Grammy Awards Eliminate ‘Secret’ Nominating Committees

The Recording Academy announced today that it has made significant changes to the Grammy Awards process — including the elimination of nearly all of the controversial “secret” nominating committees that made final decisions about which artists or recordings were nominated in certain categories, including the “Big Four” General field of Album, Song, Record of the Year and Best New Artist.

The committees, comprised of industry executives and experts whose names were not publicly revealed, came under fierce criticism before the 2021 Grammys when the Weeknd, who had one of the most critically and commercially successful recordings in years with his “After Hours” album and “Blinding Lights” single, did not receive a single nomination. Nominating committees remain in place for “Craft” categories (producer, packaging and liner notes), however those have been the object of much less controversy than the categories for which the committees have been eliminated.

In other words, the nominees for the main Grammy categories will be chosen by the general Academy electorate, 90% of which will go through a requalification process by the end of 2021 “to ensure that the voting body is actively engaged in music creation.”

The committees were introduced in 1989 and expanded to the “Big Four” in 1995 after widespread criticism of that year’s nominees, and gradually spread to other categories. But in recent years, the Recording Academy has made substantial efforts to modernize and educate its electorate, raising the question of whether the committees are still necessary. There were also allegations of insider dealing within the committees, which the Academy has denied but remain difficult to police in such a subjective process.

Other rule changes, which “reflect [the Academy’s] ongoing commitment to evolve with the musical landscape and to ensure that the Grammy Awards rules and guidelines are transparent and equitable,” include a reduction in the number of categories in which voters may vote, two Grammy Award category additions, and more.

The amendments appear in full below, copied directly from the Recording Academy press release. The Academy’s annual board of trustee meetings, during which such decisions are made, have been split into two meetings this year.

Additional rule amendment proposals will be discussed and voted on at an upcoming Recording Academy meeting in May — including, presumably, the naming of a new president/CEO — and the full rulebook for the 2022 will be released in May.

The eligibility period for the 2022 awards, which take place Jan. 31, 2022, is from Sept. 1 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021.

“It’s been a year of unprecedented, transformational change for the Recording Academy, and I’m immensely proud to be able to continue our journey of growth with these latest updates to our Awards process,” said Harvey Mason jr., Chair & Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy. “This is a new Academy, one that is driven to action and that has doubled down on the commitment to meeting the needs of the music community. While change and progress are key drivers of our actions, one thing will always remain — the Grammy Award is the only peer-driven and peer-voted recognition in music. We are honored to work alongside the music community year-round to further refine and protect the integrity of the Awards process.”

APPROVED RULE AMENDMENTS INCLUDE:

Voting Process Changes

  • Elimination of Nominations Review Committees In General and Genre Fields

o   Nominations in all of the Grammy Award general and genre fields will now be determined by a majority, peer-to-peer vote of voting members of the Recording Academy. Previously, many of the categories within these fields utilized 15-30 highly skilled music peers who represented and voted within their genre communities for the final selection of nominees. With this change, the results of Grammy nominations and winners are placed back in the hands of the entire voting membership body, giving further validation to the peer-recognized process. To further support this amendment, the Academy has confirmed that more than 90 percent of its members will have gone through the requalification process by the end of this year, ensuring that the voting body is actively engaged in music creation. Craft committees remain in place (see below for craft category realignment.)

  • Reduction In Number of Categories Voter May Vote

o   To ensure music creators are voting in the categories in which they are most knowledgeable and qualified, the number of specific genre field categories in which Grammy Award Voters may vote has been reduced from 15 to 10. Additionally, those 10 categories must be within no more than three Fields. All voters are permitted to vote in the four General Field categories (Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist). Proposed by a special voting Task Force who brought forth the recommendation, this change serves as an additional safeguard against bloc voting and helps to uphold the Grammy Award as a celebration of excellence in music, with specific genre field categories being voted on by the most qualified peers.

  • Craft Category Realignment

o   To better reflect the overlapping peer groups within the voter membership body, six existing craft fields will be consolidated into two fields: Presentation Field and Production Field. In either newly consolidated field, voters would have the ability to choose how many categories they feel qualified to vote in, respecting category vote limits, without being excessively limited by the three-field restriction. This benefits the integrity of these Awards by embracing and utilizing the specializations of the voters, without restricting their choice or contributions due to the field limits imposed by the recent reduction of the number of categories voters may vote in. Field updates are as follows:

  • Package Field, Notes Field and Historical Field renamed and consolidated to Presentation Field
  • Production, Non-Classical Field; Production, Immersive Audio Field; and Production, Classical Field renamed and consolidated to Production Field

New Categories Added

Two new categories have been added, bringing the total number of GRAMMY Award categories to 86:

  • Best Global Music Performance (Global Music Field)
  • Best Música Urbana Album (Latin Music Field)

“The latest changes to the Grammy Awards process are prime examples of the Recording Academy’s commitment to authentically represent all music creators and ensure our practices are in lock-step with the ever-changing musical environment,” said Ruby Marchand, Chief Industry Officer at the Recording Academy. “As we continue to build a more active and vibrant membership community, we are confident in the expertise of our voting members to recognize excellence in music each year.”

“As an Academy, we have reaffirmed our commitment to continue to meet the needs of music creators everywhere, and this year’s changes are a timely and positive step forward in the evolution of our voting process,” said Bill Freimuth, Chief Awards Officer at the Recording Academy. “We rely on the music community to help us to continue to evolve, and we’re grateful for their collaboration and leadership.”

The Recording Academy accepts proposals from members of the music community throughout the year. The Awards & Nominations Committee, comprised of Academy Voting Members of diverse genres and backgrounds, meets annually to review proposals to update Award categories, procedures and eligibility guidelines. The above rule amendments were voted on and passed at a Recording Academy Board of Trustees meeting held on April 30, 2021.

 



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