February 08, 2013

How to Win a GRAMMY: A Look at Voting and Nominations

The GRAMMY Awards are one of the most exciting music events of the year full of fashion, celebrities, and some great performances. Everyone loves to root for their favorites and predict who will win but there seems to be some confusion as to how to awards actually work. (There are articles out there with some strange ideas on how it happens). A little mystery can be part of the magic, but for those of us that intend to work in the music industry, knowing what goes on behind the scenes of the illustrious awards show is pretty important (how else are you going to know how to win?). So, since the awards are this weekend, figured it seemed as good a time as any (okay maybe the best time really) to tell you how it all works. But spoiler alert, reading ahead may take away the fairy-dust-element involved so stop now if you'd prefer the fairy tale. If you're okay with that (or realize that sometimes truth is more interesting than fiction), then read on.


If you're still with us you first need to understand a bit about the organization behind The GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy (also known as NARAS). The Recording Academy is a non-profit membership organization for music industry professionals and it, along with its sister organizations MusiCares and The GRAMMY Foundation, offers some pretty fantastic things like networking opportunities, workshops, panels, conferences, educational opportunities, medical services, and aid to music people in need.  This organization is also responsible for the awards and for all of the hard work that goes into acknowledging the year's musical achievements while putting on a good show.

How does something get nominated? 
Recording Academy members and music companies submit material that was released during that year's eligible period (this year it meant something released between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012) and distributed throughout the US. The submissions are screened by experts to determine the appropriate category (currently there are 81 GRAMMY categories total) and ensure the submission is eligible for nomination. Ballots are sent to NARAS's voting members who may vote only in the categories that align with their expertise and the general field awards (like Best New Artist). These ballots are counted by an independent accounting firm to determine the nominees. Votes are not to be influences by friendship, sales, or anything other than talent and skill.

Who can vote? 
The Recording Academy has three different types of membership: Voting, Associate and GRAMMY U's student membership. Voting members have special requirements related to creative or technical accomplishments in the industry and they are the only people allowed to vote for the awards (record labels can submit music for consideration, but they cannot vote on them). Voting members must have worked on recordings (as a producer, songwriter, performer, engineer, arranger, conductor, etc.) that were released in the US in one of the following ways:

  • 12 credited physical or digital tracks released online only and currently available for purchase with at least one track in the past 5 years 
  • 6 credited commercially released tracks currently available for sale and distributed through physical distribution outlets (such as record stores) with at least one track in the past five years
  • A GRAMMY Nomination in the past five years
  • Endorsement by an existing voting members

How is the winner determined? 
The final ballots with the nominees are sent to voting members and they may only vote in the general field and 20 other categories. These ballots are counted by an independent accounting firm and the results are revealed live during the ceremony. 

How do I get tickets to The GRAMMY Awards? 
You have to a member of The Recording Academy or a GRAMMY nominee. 

For more information visit GRAMMY.org.