UPDATED: The Recording Academy announced several changes to its awards process, most notably that the number of nominations for the “General Field” categories — record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, and best new artist — will increase from five to eight.
According to the announcement, sent to Academy members Tuesday morning, “This change will better reflect the large number of entries in these categories and allow voters greater flexibility when selecting this year’s best recordings.”
The decision is also likely a reflection of the uproar over the low number of female nominees and winners for the 2018 awards, although with Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, Childish Gambino, Khalid, SZA and Jay-Z producer No I.D. leading, those nominations were otherwise possibly the most musically and racially diverse in the Academy’s history. However, the winners’ list did not reflect the wider variety of nominees — Mars swept Best Album, Song and Record — and in some categories it seems likely that votes were split between Jay-Z and Lamar, arguably the world’s two most popular rappers.
Contacted by Variety, Sony/ATV Music Publishing chairman Martin Bandier said, “I think the expansion of the nominations is a great thing. There is such a wide diversity of music today and narrowing it down to only five in a major category is not inclusive enough. This is much better for the industry and I’m happy to see this change. It gives more talented people a shot and gives voters a bigger spectrum to choose from. I predict there will be some very interesting events as a result.”
At press time, heads of the three major-label groups, the American Association of Independent Labels and the RIAA had either declined or not responded to Variety‘s requests for comment.
In other changes, music supervisors will be considered nominees in the Best Compilation Soundtrack Album category (although they will no longer be eligible for consideration as album producers, unless they produced at least 51 percent of the album in question), and nominations for the World Music Field will now be determined through its own Nominations Review Committee. A number of category definition updates and clarifications were also announced and can be found in full here.
Unlike a similar nominee expansion by the Academy Awards, which in 2009 grew its best picture nominees from five to 10, the Grammy move seems less motivated by ratings. It also lessens the chances that all eight nominees will perform during the show; earlier this year the sole female Best Album nominee, Lorde, did not perform on the show after a disagreement with Grammy producers, which increased the criticism directed at the Academy for low female representation. In the weeks following the show, the Academy and its chief Neil Portnow, who told a Variety reporter that female artists and executives needed to “step up” in order to receive greater recognition, underwent a firestorm of criticism that resulted in three open letters calling for change in the organization and the formation of a task force for greater diversity headed by former Obama administration chief of staff Tina Tchen. The controversy also may have contributed to Portnow’s decision to step down from his post next year.