Did the Grammys Move in the Wrong Direction? (Analysis)

Grammy trophy
Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A finished Grammy statue, wrapped in protective foam sits in a cardboard box at Billings Artworks in Ridgway Colorado on Jan. 12, 2019.

Where is it written that the Grammys have to precede the Oscars? When the Oscars moved the date of their next telecast to Feb. 9, 2020 (which would have been the night of the Grammys), the Grammys responded by moving their show to Jan. 26. I get why the Grammys wouldn't want to go up against the Oscars, but why did they move their show forward? The Grammys could have pushed their airdate to late February or even March.

The show has a long precedent of airing in late February or March: The Grammys aired in March the first five years they were televised live (1971-75), as well as in 1988, 1994 and 1995. They aired in the last week of February 20 times between 1976 and 2003, after which they moved to early February or even January.

I get why the Grammys may have thought they should precede the Oscars. Show-business tradition dictates that the biggest act closes the show. As the granddaddy of all award shows, it made sense that the Oscars capped awards season for many years.

And yes, it might seem anticlimactic at first to have another major awards show airing two, three or four weeks after the Oscars. But people adjust.

Besides, awards shows air year-round nowadays. The Academy of Country Music Awards air in April, the Billboard Music Awards follow in May and the Tonys are in early June.

There's another problem with the Grammys' Jan. 26, 2020 airdate. That's the same night as the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Why compete for media and fan attention with another important awards show? (Granted, it's hard to find a date in the thick of film awards season where you're not competing with something—so why not get out of film awards season?)

The Grammys' move to Jan. 26, 2020 prompted the Recording Academy to move the close of their eligibility period up a month from Sept. 30 to Aug. 31, 2019. It's only the third time in Grammy history that the eligibility year has ended in August. This also happened in 2009, when the Grammys moved up their airdate to Jan. 31, 2010 to avoid conflicting with the Winter Olympics, and in 1959, the second year of the awards, when the Grammys were the basis of a television special for the first time (the taped NBC Sunday Showcase aired on Nov. 29).

The March 26 announcement left several labels scrambling to move Grammy hopefuls to August from September—or resign themselves to the fact that the their releases will be up to 15 months old before they can be nominated. A problem with the earlier close to the end of the eligibility year is that few artists and record companies want to release albums in August, when sales are typically soft.

If the Grammys moved their airdate in the other direction, to late February or March, they might even be able to move the eligibility year later than its traditional Sept. 30 cut-off date. The Grammys had a later eligibility cut-off every year from 1960-75. The eligibility year closed on Oct. 15 from 1970-75, which coincided with the first six years of the live telecast.

The Grammys may well say that they've made their announcements of the airdate and the eligibility year change and that it's a settled matter. But they should perhaps take the lead of the Oscars, which last year backed down twice when their announced proposals proved unpopular.

Last August, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced the introduction of a new award for achievement in popular film. Everybody hated that idea, and the Academy, to its credit, tabled it. In February, just 13 days before the Oscar telecast, the Academy announced it would present four awards during commercial breaks. Again, many protested, and again, the Academy reversed course.

It looked a little chaotic, I'll grant you. It would have been better for the Academy to think these plans through and discuss them with more of their members before making their announcements. But at least they listened to feedback and cut their losses. They earned respect for the way they responded to criticism.

The Grammys and CBS should at least consider letting the Oscars go first and moving back to their long-time home in late February or March.

They could look at it this way. The Oscars would still be closing the show. The Grammys would be coming out for the encore. That's often the best part of the show anyway.


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