There’s been a lot of contention of late, most notably following the release of Chance the Rapper‘s mixtape Coloring Book, which was released for free online, about the Grammys and their eligibility rules. Many rightfully believed that a change needed to be made, stipulating that releases made available via streaming or free downloads should be just as eligible for a Grammy nomination as those released in more traditional ways. Considering how much the musical landscape has changed in recent years, with many more artists shifting toward free releases, it only made sense.
People started petitions, wrote articles and open letters, countless tweets and more. In a miraculous turn of events, the Grammys have actually listened, assessed, and changed their rules. They will now allow any album released via download or stream, so long as it employs “paid subscription, full catalogue, on-demand streaming/limited download platforms that have existed as such within the United States for at least one full year as of the submission deadline.” This is fantastic news for many artists who release their music via streaming services, like Soundcloud, as Chance himself has pointed out:
The victory this morning isn't about me, it's about all the Soundcloud albums that may now be recognized for excellence.
— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) June 16, 2016
The news follows a similar change made by the RIAA earlier this year, who announced that streaming equivalents would now count toward album numbers in terms of artists achieving gold and platinum status for new releases.
This is a real triumph, but interestingly, a whole lot of other changes have been made to award categories – changes which no doubt come from the changing face of hip-hop. No longer are full albums necessary to be eligible for the Best new Artist award, a whole new category has been added under blues, to incorporate hip-hop as well as electronic elements, while the increased number of rapping/singing artists has similarly redefined an entire category:
- Best New Artist award no longer has to include an album. The entrant must have released at least five singles, but no more than 30 singles or three albums. “Must have achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and impacted the musical landscape during the eligibility period.”
- New Blues category to be added to American Roots:
- Best Traditional Blues Album
- Best Contemporary Blues Album – this is the interesting one, as it specifically stipulates, that entrants “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.” It goes on to mention that electronic synths, loops and programming are permitted.
- Best Rap/Sung Collaboration award has changed from “Rap/Sung Collaboration” to “Rap/Sung Performance,” to “represent the current state and future trajectory of rap by expanding the category beyond collaborations between rappers and vocalists to include recordings by a solo artist who blurs the lines between rapping and singing. The new category “is intended to recognise solo and collaborative performances containing elements of R&B and rap in melody and song. In the case of a collaboration of artists who don’t usually perform together, one of the collaborating artists should be credited and recognised as a featured artist.”
You can find all the details and more here.