The GRAMMY Nomination Process Simplified
By M. Peggy Quattro
Since 1958, the GRAMMYs have celebrated music excellence. It is the music community’s highest honor & its only peer-based award.
The GRAMMY is awarded to musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, & industry professionals.
Inside Jamaica’s Reggae community, there’s always much discussion about the USA GRAMMY Awards, especially the highly coveted Best Reggae Album Award.
Ever since the first Reggae GRAMMY went to Black Uhuru in 1985 (when it was called Best Reggae Recording), there’s been dissension in the Reggae family, along with confusion, arguments, debates, & disagreements surrounding why someone was nominated…or why not.
Let’s start with some facts: currently, there are 30 fields (General, Pop, Rock, Reggae, etc.) to be considered, as well as 84 distinct award categories across those fields. The Reggae category is for “an album containing at least 51% playing time of new Reggae recordings.”
To be clear, I am not an Academy member or a Reggae GRAMMY expert. However, I join others who are interested in how the “final five” selection comes about. So, I set out to educate myself & now I can share what I’ve learned with you.
What follows is information on the Recording Academy, how to join, & the GRAMMY Nomination process. Academy links are provided for more info. I truly hope this helps answer the countless questions as to how, when, who, and why a Reggae album ultimately acquires this sought-after recognition.
FIRSTLY – JOIN THE ACADEMY
Like the GRAMMY Awards, Recording Academy membership is community-driven & peer-reviewed on an annual cycle. Pay attention to the dates & deadlines!
You must be invited to join. To be considered for an invitation:
- Get two strong recommendations from music industry peers. (Click this link to learn how to get recommendations.)
- Your profile is completed only after your recommendations are received by the Academy & you tell them more about your career.* Profiles must be complete by midnight on March 1 to be considered for that year’s class.
*Candidates will receive an email with a link & candidate code to complete their career profile.
New member submissions are considered by the Recording Academy’s Peer Review Panel each spring, & will approve memberships at its sole discretion after assessing your submission.
THE WHO & HOW
Who can enter recordings for consideration? Do I qualify?
The Recording Academy accepts entries online from Professional & Voting Members, as well as registered media companies. Members are permitted to submit their own eligible recordings as well as the recordings of their peers for consideration.
How do media companies submit product for GRAMMY consideration?
Record labels, distribution companies & management firms qualify as media companies. Media companies must register with the Recording Academy every year to submit/enter recordings. Once your media company registration has been confirmed, the Awards department will send the media company’s designated administrator detailed submission instructions. More Academy FAQ’s here.
“The Reggae GRAMMY Category does need some change. But change won’t happen if Reggae artists are on the menu…but NOT at the table.” ~Barbara Johnson, Media Exec
Read This Interesting Committee Background
I highly recommend you read this clip from a 2014 article by friend, writer & major Dancehall & Reggae enthusiast ROB “Boomshots” KENNER. He tells of his experience as an Academy Screening Committee member while raising a few very interesting questions. (More on the process below.)
ROB: “[The] screening committee goes through every single album that had been submitted—usually by record labels, but sometimes by members of the Recording Academy. (In a category like reggae, where much of the music is produced by smaller independent labels who may not be familiar with the GRAMMY entry process, the best records are sometimes not even submitted.)
“Members of that committee were not supposed to concern ourselves with quality—our job was to determine whether each album belonged in the reggae category. The rules stated that 51% of the album’s tracks had to consist of reggae music (a genre that includes such disparate styles as roots reggae, ska, dub, and dancehall.)
“…Famous people tend to get more votes from clueless Academy members, regardless of the quality of their work.”
“…Famous people tend to get more votes from clueless Academy members, regardless of the quality of their work. This is especially true in specialized categories like reggae…That’s the reason why famous names like Marley, Toots, and Sly & Robbie stand a much better chance of winning in the reggae category than, say, Beres Hammond.
[Rob soon paid his membership fee and joined the Recording Academy as a voting member. His story continues:] “Here’s how the process works: Voting members review lists of all the eligible recordings in each category (the ones generated by screening committees like mine.)
“Members are supposed to vote only in their fields of expertise—and in a maximum of 9 out of the 31 fields on the ballot… A few categories are reserved for special nominating committees, but frankly—not enough… In the final voting process, members are allowed to vote in even more categories—up to 20, plus the 4 general categories.
“Bottom line: the vast majority of the nominations are chosen by people who have little real expertise in a given field. I refrained from voting in heavy metal and classical because I know very little about those genres. But I could have if I wanted to, and that strikes me as a problem.” Read Rob’s entire 2014 Complex.com article here.
“We don’t need a dancehall category…that would set us back…people are being fooled about separating dancehall from reggae…We’re always trying to create something instead of focusing on what we have and building that.” ~Ibo Cooper, JaRia
NOW, HERE’S THE PROCESS…
It begins with members & record companies submitting entries, which are then screened for eligibility and category placement. The Academy’s voting members, all involved in the creative & technical processes of recording, then participate in (1) the nominating process that determines the five finalists in each category; & (2) the final voting process which determines the GRAMMY winners.
After review by 350 experts in various fields, the screening committee places the album in its proper category. No artistic or technical judgments about the recordings are made. The entries move on to the nominating committee.
First-round ballots are sent to voting members in good dues standing. To help ensure the quality of the voting, members are directed to vote only in their areas of expertise; they may vote in up to 15 categories in the genre fields plus the four categories of the General Field (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, & Best New Artist.) Ballots are tabulated by the independent accounting firm of Deloitte.
FINAL VOTING (Note: This is where I’m a little confused. The Reggae category is not sent to a Nominations Review Committee–see graphic below–before the final vote. The Reggae nominees selected from the first nominating committee go right to final vote, with no review. Maybe someone reading this can explain it to us.)Final-round ballots are then sent to voting members in good dues standing. In this final round, Recording Academy members may vote in up to 15 categories in the genre fields plus the four categories of the General Field.
So good people, that’s how it’s done!
More Helpful Info:
Key Dates for 2020-2021
- Sept. 1, 2019—Aug. 31, 2020: Product Eligibility Period
- Sept. 30—Oct. 12, 2020: First-Round Voting—eligible members vote to determine the 2021 nominees!
- Nov. 24: Nominations Announcement!
- Dec. 7, 2020—Jan. 4, 202: Final-Round Voting—this round determines the GRAMMY winners!
- Jan. 31, 2021: 63rd GRAMMY Awards & Premiere Ceremony (8 p.m.CBS)
Check it! Recent Academy Changes
You will notice that any terms that include the word urban* have been removed from category titles. The Recording Academy stated in November 2020 “that describing music as ‘urban’ and ‘urban contemporary’ has ‘historically been used as a way to separate Black artists’ from the (white) artistic mainstream.”
*Exception, one Latin category… go figure.
Interestingly, “the Academy members who serve on its so-called nomination reviews committees, which determine the final nominees in most award categories, must disclose any connections they have to potentially nominated artists and projects.”
“Two glaring disclosures only now being asked are: (1) Do you have any “immediate family ties” to a potential nominee? And (2) Will you as a voter, have any “direct or indirect financial ties” to a project or artist under consideration?”
But, as with all vague changes & GRAMMY nominations, there are questions, controversies, and contention.
LASTLY – ABOUT PROMOTION
Labels, artists & media companies are welcome to promote their album but must follow these Voting & Solicitation Guidelines, i.e., voters may not accept money or anything of value for a vote, no agreement to trade votes, & voters must not be influenced in any other way other than their own analysis of merit.