STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
People in the music industry, along with the rest of the world, find out who won Grammy Awards on Sunday. Winning a Grammy or even getting nominated can mean greater name recognition, better gigs, even bigger contracts. But the complicated voting process that determines the Grammys can be puzzling.
So some artists have figured out how to use social media networking to improve their odds of winning. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Among the hundreds of artists vying for a Grammy award this year are American pop singer Kelly Clarkson.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRONGER")
KELLY CLARKSON: (Singing) What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
DEL BARCO: Australian-Belgian artist Gotye...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW")
GOTYE: (Singing) Now and then, I think of when we were together...
DEL BARCO: And Al Walser?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT YOU")
AL WALSER: (Singing) I can't live without you.
DEL BARCO: "I Can't Live Without You" is nominated in the Best Dance Single category, and that's caused a stir. People asked: Who's Al Walser? And posted comments online.
WALSER: Like, well, you know, I just wanted to listen to it because some people said how bad it is. It's actually not that bad. Or some said: It's certainly not worse than the B.S. that is being played on the radio today.
DEL BARCO: Walser hails from the tiny country of Liechtenstein. He started out in the 1990s with a pop band, and spent the past seven years in L.A. DJ-ing. And he wrote a book for independent musicians advising them how to use Internet tools to make it big.
WALSER: Search engine optimization stuff. You know, how can people find you without knowing you?
DEL BARCO: To get his spot on the Grammy ballot, Walser heavily marketed himself on Grammy 365, a private social networking website for voting members of the Recording Academy.
BILL FREIMUTH: He was able to convince enough of our voting members that his recording was of a quality that deserved a Grammy nomination.
DEL BARCO: Academy Vice President Bill Freimuth says Walser sent out 7,000 email pleas on the site.
FREIMUTH: It raised a lot of eyebrows. But we looked into it thoroughly, and there were no aberrations in what happened.
DEL BARCO: Walser is not the first person to aggressively lobby on Grammy 365. Last year, Linda Chorney claimed she put in 20 hours a day for six weeks to land herself a spot in the Americana category. Freimuth says the Academy is now considering tweaking the rules on how potential nominees can use the site.
FREIMUTH: And we did, this past year, allow members our members to opt out of any email communications during the balloting season.
DEL BARCO: Academy members are advised to disregard name recognition, sales figures and chart positions of the artists, and just vote on the quality of the music. But Freimuth admits winning is not that simple.
FREIMUTH: So we get about 17,500 entries in a year. Then once the entries start to come in, we verify their eligibility. The staff does that
DEL BARCO: The five entries with most nominations in each category make it onto the ballot. But for fields like country, jazz, classical, gospel, R&B, American roots and children's music, special committees select the top five nominees.
FREIMUTH: We keep the identities of the people on these committees secret because we don't want them to either get lobbied heavily, and we also don't want them to get blamed by people who are unhappy with the decisions that they make.
DEL BARCO: Then, the nearly 12,000 Academy members vote on the nominees. Each of them can vote for Album, Song, Record of the Year and Best New Artist, and in up to 20 of the 77 categories. And every year, the Recording Academy hears from someone who's upset.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AS LONG AS YOU LOVE ME")
JUSTIN BIEBER: (Singing) As long as you love me, I'll be a platinum. I'll be a silver. I'll be gold.
DEL BARCO: Justin Bieber's album, "Believe," last year went platinum, topped the charts and even got some critical love. But it didn't get nominated. The 18-year-old was philosophical on TV's "Ellen."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ELLEN")
BIEBER: A big bummer. I would say that, you know, it's definitely something that I was looking forward to. And, you know, but I know that, you know, it'll happen one day.
DEL BARCO: Bieber's manager Scooter Braun was more bummed. He tweeted: I just plain disagree. The kid deserved it. Grammy board, you blew it on this one.
BILL WERDE: I think if you're the Grammys, you sort of can't win.
DEL BARCO: Bill Werde is editorial director of Billboard magazine.
WERDE: If you nominate artists that are commercially very successful, then half the room says, oh, you know, this is all just about the sales and the money and the fame. And if you nominate artists like, for example, Alabama Shakes this year in the Best New Artist category, then people say you're going too critical. So I think you're always going to leave certain people unhappy.
DEL BARCO: Among those unhappy folks who never won anything but a lifetime achievement Grammy: Diana Ross, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, the Beach Boys and Buddy Holly.
Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News.