×

Revamped Grammys calls for more trims

Grammy Awards 2012

When the Recording Academy announced last spring it was reducing the number of Grammy categories by almost a third, it didn’t take long for artists to get up in arms. Some alleged the cuts unfairly targeted ethnic minorities because of eliminations in Latin, R&B, Hawaiian and Native American categories. Others said it’s unfair for lesser-known artists to have to compete against bigger names. It even resulted in a class-action lawsuit filed by Latin jazz musicians against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

However, many in the industry — even those with a stake in the game — wonder whether NARAS has gone far enough, and if further cuts should be made. “The fact remains that there are still 78 categories, which is a very diverse selection of genre, performance and technical recognition,” says Kris Chen, head of the U.S. arm of the XL label that co-released (with Columbia) one of this year’s most-nominated albums, Adele’s “21.” “The Golden Globes, Oscars and American Music Awards combined don’t have as many categories as the Grammys,” he points out, and it’s true.

Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar editor in chief, says, “It seems like the number of categories they’ve gotten up to was a bit excessive. Not to pick on polka, but do you really need to give an award to polka artists? People like to win awards, but it got to be too ponderous.”

The Grammys began in 1958 with just 28 categories, which ballooned to a whopping 109 by 2011, far surpassing the Oscars (24) and the Golden Globes (26). Even Recording Academy VP Bill Freimuth recognizes things were getting out of hand. “They’ve been growing in a way that was largely unstructured — one category at a time,” he says. “We ended up with something uneven from genre to genre. There wasn’t a lot of balance or parity.” As a result, the Academy conducted a large-scale, two-year evaluation that resulted in this year’s restructuring.

Dave DiMartino, executive editor of Yahoo! Music who has covered the Grammys for several years, says it’s good to see categories such as hard rock and metal performance combined, but it’s worth taking it a step further. “It got to be headache-inducing to consider whether Scorpions in the year 2000 should be considered heavy metal, rock or hard rock … it was splitting hairs for idiotic reasons,” he says. “So there’s that surplus of categories on one end and an incredible overlapping on the other. And I don’t even want to go into the hair-splitting that goes on between the best pop performance and the best R&B performance.”

Someone like Mariah Carey, for example, is largely considered a pop performer, but since she has R&B roots, she can be nominated in both categories. And she’s not the only one. Pop vocal album and album of the year resulted in multiple nominations for Adele, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Bruno Mars this year, but does anyone think Adele would have gotten nominated for anything if it wasn’t for her voice?

And while there really is a distinction between the rap performance (given for quality rap performances) and rap/sung collaboration (awarded to rappers or singers who collaborate), the names of the categories often muddy the distinction (for example, record of the year goes to producers while song of the year goes to the writers, who are often one and the same).

Bill Werde, editorial director of music trade Billboard, observes that many of the eliminated categories were not receiving enough submissions. “The mission of the organization is not to make awards easy to win … but to award merit,” he says. “The categories that were condensed were categories that were substantially underfed by the nominations. Maybe there just isn’t enough interest to support those categories.”

One genre that was given an overhaul was jazz, having lost two categories, which might have to do with the form’s roughly 3% market share in album sales.

“Those of us working in the jazz field continue to see inequities when it comes to giving our music proper respect,” says Gordon Goodwin, leader of the Grammy-nominated jazz ensemble Big Phat Band. “The root of this, I’m afraid, lies in the weak economic position that jazz currently holds, and until we address that huge issue, this is where we are.”

Terri Lyne Carrington, nominated for jazz vocal album this year, adds: “We are under a bit of an illusion to think that business, survival and prosperity are not components in decision making of any large organization. I do not feel being more in touch with contemporary pop culture makes anything more relevant. History defines what is relevant.”

The question remains whether NARAS should have slimmed down the Grammy categories even further, and whether certain categories (think surround sound album or recording package) are relevant if most people have never heard of them.

As Werde says, “If a category isn’t driving interest, what’s the point?”

GRAMMY AWARDS 2012
Year’s biggest star lights up Grammys | Revamped Grammys calls for more trims | Macca guarantees fab MusiCares gala | Creative sparks fly from clash of styles | More liberal take on visual media kudos | Grammy spotlights Shore’s ‘Shine’

More Music

  • Terry Wakefield Exits Sony/ATV to Head

    Terry Wakefield Exits Sony/ATV to Head Up A&R at UMPG Nashville

    After a decades-long tenure at Sony/ATV Nashville, Terry Wakefield has followed another alumnus, Troy Tomlinson, across town to take a top position at Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville. Wakefield is senior VP of A&R at UMPG after having been senior VP of creative in his previous post. Personal loyalty to Tomlinson, UMPG Nashville’s recently named chairman/CEO, [...]

  • Sally Williams at PBS Country Music

    Sally Williams to Leave Longtime Opry Home for Top Post at Live Nation in Nashville

    Nashville executive Sally Williams is leaving Opry Entertainment, where she rose to the top over a two-decade tenure there, to join Live Nation’s regional office as the president of Nashville music and business strategy, the company announced Monday. Live Nation said Williams will not only lead programming and marketing for their concerts in the area, [...]

  • 'Welcome to New York The Empire

    Woodstock 50's Permit Denial Heap Keeps Growing

    In what’s become a broken record for music journalists everywhere, Woodstock 50 was once again denied a permit to hold its event, slated for Aug. 16 to 18, as a daytime festival at Vernon Downs in upstate New York. Previous attempts to convince the town of Vernon, on June 18 and July 3, were rejected [...]

  • London's CODA Agency Formally Becomes a

    Paradigm Agency Formally Absorbs London's CODA Into the Fold

    After five years of working together, London’s CODA Agency has formally become a part of Paradigm and will continue under its U.S. partner’s banner. The London office of what is now a fully integrated Paradigm will continue to be led by Alex Hardee, Tom Schroeder, James Whitting and Dave Hallybone. In a statement otherwise laden [...]

  • Mariah Carey

    Mariah Carey Signs With CAA

    Mariah Carey has returned to CAA for representation worldwide after moving to UTA in 2015. Throughout her 30-year career, the five-time Grammy winner has released some of the best-selling albums of all time, including “Music Box,” which racked up more than 28 million in sales, and “Daydream,” which sold 20 million copies. Her other albums, [...]

  • Art Neville of The Meters performs

    Art Neville of the Meters and the Neville Brothers Dies at 81

    Art Neville, one of the key figures of New Orleans music as a member of the Meters and later the Neville Brothers, died Monday. He was 81. Neville’s manager, Kent Sorrell, confirmed the death. “It was peaceful,” Sorrell told Nola.com. “He passed away at home with his adoring wife Lorraine by his side. He toured [...]

  • Roddy Rich

    Roddy Ricch Signs Wide-Ranging Deal With Kobalt

    Kobalt has signed Roddy Ricch to a wide-ranging exclusive worldwide deal in which the company will have full administration of the rapper, singer, songwriter and producer’s catalog, as well as publishing, creative services and synch for his future works. Ricch is a relative newcomer, first emerging onto the music scene in 2017 with the release [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content