Grammy Awards Expand Nominees for Top Album, Song, Record & New Artist From 5 to 8: Exclusive

Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS
Bruno Mars accepts the award for Album of the Year during the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 28, 2018 in New York City. 

Recording Academy president Neil Portnow says the changes, which take effect immediately, provide "more flexibility to our voters when having to make the often challenging decisions about representing excellence and the best in music for the year."

In one of the most sweeping changes since the introduction of the Grammy Awards in 1959, the number of nominations in the record, song and album of the year and best new artist categories will expand from five to eight. The change takes effect immediately with the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in 2019.

"Throughout the year, we team up with music people across all genres and disciplines to consider revisions and subsequently make amendments to our rules and entry guidelines to ensure we're keeping up with our ever-changing industry and meeting the needs of music creators," said Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow in a statement. "This creates more opportunities for a wider-range of recognition in these important categories and gives more flexibility to our voters when having to make the often challenging decisions about representing excellence and the best in music for the year. We look forward to celebrating all of our nominees when they are announced later this year."

The suggested changes were ratified at the Trustees' meeting in May in Hawaii.

Other than in cases of a tie, the nominations have been limited to five in each of the four General Field categories since the Grammys' inception (the best new artist award began with the 2nd Grammy Awards)  The other 80 categories remain capped at five nominations each.  The move further reflects the large number of entries in the General Field categories, which are voted on by all eligible Grammy members.

In the first round of voting,  the general membership will continue to vote for five choices in each category. A nominations review committee will then take the top 20 selections and narrow the finalists down to eight. In the final round, voters will select their top pick. The votes are not weighted.

The Recording Academy's decision echoes an expansion undertaken by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences in 2009 when it doubled the number of best picture nominees from five to up to 10. The thinking behind that change was to possibly allow more blockbusters to be nominated in the top category and potentially broaden the Oscars' audience. It is unclear how the Recording Academy's decision will affect the February telecast in terms of performances, although in the past, the Grammys usually have tried to highlight all the nominees in the album of the year category in some way. The Grammy Awards return to Los Angeles' Staples Center in 2019 after switching to New York's Madison Square Garden in 2018.

The change is one of the biggest under Portnow's watch and likely will be one of his last, as he will depart the Recording Academy after his current contract expires in July 2019. Portnow also oversaw a tremendous reduction of Grammy categories in 2011 when the number of categories shrunk from 109 to 78 (they have edged back up to 84) and gender categories were eliminated.

There had been speculation that following this year's kerfuffle when only one female won a Grammy during the televised portion of the awards that the gender categories may return, but a quick review of the other rule changes for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards show that is not the case.

Among the other changes -- most of them are fine-tuning or clarifying category definitions -- music supervisors will now be considered nominees in the best compilation soundtrack album and restoration engineers will now be eligible for best historical album.

In the best song written for visual media category, if a track is released in the current eligibility year (Oct. 1-Sept. 31), but the soundtrack album is not released until the following eligibility year, the track will be eligible for Grammy consideration in the following year so long as it is not submitted in any category in the current year.

Additionally, the world music field will now determine its five finalists by a nominations review committee, which will take the top 15 selections from the general voting membership's first ballot and narrow the selections to five. Review committees are already used in a number of other categories, including album of the year.