Grammy Awards Tweak Rules for Streaming Music
By BEN SISARIO
JUNE 16, 2016
Chance the Rapper David Kasnic for The New York Times
In another sign that streaming has become the music industry’s most important format, the Grammy Awards have announced a set of eligibility tweaks for next year’s ceremony.
On Thursday, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the awards, said that it would now accept music released only in streaming form, not just as downloads or on physical formats like CDs and vinyl. (The fine print is that they must have come out on “paid subscription, full catalog, on-demand streaming/limited download platforms” in existence for a year, which greenlights Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and a few other outlets.)
So far the change would seem to have only one major beneficiary: Chance the Rapper, whose mixtape “Coloring Book” made history in May as the first streaming-only release on the Billboard album chart, opening at No. 8. But with artists increasingly experimenting with how they release music online, there could very well be more.
“The Grammys aren’t just peer-awarded, they’re peer-driven,” Bill Freimuth, the academy’s senior vice president of awards, said in a statement. “Throughout the year, members of the music community come to us asking to make changes to the awards process, and we work with them to figure out how those changes might work.”
Adjusting the rules for best new artist, often one of the most controversial categories, the academy eliminated a requirement that a candidate have a full album under his or her belt, accepting instead five singles or tracks. (It is the second time in six years that this category has been tweaked. In 2010, after an uproar when Lady Gaga was disqualified, the academy allowed nominations for artists who had already been up for another prize.)
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Among the other changes:
The rap/sung collaboration category is now rap/sung performance, allowing a single artist to win if his or her style bridges rapping and singing. (Hello, Drake.)
The number of categories in which academy members may vote has been reduced from 20 to 15, in addition to the top four categories (album, song, record and new artist). In its explanation, the academy said the change would “encourage members to vote only in those categories in which they are most knowledgeable, passionate and qualified.”
The blues genre has been split into two awards, best traditional blues album and best contemporary blues album. The academy was clearly listening when Buddy Guy accepted the best blues album prize this year and remarked, “At least I know the blues is not dead yet.”
The next Grammy awards, the 59th annual, will be held on Feb. 12, for music released between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2016. This week the academy also renewed its longstanding broadcast deal with CBS, keeping the awards on that network through 2026.