce and Slipknot), a label that's essentially owned by the Warner Music Group. But hey, baby steps.

For the complete list of Grammy-nominated indie acts, based on A2IM's membership, click here (but note that your browser will open as a PDF). Amongst the local crop are indie rockers No Age, but the band isn't recognized for its music (best recording package), and '80s metal survivalists Motley Crue (best hard rock performance). 

Biggest indie omission?
How about She & Him, an act that boasts star power (Zooey Deschanel) and a timelessly relaxed approach to songcraft that would fit comfortably among this year's best new artist nominees Adele and Duffy? Not a fan of She & Him's old-fashioned pop? How about the gritty, Chicano soul of Ersi Arvizu? Nevertheless, it's safe to say Grammy voters still need to dig a little deeper.

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Dean Sprunt, left, and Randy Randall of No Age, courtesy Kevin P. Casey / For the Times