Al Walser: Innocent. Grammy's:Guilty. -- An Editorial

"...the Grammy Academy,in general,is grossly ignorant of dance music—so ignorant that many of them likely didn’t even listen to the song they were nominating."

by Albert Berdellans,Editor in Chief

By now, the entire EDM community has heard the story of Al Walser, the artist who came out of nowhere to secure a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording.

In fact, if you’re the type of person who follows EDM news religiously, you’ve probably already gotten sick of hearing about it. I know I have.

Before we turn the page on this story, though, I hope you’ll forgive one final word on what will likely go down as one of the most surprising moments in EDM’s history.

What is now clear is that Al Walser did not “cheat.” In other words, he did not achieve a Grammy nomination fraudulently. To the best of our knowledge, he actually did receive the necessary votes legitimately. You can criticize his music’s quality or his originality (Zedd pointed out that stems from “Spectrum” were used without permission), but he is not a cheater.

Nominations for Grammy’s are done by the members-only Grammy Academy. The public is not voting, so the amount of votes needed to secure a nomination is (in terms of sheer numbers) quite small, especially in the Dance Music categories that are rarely even televised. Mr. Walser is a social engineer that saw an opportunity in an undervoted category to market himself (whether by using Grammy365 or otherwise) into a position to succeed and took it. Nothing more.

The true outrage here is that despite EDM’s explosion of popularity and prominence, its lack of influence within the general music industry is pathetic, particularly in the United States. As Walser himself explained in his interview with us, the Grammy Academy, in general, is grossly ignorant of dance music—so ignorant that many of them likely didn’t even listen to the song they were nominating.

The obvious question then, considering that the Academy is devoid of substantial EDM expertise, is: “Who cares what the Grammy Academy thinks?”


When EDM was condemned to illegal raves, public opinion was that fans of this music must be drug addicts who listen to the same song for hours. I refuse to return to the days of “Zombie Nation” being played at a sporting event and my friends nudging me to ask if it was my favorite song.

EDM currently enjoys a fragile position of acceptance and, grudgingly, musical respect. A recent study by EMI at the Electronic Music Conference in Australia showed that EDM is now more popular among young listeners than Classical, Rap, Hip-Hop, and Country:

Image from EMI's Presentation at the Australia Electronic Music Conference

(Picture courtesy of LessThan3)

A great many people all over the world worked very hard for many years with little reward so that they could see this moment leave their dreams and become reality. We are living in the middle of that dream coming to fruition. Some who have worked the hardest have reached the end of their lives without seeing the level that EDM has now reached.

EDM has moved out of the warehouse and has arrived upon the world stage. If we expect the world to continue to take it seriously, we have to take it seriously ourselves.
If you are an artist, producer, DJ, vocalist, or other musician, you can fill out the application to become a voting member of the Grammy Academy by downloading the form found at this link: Grammy Academy application.

Considering that the vast majority of EDM artists are from outside the United States, some of you may think you’re off the hook. While the Grammy Academy is a US institution, as long as a US distributor releases your music, you are eligible, even if you live abroad.

It may be tempting to dismiss this issue as unimportant. It is tempting to retreat to the dance music haven that is Europe and ignore the problem. But if you are willing to perform in the US and collect a paycheck in US dollars, you owe it to your fans and listeners to contribute your expertise to make the US scene better.

In the end, it does not truly matter who actually wins any of these awards. Music is not made to be ranked, judged, and declared “the best.” However, the way that EDM is presented to the world is important. It is crucial that we make it clear we are serious about our music. As it stands, corporations both inside and outside the music industry see EDM as an amateur-run fad that can be exploited for profit.

Little do they know, our music has spirit. And spirit is not for sale.

EDM, for a brief moment this past week, became a joke again. By claiming the appropriate level of influence within the music industry, we’ll ensure that we get the last laugh. The occasion has inspired me to craft my own joke:

Q: How many Grammy Academy members does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: No one knows. They’ve been in the dark since the 80s.

How’s that for a punch line?