It seemed a great triumph at first when this year’s Grammys announced the most diverse nominee lineup in the history of the awards ceremony. But the show’s actual slate of winners – as well as its largely homogenous performances – left many disappointed that there hadn’t been more done to steer the awards away from their entrenched preferences of decades past.
On Tuesday, the Grammys’ umbrella organization the Recording Academy announced a set of rule changes aimed at opening up the playing field. Chiefly, the number of nominations in the four top categories – Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist – will jump from five to eight, which will ideally “allow voters greater flexibility” when electing the year’s best recordings. The changes will be in place for the 61st annual awards next year.
“Because the Grammy Awards reflect what’s happening in the ever-changing landscape of music, the Recording Academy works diligently to make sure our awards process continually evolves to meet the needs of the music community,” the Recording Academy wrote in an email to its membership of more than 20,000 artists, producers, songwriters, art directors, engineers and other industry personnel who select award winners. It didn’t address whether the increase of nominees in the four biggest categories will come with changes to the actual voting process – a secretive system involving tiers of experts and special committees – or selection of the performance lineup.
Other updates to the award show’s rules include the addition of music supervisors to the nominee groups in the Best Compilation Soundtrack Album category, the introduction of a nominations review committee for the World Music Field, an expansion of the criteria for Best Alternative Music Album (which can now be any “music that embraces attributes of progression and innovation in both the music and attitudes associated with it,” also described as “often a less intense version of rock or a more intense version of pop”) and slight tweaks to the criteria of several other categories.
The 61st awards next year will also be the last show over which Recording Academy president Neil Portnow presides. Portnow ignited controversy at this year’s Grammys when he said women in music needed to “step up” if they wanted better representation, though he later apologized for not being “as articulate as I should have been.” He announced last month that he will step down from his role at the end of his current term next summer, by which time the Grammys will have a new leader.