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Grammy Awards Voting Process – Is it Biased?

The Grammys - biased?Here is the 49th Annual Grammy Nominee List

I’ve always asked myself “How do they pick Grammy winners when there are so many other bands and artists out there who deserve the award more than a lot of the talentless (but marketable) musicians getting the golden record player?”

Well, I’ve looked into the process and would like to present it to you here (with comments of course). The explanation and FAQ’s come directly from the The Academy’s Awards & Nominations Committee on the grammy.com website. The comments are, of course, from me…Mahsheet Smelsrahbahd.

The object is to challenge The Recording Academy’s mention that “The GRAMMYs are the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.”

Why do I doubt their integrity? Because as a musician I doubt any integrity in the Music Industry…

The process begins with members and record companies submitting entries, which are then screened for eligibility and category placement. The Academy’s voting members, all involved in the creative and technical processes of recording, then participate in (1) the nominating process that determines the five finalists in each category; and (2) the final voting process which determines the GRAMMY winners.

Submission

Recording Academy members and record companies enter recordings and music videos released during the eligibility year which they consider worthy of recognition in the GRAMMY Awards process.

FAQ: How are recordings entered?
The Academy accepts entries online. After registering with the Awards department, entrants are given information on how to electronically submit their recordings for consideration. Recordings can also be entered via mail.

What does “Registering with the Awards Department consist of?”

FAQ: What are the eligibility requirements?
For the 49th Annual GRAMMY Awards, recordings must be released between Oct. 1, 2005 and Sept. 30, 2006. Recordings must be in general distribution in the United States, i.e. sales by label to a branch or recognized independent distributor, via the Internet, or mail order/retail sales for a nationally marketed product.

Ok, so bands and artists must have a recording contract with a record label which has independent distribution in the United States. This eliminates all “do it yourselfers” or bands and artists who sell their own albums on the internet, at shows, or distribute themselves at their local record stores.

FAQ: Who can vote?
Recording Academy voting members only. Record companies do not vote.

See next FAQ.

FAQ: Who qualifies as a Voting Member?
Recording Academy voting members are professionals with creative or technical credits on six commercially released tracks (or their equivalent). These may include vocalists, conductors, songwriters, composers, engineers, producers, instrumentalists, arrangers, art directors, album notes writers, narrators and music video artists and technicians.

Aren’t most of these folks hired, paid, and are representatives of the record company in an un-official way? Wouldn’t it be in their best interest to help submit and vote for those artists who fall under the label that pays them? I’m a little iffy on this one.

Screening

Reviewing sessions by more than 150 experts in various fields are held to ensure that entered recordings meet specific qualifications and have been placed in appropriate fields such as Rock, R&B, Jazz, Country, Gospel, New Age, Rap, Classical and Latin, among others. The purpose of screenings is not to make artistic or technical judgments about the recordings, but rather to make sure that each entry is eligible and placed in its proper category.

Ok, no problem here. This is more of a Quality Assurance step.

Nominating
First-round ballots with lists of eligible recordings in all fields, except those voted on by special nominating committees, are sent to voting members who return their ballots to the independent accounting firm of Deloitte for tabulation. To help ensure the quality of the voting, members are directed to vote only in their fields of expertise; they may nominate in the four general categories (Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist) and in no more than nine out of 31 fields on their ballots.

Except those “voted on by special nominating Committees?” Who in are these “Special” nominating committees?

Special Nominating
Committees In craft and other specialized categories, final nominations are determined by national nomination review committees comprised of voting members from all of The Academy’s Chapter cities.

Ok, an explanation of “special”, but still too vague to to answer my question of who the “special” people are. Not to mention “Specialized categories”. Why are these “specialties” separated from the rest of the Recording Academy voters? This needs more of an explanation.

Final Voting

Lists of the finalists are sent to voting members with their second round ballots. The finalists determined by the special nominating committees are also included on these lists. In this final round, Recording Academy members may vote in the four general categories and in no more than eight of the 31 fields. Ballots again are tabulated in secrecy by the independent accounting firm, Deloitte.

FAQ: How many categories are there?
The GRAMMY Awards includes 31 fields (Pop, Gospel, Classical, etc.) and 108 categories within those fields.

Again, with the “Special Nominating Committees”, dammit, who are these people?

Results
Results of members’ voting are not known until the GRAMMY Awards presentation ceremony when names of the winners are delivered by Deloitte in sealed envelopes. GRAMMY Award winners are revealed during the GRAMMY Awards telecast.

Well, there it is folks. Is a Grammy nomination subject to bias? You decide. Given the voting process listed above, it is clear that many bands and artist are excluded because:

1.) They don’t want or need a record company to distribute their music. Should bands who have many fans and sell a good deal of albums on their own be shut out from being entered into the Grammys and the nomination process?

2.) They are subject to vague descriptions of who can vote leaving room for interpretation. Even though record companies can’t vote, it seems there is a very good possibility to have contracted workers (engineers, producers, concert promoters, etc.) vote for musicians on that record companies label.

And lastly, just an observation. The Grammys receive a lot of revenue from advertising during the awards show. No big names= no revenue. You will notice that it’s always the small musical genres and artists (i.e. Best Bluegrass, Best Producer, Etc.) get cut out of the show or get very small mention. Don’t they deserve as much recognition? They are just as good or even better artists than many of the top categories (Pop, Rock, Hip-Hop). If this is to be an un-biased awards show, shouldn’t the smaller categories get a chance to play live and accept their awards on live television? Is this a case of Money over Art?

To end on a good note (pun intended)…I would like to point out that The Grammy Foundation does a lot of good work with schools and their music programs to ensure music is a part of students lives. They also have another foundation called MusiCares which provides critical assistance to musicians in need. Good stuff…

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