The Recording Academy announced they will change their rules to adapt to streaming at next year's Grammy Awards.
Streaming was the most profitable source of revenue in the music industry in the last year, and it will be recognized at the Grammys next year thanks to game changers like Drake and Chance The Rapper. The latter made history when his recent album Coloring Book was the first to chart on the Billboard 200 based off of streaming through services like Apple Music and Spotify and not offered via a CD or paid download.
Stream-only albums will now be eligible to win the highest honors. Previously, these kinds of records were ineligible to be nominated, but “it’s clear now that streaming is here and probably here to stay,” said Bill Freimuth, a Recording Academy executive in charge of the Grammys.
“As the academy — as all the academies are — we’re often criticized for being out of step,” Freimuth said. “So we strive very much to be of the moment as much as we can. This was one way to do it.”
He adds, "Our trustees felt like the time had come; it's been on our radar for a couple of years now. The goal was to include recordings that were worthy of Grammy consideration that were streaming-only -- which it turns out were a pretty small number -- and exclude the 12-year-old singing a Beyonce cover into her comb that's easy to put up online also these days for streaming."
This means come Feb. 12, 2017, Chance The Rapper could be the first artist ever to win Album Of The Year based off his massive stream sales.
Billboard explains the new guidelines:
"Any recording released to at least one of the 'majors' of the space -- Spotify (due to its paid tier), Apple Music, Tidal or Google Play, for example -- would qualify as a release in general distribution. Recordings released exclusively via Pandora, which has not yet launched an on-demand service, or Soundcloud Go, which only debuted at the end of March and would not have a full year under its belt by the Sept. 30 cutoff, would not be eligible; similarly, smaller genre-specific streamers would not pass the 'full catalogue' litmus test. YouTube-only releases are also ineligible, as would mixtapes released for free via sites such as Datpiff or LiveMixtapes that are not also available elsewhere."
The Recording Academy also announced a more diverse voting system. Academy members will be allowed to vote in no more than 15 categories, excluding the four general categories such as best new artist and album of the year. Freimuth hopes that will eliminate instances where members voted in categories about which they knew little.
“We learned that that served as an invitation to break some of our other rules against vote trading and bloc voting,” he added.
Another definite change are the rules surrounding the Best New Artist award. The Recording Academy has changed the guidelines to avoid awarding an artist a Grammy that isn't well, new. As the LA Times points out, singer Shelby Lynne won in 2001 despite having been around for more than a decade. Instead, the new rules say an artist "must have released a minimum of five singles/tracks or one album, but no more than 30 singles/tracks or three albums."