When the Grammy nominations were announced on Wednesday there were, of course, a few surprises (Taylor Swift beatboxing) and a few notable snubs (no Justin Bieber? A male-only Album of the Year category?). But there was one total mystery. When the nominees for Best Dance Recording were unveiled, all the big names – Skrillex, Avicii, Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia – were covered. But there was one more nominee - some guy named Al Walser. Never heard of him? Don't worry, nobody else has either.
Spin's Philip Sherburne was one of the first writers to notice and wrote an extensive post Thursday morning looking into Walser's past. Walser's nominated song, "I Can't Live Without You," was released in late September, just nine days before the Grammy nomination cutoff. To date, the video has amassed just over 36,000 views (although that number was closer to 10,000 the morning after the nominations were announced). The video, posted above, is nothing short of amazing, a Rebecca Black-ish laugh fest that, thankfully, didn't go viral.
As Spin reports, Walser has some background in electronic music. He was a member of a Eurodance group called Fun Factory, which had some chart success in the mid-'90s before Walser joined. He also works as a music "consultant" for up and coming artists looking to further their careers. His two companies, Cut the Bull Entertainment and Amiville Global Music Licensing and Publishing, appear to have had only one success, and a relatively minor one at that: They helped the singer Joelina land her song "Trendsetter" in an episode of Beverly Hills 90210. Spin also notes Walser is the author of Musicians Make it Big: An Insider Reveals the Secret Path to Break in Today's Music Industry, a book which will show "you how to start making money with OTHER PEOPLE'S SONGS."
But the question remains: how did a relative unknown music industry huckster with a video with just 10,000 views get a Grammy nomination? Daniel Weisman at Elitaste has a theory. It turns out Walser was a member of the Academy and as such, also a member of Grammy365, the Grammy's social networking site. Weisman is also a member and went through Walser's Grammy365 page, finding over 104 pages containing approximately 4,160 industry contacts.
Weisman writes: "It’s unclear how many of those 4,160 contacts are voting members but there are around 10,000 voting members and reportedly 13,000 members total (so 3,000 non-voting members like me). So roughly 76% of members are voting members. Apply that to his 4,160 contacts and you have 3,200 voting members which is certainly enough to secure a lesser known category nomination. There are very few voting members who are in the EDM community since the genre is relatively new and only recently did it start getting mainstream attention. So a voting member, who likely has very little knowledge about EDM, scrolls through the nominees and more than likely votes for someone whose name they recognize, hence why Swedish House Mafia, Avicii, Calvin Harris and Skrillex got nominated. But if 3200 voting members are "friends" with someone on Grammy365 and chances are they will recognize the name of someone (Al Walser) who has friended them, messaged them and/or updated them, then chances are they will vote for that person."
So basically, Walser used his relative fame within an obscure social network to "earn" a Grammy nomination, despite being a mostly unknown musician with a laughably bad song and video. As Gawker puts it: "Welcome to the future, Grammys: you've been trolled."