- The 2020 Grammy Awards took place last night, with Billie Eilish breaking records after sweeping in all four major categories.
- Guests and viewers also mourned the loss of recently deceased LA legends Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant with special tributes during the show.
- While dealing with backlash over corruption accusations from its former president, the Recording Academy also faced criticism from Tyler the Creator and Diddy who slammed its treatment and categorization of black artists.
Billie Eilish Wins Big
The biggest names in music gathered for 62nd annual Grammy Awards Sunday night, which proved to be a tough and emotional event mixed with celebration and mourning.
The stand out winner of this year’s show was Billie Eilish, who took home awards in all four major categories: Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year.
Thanks to the success of her debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” and her smash hit “Bad Guy,” the 18-year-old has made history as the second artist to sweep in the top four categories, after Christopher Cross in 1981. She is also the youngest person and first woman to ever do so.
On top of that, Eilish is now the youngest person to ever win in the Album of the Year category, beating out Taylor Swift, and the youngest to take home Record of the Year, a spot previously held by Sam Smith and Kimbra.
Aside from the four major wins, the singer also won a 5th award for Best Pop Vocal Album.
Mourning Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant
The Grammys also took a moment to celebrate the later rapper Nipsey Hussle with a star-studded tribute performance just hours after honoring him with his first Grammy posthumously.
The performance, which included the likes of John Legend, YG, DJ Khaled, and others, concluded with an image of Hussle alongside Kobe Bryant, the 41-year-old basketball legend who passed away just hours before the show.
Bryant, his 13-year old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning– news that stunned family, friends, and fans across the country.
The two were on their way to a youth basketball game with Orange Coast College baseball coaching legend John Altobelli, his wife Keri, their daughter Alyssa, mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester, assistant coach Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan, who all died in the tragic accident.
Bryant’s shocking death was also addressed at the show’s opening by host Alicia Keys who said, “We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now.”
“Earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero. We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
After her opening remarks, Keys began a line from the Boys II Men song “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” and was joined by the ban itself moments later.
Recording Academy Scandal and Tyler the Creator on Diversity Issues
Though grief seemed to overshadow much of the night, the award show also had to deal with ongoing scandals and criticisms.
Dugan was ousted earlier this month, and since then, accusations of harassment, corruption, and conflict of interests have been thrown each way. Dugan recently filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accusing the Academy of retaliation, sexual misconduct, improper voting practices, and more. Meanwhile, the Academy accused Dugan of creating a “toxic and intolerable” work environment and engaged in “abusive and bullying conduct.”
But concern over insider Recording Academy practices also made headlines when Tyler the Creator seemed conflicted after earning his first-ever Grammy for Best Rap Album. Following a gracious acceptance speech, Tyler spoke to reporters backstage about the Recording Academy’s voting process.
While he said he was “very grateful” to have his work acknowledged, he called the categorization of his music as rap a “backhanded compliment.”
“It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything they always put it in a rap or urban category. I don’t like that ‘urban’ word — it’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me,” he said.
Sean “Diddy” Combs showed similar concerns at Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala on Saturday, saying the Recording Academy has never respected black artists.
“Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be. So, right now, in this current situation, it’s not a revelation. This thing been going on and it’s not just going on in music. It’s going on in film. It’s going on in sports, It’s going on around the world,” he said.
He went to say that it was silly to allow “institutions that have never had our best interest at heart, to judge us.”
“We need transparency. We need diversity. This is the room that has the power to make the change. It needs to be made. They have to make the changes for us,” he continued.
Tyler’s comments come just as the Recording Academy announced new diversity initiatives to “ensure that the Academy — and the music business — is truly representative of artists and their audiences.”
Chairman and Interim Chief Executive Officer Harvey Mason Jr. said in his message to Academy members Sunday morning: “The music we create has always reflected the best of ourselves and our world. But what was true of music has historically not been true of the music business as a whole.”
“Too often, our industry and Academy have alienated some of our own artists — in particular, through a lack of diversity that, in many cases, results in a culture that leans towards exclusion rather than inclusion,” he added.
Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention
- In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
- The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
- The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.
Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers
Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.
In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.
Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.
When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.
Success Amid Growth of Competition
The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix.
Still, it reached a massive milestone.
“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”
Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.
“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”
Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers
Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.
An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service.
Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Paramount+ To Launch March 4
- ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year.
- The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection.
Paramount+ Gets Launch Date
ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year.
It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.
More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news.
“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”
State of the Streaming Wars
Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”
The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television.
ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.
Olivia Rodrigo Smashes Records with “drivers license”
- Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license” has set multiple records on Spotify, becoming both the most streamed song in one day for non-holiday music and the most streamed song in a week.
- It also has become the most globally requested song on Alexa in one day on Amazon Music.
- After its Jan. 8 release, the song became a trending audio on TikTok. Since TikTok’s rise to popularity, the app has helped many songs reach viral success at lightning speed.
“driver’s license” Breaks Records
At just 17-year-old, Olivia Rodrigo is smashing records with her new single “drivers license” after debuting the tune on Jan. 8.
On Friday, Spotify announced the single set the record for most streams in a week. Prior to this, it set the record for most streams on the platform in one day for a non-holiday song.
As of Monday morning, the song has over 125 million plays on Spotify. According to Pop Crave, it was also the fastest song to reach 100 million streams on the popular music service.
Over on Amazon Music, “drivers license” became the most globally requested song on Alexa in a single day. It also became the biggest global streaming debut on the site.
Song Goes Viral on TikTok
Rodrigo is best known for her role as Nini on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” She has also appeared in a variety of other Disney projects where she showcased her singing and songwriting capabilities. In “drivers license,” she croons about using the newly minted independence her license affords her to mourn a recent breakup.
The pop ballad has become a popular audio on TikTok. Many use it for dances, to discuss the possibility that Rodrigo wrote it about her co-star Joshua Bassett, or to just wallow in its lyrics. It has been used by some of the app’s most popular creators, including Charli D’Amelio.
Its success on the platform has likely contributed to its success on streaming platforms and charts. The app has had an immeasurable impact on the music industry by helping songs and artists reach the mainstream at lightning speed. Hits like “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X first found a home on TikTok before breaking records on the billboard charts.
Rodrigo has been happy and surprised to see her song perform so well and be so positively received.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this,” she wrote on Instagram after learning that “drivers license” was the number one song on global iTunes charts. “thank u guys so much for listening. I can’t believe this is real life.”