As artists continue to explore new platforms and strategies for releasing their music, such as surprise releases and streaming-only albums, the rest of the industry has been left to play catch up. But as of today, the Grammys can finally catch its breath.
It has been revealed that the Recording Academy has amended its eligibility rules to now include streaming-only releases. So artists like Chance the Rapper, whose latest offering Coloring Book was the first streaming-only record to ever chart on the Billboard 200, can rejoice as such albums are now eligible for Grammy consideration.
The inclusion of streaming-only releases is the result of modifying the Academy’s definition of “general distribution.” It was previously defined as, “sales by label to a branch or recognized independent distributor, via the internet, or mail order/retail sales for a nationally marketed product.” The new language now includes, “and/or applicable streaming services,” with “applicable” defined as a paid subscription service that offers a full catalogue of on-demand streaming and limited download platforms that have existed within the U.S. for at least one full year of the submission date. So essentially, it will take into account the major player platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Google Play, to name a few, while platforms such as Pandora and YouTube remain ineligible.
“We think that [language] is actually a key to making this work for us and should really accomplish that goal of making sure that the artists who, I guess primarily for philosophical reasons, are releasing through streaming only, that they’re eligible while excluding still most, if not all, the amateur recordings,” Recording Academy SVP of Awards Bill Freimuth told Billboard.
The inclusion of streaming-only releases is just one of five amended rules made by the Academy. Another includes guideline changes for Best New Artist consideration — rather than an artist having to release an entire album within the eligibility timeframe, they can now release a minimum of five singles/tracks, though cannot exceed a maximum of 30 singles/tracks or three albums.
As for the category of Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, it will now be called Best Rap/Sung Performance in order to include solo tracks in which one artist both sings and raps. The best example Friemuth offered is Drake.
Yet another change pertains to the number of categories that Recording Academy members are able to vote for — it decreased from 20 to 15 in an effort to have members only vote on categories they are most qualified and passionate about.
And finally, that last change has resulted in the Best Blues Album award being broken apart into one category for Best Traditional Blues Album and one for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
“The process for the changes is one of the elements of the overall process of which I’m proudest, because it keeps us as current and as relevant as we can and it keeps the process dynamic,” Freimuth said. “We’re happy about that and we’re glad to make changes every year.”
The 59th annual Grammy Awards are set to take place Feb. 12th, 2017.