Recording Academy Votes to End Grammy Nomination Review Committees

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Grammy statues photographed on Jan. 12, 2019.

The Trustees seem to have decided that these nominations review committees have outlived their usefulness.

In a bombshell move, the trustees of the Recording Academy voted Friday (April 30) to disband nominations review committees and let Grammy voters have the final say in all non-craft categories.

The trustees met over Zoom to discuss this and proposals that were passed by the awards and nominations committee. In other key moves, the trustees voted to reduce the number of categories in which voters may vote from 15 to 10, add two categories (best global music performance and best música urbana album) and add a month to the eligibility year this year. It will extend from Sept. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021.

These updates go into effect immediately for the 64th annual Grammy Awards taking place Jan. 31, 2022.

“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.”

Ruby Marchand, the Academy’s chief industry officer, added: “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.”

The biggest change is the elimination of nominations review committees in general and genre fields. (The general field is the Big Four categories – album, record and song of the year plus best new artist.) Nominations in these categories will now be determined by a majority, peer-to-peer vote of the Academy’s voting members.

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.

Billboard reported March 2 that rank-and-file Grammy voters determine the final nominees in just 12 of 84 categories. In a whopping 59 categories, nominations review committees have the final say in determining the nominees. (The final nominations in the remaining 13 categories are determined by so-called “craft committees.” These committees will remain in place, even with these changes.)

The move to nominations review committees began in 1989 with the classical categories, followed by jazz shortly after.

The committee approach was adopted in the “Big Four” categories in 1995, after controversy erupted over some of the 1994 Grammy nominations. Some argued that album of the year nods for  Tony Bennett and The Three Tenors  -- and none that year for alternative or hip-hop artists -- showed that the Grammys were out of touch.

Many more genre fields shifted to committee review in the next two decades. The most recent fields to fall under the committee umbrella are rock, dance/electronic music, rap, new age and global music (formerly known as world music).

But some feel that the Academy’s aggressive efforts to expand and diversify its membership in recent years makes the need for nominations review committees less pressing than it was a quarter-century ago. The Trustees seem to have decided Friday that these committees have outlived their usefulness.

Here is a summary of other key changes:

Reduction in number of categories in which members may vote:

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 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. 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.

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)

Craft category realignment:

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

“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, the Academy’s chief awards officer. "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 trustees will convene again in May, also by Zoom, to discuss other matters. They are effectively breaking their regular trustees meeting into two parts because they have so much to discuss and decide.