How Chance the Rapper used the web to change the Grammys
Chance the Rapper made history following this year’s Grammy nominations, and is changing the music business using the web.
The 23-year-old's album Coloring Book received seven award nods on Tuesday, including one for Best Rap Album, after streaming-only music was made eligible for the first time in the awards' 59-year history.
His record premiered on Apple Music in May and became the first of its kind to chart on Billboard's ranking, peaking at number eight.
Although he considers it to be a “mixtape” rather than a traditional album, it received over 57 million streams in its first week, which equated to 38,000 units sold.
The Chicago native, real name Chancelor Johnathan Bennett, is a long-time champion of free-streaming music, and earlier this year threw his weight behind a campaign for a rule change at the Grammys.
Around a month later, new guidelines opened up the field to music that exists only on services with "paid subscription, full catalogue, [and] on-demand/limited download platforms".
An example of how the internet is changing music, Coloring Book is now the first album of its kind to be nominated in any category, something Bennett has achieved independently, without the aid of a major label.
Declining physical sales have seen record companies enter a frenzied battle for exposure on streaming-only sites, while Chance the Rapper has shown their help is not always needed.
The nomination is representative of the Grammys adapting to encompass online music and recognise how the business as a whole is mutating.
Recording Academy president Neil Portnow told the LA Times: “We need to be, want to be and believe we are up to the moment and as accurate as possible in the reflection of the year in music.
“We never want to be in a position where music that deserves to be in the mix is usurped by some technicality in the process.”
Following the announcement, Chance, who worked on five songs for Kanye West's 2016 album The Life of Pablo, tweeted: “Glory be to God. I'm nominated for 7 Grammys.
“Thank you to everyone who worked on Coloring Book, I love you.”
The 23-year-old has notoriously turned down a number of lucrative record deals and, thanks to a strong fanbase, relies almost entirely on word-of-mouth and his SoundCloud account for distribution.
Chance the Rapper’s first album 10 Day garnered him a cult following in 2012, and got over 400,000 downloads on music-sharing site DatPiff.
Much of Coloring Book’s subject matter revolves around his dislike of record labels.
Also nominated for best rap album at the Grammys are Drake, DJ Khaled, De La Soul, Schoolboy Q and Kanye West.
After the change in rules, free mixtapes, SoundCloud albums and similarly unpaid music remain ineligible for nomination.