Three months ago, Spotify was planning its 2022 Best New Artist Grammy party to be the biggest yet. Originally set to take place Jan. 27 at the 1.6 million-square-foot Pacific Design Center, all 10 best new artist nominees — Baby Keem, Saweetie, Olivia Rodrigo, Arlo Parks, Japanese Breakfast, The Kid LAROI, Jimmie Allen, Glass Animals, Finneas, and Arooj Aftab — were slated to perform.
Only it never happened.
After taking 2021 off due to the pandemic, Spotify — whose team typically begins planning the next event as soon as the Grammys wraps — had big plans for a splashy return this year. But then, the academy announced a change of plans, pushing the Grammys back more than two months. And just like that, the ceremony was hitting the road — and heading to Las Vegas.
“We knew amidst the pandemic that there would be several obstacles, so we began planning even earlier for the 2022 Grammys, putting together multiple contingency plans just in case,” says Ashley Graver, Spotify’s global head of creative artist partnerships. “It was a bit of a waiting game once the Grammy’s postponement was announced, with rumors flying around on where it might take place. Our team quickly started putting holds on venues in multiple cities across different dates and locations that we predicted it might be moved to. We knew we had to remain nimble.”
Come Saturday, April 2, a new sort of celebration will take place in the form of an intimate brunch in Vegas for the BNA nominees, their teams and industry partners. It follows a small dinner hosted in Los Angeles at Mother Wolf earlier this year, which Maddy Bennett, head of music strategy, says was “really about letting this class of artist nominees connect with one another, form creative relationships and friendships and cultivate that sense of community.”
Bennett stresses the importance of Spotify having a presence at the Grammys — which this year has been reduced from a full week to a quick 48-hour trip for most — saying “we’re not only celebrating these amazing artists and their teams, but we’re really celebrating the entire music community and the resilience that we’ve seen from the music community these past years. For us, we’ve come to realize that there’s a lot of value in tradition — and the BNA party is one of them.”
Bennett and Graver separately underline the importance of artist discovery at Spotify, with both calling it the company’s “bread and butter.” That’s exactly why, Bennett says, throwing the Best New Artist party has always made sense for Spotify — and was so vital to carry out this year.
She cites the time BNA nominees Glass Animals — an act currently celebrating its fourth week atop the Hot 100 with “Heat Waves” — performed at Spotify’s SXSW showcase in 2014, tracing a near eight-year partnership with the band. In 2019, BNA nominee Saweetie performed at Spotify’s Rap Caviar concert in Miami alongside a lineup of all-women rappers, after which she became part of the platform’s inaugural EQUAL program that aims to amplify women artists. Bennett also mentions how, in 2020, The Kid LAROI was just the third artist to participate in Spotify’s Radar program, a global artist development initiative, recalls an epic pop-up car wash last year to support the release of Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour and applauds Spotify’s UK team for identifying Arlo Parks as one to watch early on.
In a year where there are both fewer Grammy parties, and smaller capacities for the ones that are happening, Graver says the biggest challenge in pulling off a BNA event was “the waiting game” in between the postponement to when the new date and venue were locked. She also points to more behind-the-scenes shifts, such as recalibrating the out-of-home ads originally planned to run throughout L.A. in January.
“Despite the shifting tides of the pandemic, we knew we had a responsibility to artists and to the industry to maintain our Grammys presence,” she asserts. “We didn’t take no for an answer when faced with roadblocks.”