Recording Academy Makes Changes to Grammys; Going Back to Two Blues Categories

by VVN Music

The Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences regularly looks at the Grammy Awards and makes changes to reflect the changing landscape of music and the industry itself.

The last major change came after the 2011 awards when numerous categories were combined to try to cut down from over 110 to just over 80 categories. One of the casualties of that cut was the separation of Traditional and Contemporary Blues albums which were combined into just one "Best Blues Album" category.

On Thursday, the Academy announced that, starting with the 2017 awards, they will return to their old format, stating:
To reflect the dynamic range of Blues submissions The Recording Academy receives, the category previously known as Best Blues Album will now branch into two distinct categories:
  • Best Traditional Blues Album - Blues recordings with traditional blues song structures, harmonic structures, and rhythms, that may also employ traditional blues instruments such as acoustic and electric guitar, piano, organ, harmonica, horns, and electric bass and drums. This category includes various subgenres such as Delta blues, Piedmont blues, jump/swing blues, Chicago blues, and classic/Southern soul.
  • Best Contemporary Blues Album - Blues recordings that vary from traditional blues song and harmonic structures. These may employ non-traditional blues rhythms such as funk, hip-hop, reggae, and rock, and may also include both traditional blues instruments and non-traditional blues instruments. Recordings may also feature contemporary techniques such as the use of synthesizers, programmed tracks, and loops. This category includes various subgenres, such as funk blues and blues-rock.
They have also announced they will recognize works that are only released through streaming services and are not made available on CD, vinyl or via download. These recordings must be "released nationwide via download or streaming service must have quality comparable to at least 16-bit 44.1 kHz. Submissions sent to The Academy for consideration must also include both the original file and the product, proper label credits (producer, mixer, songwriter, etc.) in the metadata file, and a verifiable online release date."

In other changes:
  • Academy members may only vote in the "Big Four" (Record, Album and Song of the Year and Best New Artist) plus fifteen other categories, down from twenty in previous years. This is "to encourage members to vote only in those categories in which they are most knowledgeable, passionate, and qualified, while keeping in mind that certain genre fields contain several distinct award categories."
  • In the Best New Artist category, an album requirement has been removed to reflect the fact that many artists are releasing music on a track-by-track basis. Now, to qualify as a new artist:
    • Must have released a minimum of five singles/tracks or one album, but no more than 30 singles/tracks or three albums.
    • May not have entered into this category more than three times, including as a performing member of an established group.
    • Must have achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and impacted the musical landscape during the eligibility period.
  • Best Rap/Sung Collaboration has been changed to Best Rap/Sung Performance making it possible for a rap artist to receive a solo nomination if they both rap and sing on a record. 
For the 2017 awards, the eligibility period will be October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016 with the nominations being announced on December 6 and the awards being held on February 12, 2017

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