Are The Grammys Rigged?

An analysis of the winners and nominees from the past two years

In the Spring of 2024, I took a data storytelling class where we were tasked to gather data and create a story from it. This story is meant to answer the question “Are the Grammys Rigged?” I was able to refine my knowledge of Google Sheets and Slides throughout this project while learning how to use Flourish for visualizations. My partner, Coco, and I selected this topic because of our deep love for music. When picking topics, the Grammys had just passed and it felt like the perfect topic to do.

The Data Story is presented as a Google Slides slideshow and an accompanying script.

What data was used In this project?

[Title Slide]

{Alexandria} The Grammys are one of the biggest events in the music world. Thousands of viewers tune into their TVs to see who is that year’s best-of-the-best. While many artists love the Grammys, many others actively speak out against it. Those who speak out against it often claim that the awards are rigged or do not represent the reality of the music landscape at that time.

{Ava} When deciding what to do for our project, the Grammys had happened quite recently. With the awards show on the brain, we decided to see if these artists’ claims are true. Is there truly, any evidence to show that the Grammys are rigged? After analyzing the data we gathered, our answer is no.

[Slide One]

{Ava} A running theme among the winners is that they were all popular before the awards. A great representation of how well-known an artist is is the billboard charts and looking at where they debuted. The Billboard charts are updated weekly and are meant to showcase the most popular music based on sales, streams, and airplay. Our focus was on two specific charts: The Billboard Hot 100, which focuses on song popularity, and The Billboard 200, which measures the success of albums. Of the artists who debuted on the top 100/200 charts, the majority fell among the top four positions. In the same vein, when looking at both the winners and nominees, over half had a billboard debut.

[Slide Two]

{Alexandria} Another way to view the success of an artist, is by looking at album sales. While streaming has become one of the top forms of music consumption, sales are still a large form of profit for artists. Most areas that report album sales have started including the money created by streaming through Units. Album-equivalent units are a form of measurement that defines the consumption of music that equals a single album copy. According to the RIAA, 1 album sale equals 10 song downloads and 1500 song streams. With this knowledge, consumers can better understand the amount of consumption compared to the number of sales. Of the artists we looked at, on average the winners had the most sales ranging from 8,000 to 1.14 million. 

[Slide Three]

{Ava} With this knowledge, it makes sense that the number of streams an artist gets outweighs the number of sales. With the ease of technology, a shift has been made to consuming music through streaming apps instead of buying a physical or digital copy to own. Comparing streams and sales is like comparing how many likes someone gets to a social media post to their actual relationships, they relate to each other but should not be compared to show success. In our visual, we decided to have a max of 900,000 streams, this does not fully represent the number of streams artists are getting as the most streams we had was 549.26 million by Taylor Swift for her album Midnights.

[Slide Four]

{Alexandria} Like with all things, the more experience you have can often correlate to how well the product turns out. When looking at the winners from the past two years, the majority have had at least a decade of experience in the industry. This is understandable as these artists have had time to build a following and brand while improving in their craft. Of all the winners, Willie Nelson has been in the industry the longest at 70 years, This is a big difference from Wet Leg and Samara Joy who both have only 5 years of experience under their belts.

[Slide Five]

{Ava} When it comes to the number of years active compared to the winners of each genre, there is a trend of the Country and Rock winners tending to have more experience. This can be explained by the histories behind the genres. Pop is a relatively new genre in the sense that it’s constantly changing, Pop music directly means “Popular music” so it encompasses whatever is trending at the moment. In comparison, Rock music debuted in the 1950s and has many staples that are still notable who emerged in that time. 

[Slide Six]

{Alexandria} With the knowledge that Pop is forever following the trends of the time, it is understandable that the winners of Album of the Year and Record of the Year are in the genre of Pop. Not only is it a widely palatable genre, its the second most popular genre worldwide. 

{Ava} In conclusion, It’s unlikely that the Grammys are rigged. It is not a reach to say that it can be biased, but that is because music is a highly subjective medium. Ten people can take the same song and all have it resonate differently and mean something different to them. The Grammys are not an end-all-be-all of what the best music is at the moment, but it is a fun thing to tune in to and an achievement for any artist who has received a nomination or win.