Ever wondered how nominees and winners get selected at the Grammy Awards? Lucky for our readers, The Boot has some intel on how the voting process, both to determine the year’s nominees and to crown each year’s winners, works.
We consulted the Recording Academy’s official Grammy Awards voting rules to explain how nominees and winners for the annual Grammy Awards are determined. Read on for a quick primer.
Who Makes Up the Recording Academy?
Recording Academy members are classified as either voting, professional or student members. In short, voting members are artists, producers, musicians — those involved firsthand with the creation of music; professional members are music industry professionals, while student members are those studying to be involved in the music industry. The Recording Academy’s official website explains each distinction more thoroughly.
Who Can Vote for the Grammy Awards?
Only Recording Academy voting members are eligible to vote for the Grammy Awards. This means that Grammys winners are determined by the artists’, musicians’, songwriters’ and producers’ peers.
Who Is Eligible to Win at the Grammy Awards?
Nominees in each of the 84 Grammy Awards categories do not have to be Recording Academy members themselves; however, their work does need to be submitted by either a Recording Academy member or a registered media company.
Eligibility is determined based on the period of Oct. 1 of the previous year through Aug. 31 of the current year; in other words, for the 2021 Grammy Awards, voters should be considering work done in the period of Oct. 1, 2019-Aug. 31, 2020. More technically speaking, according to the Recording Academy, “Recordings must be commercially released 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. Recordings must be available for sale from any date within the eligibility period through at least the date of the current year’s voting deadline (final ballot).”
How Does the Grammy Awards Voting Process Work?
The Grammy Awards include 84 categories within 30 fields. Each field (general, classical, pop, country, etc.) has a number of categories within it; for example, the general field includes the all-genre Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Best New Artist categories, while the country field includes Best Country Album, Best Country Song and more.
Recording Academy members and registered media companies are invited to submit “entries” — i.e., recordings submitted for consideration for the Grammy Awards. More than 350 experts in various fields help determine whether or not each entry is eligible, and those that meet eligibility requirements are then voted on by the Recording Academy’s voting members.
Members can vote during the first round (that which determines the nominees) only in their area of expertise; they can vote in up to 15 of the Grammy Awards’ genre categories, as well as in the four all-genre general field categories. Some categories are also examined by national nomination review committees and/or craft committees. Those results determine the Grammy Awards nominees.
In the final voting round, Recording Academy members can once again vote in up to 15 of the Grammy Awards’ genre categories, as well as in the four all-genre general field categories.
Grammy Awards ballots are tabulated by Deloitte, an independent accounting firm, and results are not known until the night of the Grammy Awards. Deloitte delivers each winner’s name in a sealed envelope that is not opened until the ceremony.
If you’d like to learn more, the Recording Academy has put together an infographic explaining the Grammy Awards voting process.
Ahead of the 2021 Grammy Awards, ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan claimed in a complaint to the EEOC that Recording Academy board and committee members Grammys nominations “as an opportunity to push forward artists with whom they have relationships,” including ensuring that certain songs are nominated for awards so that they can be performed during the ceremony. She also reported that board members will add potential nominees to consideration, despite them not receiving enough votes from Academy members. No formal response to her allegations had been made as of the time of publication.
In reply to Dugan’s claims, the Recording Academy’s board of directors issued a statement calling her accusations “deeply unsettling and just not right.”
What’s the Difference Between Record of the Year and Song of the Year?
First off, record does not equal album in this case; rather, Record of the Year and Song of the Year are both song-related. In the Recording Academy’s words, the Record of the Year category “recognizes the artist’s performance as well as the overall contributions of the producer(s), recording engineer(s) and / or mixer(s) if other than the artist.” The Song of the Year category “recognizes the songwriter(s).”
For country fans, it may be helpful to compare Record of the Year to the CMA Awards’ Single of the Year and Song of the Year to the CMA Awards’ Song of the Year. This differentiation is also why, for example, Grammy Awards categories include Best Country Song for the songwriters as well as Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Duo / Group Performance for the artists and producers, etc.
How Can I Find Out the Winners of the Grammy Awards?
The 2021 Grammy Awards are scheduled to take place on Jan. 31. The televised portion of the ceremony will air live on CBS beginning at 8PM ET, while a pre-telecast Premiere Ceremony will take place earlier in the day and be available to stream online as it happens.
Country Artists With the Most Grammy Awards Wins: