Every award show has a different voting process, some are voted online by anyone that wants to vote, and members of the academy decide others. The Grammys’ process is the latter.
Every year over 150 “experts” of music vote on the categories and decide who wins the Grammy for each category. To become a member, you have to have been involved in the creation of six or more commercially released tracks that are sold physically or online, you then have to pay a yearly fine every year and you can then vote for the Grammys.
Every member is eligible to vote in up to twenty categories as well as the four categories of the General Field, which are Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist. While the Recording Academy urges voters to only vote in their fields, there are no restrictions placed on voters other than the limit of twenty. A member that is known to be an expert in rock music can vote in the rock categories, but if he or she also wants to go and vote in the rap categories, they can. While albums must be officially submitted to the academy, members are not required listen to any of the music they are voting for, unlike with many movie awards, where the movies are distributed to the members for viewing before voting. This shows an obvious flaw in the system, someone who has no experience in creating or listening to a type of music should not be able to vote to decide who wins in that category.
The Grammys have been criticized a lot for their process, as well as for their tendencies to nominate commercially successful albums instead of critically successful albums. A good example of this is in 2011, when Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was not nominated for Album Of The Year, despite being considered as the album of the year from critics nationwide. Randall Roberts of the LA Times wrote an interesting piece in 2011 about his issues with the Grammys, including West’s snub, stating “The Grammy Awards, however, are only timidly wading into these waters. Instead the focus is still on the old music industry model of cash-cow hits, major label investments and commercial radio.”
In a new age of music, with the radio no longer being the number one source of new music for listeners, the Academy needs to stop focusing on sales and radio hits to determine who should be winning awards. Many people now find music they like on Internet blogs and through services like Spotify and Pandora. And as much as it hurts the industry, many people don’t buy music anymore. People use these streaming services or they illegally download the music they want through websites like The Pirate Bay. Of course they should still consider popular music, but they need to find a balance between what is popular and what is acclaimed.
This year, artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were among the highly talked about artists and were nominated seven times, including three major nominations for Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Best New Artist, and after beating Kendrick Lamar among others in the Best Rap Album and Best New Artist categories, many took to twitter to express their complaints about the wins. Macklemore himself has stated that he doesn’t deserve the award for Best Rap Album, and that Kendrick Lamar should have won the award. But because of his popularity and accessibility he still won the award.
The problem is, the members voting on these awards do not represent the masses, the voting and decision process need to be changed, or the Grammys will die along with the old ideas of music.