In a move the Recording Academy hopes will increase members’ participation in the Grammy Awards, voters will soon be able to cast their ballots online for the first time.
Academy executives on Wednesday unveiled the elimination of paper ballots in favor of an online voting system as part of the organization’s annual review of the awards process.
The hope is that such a change will inspire a broader range of members to take part in the Grammys because it will present a more flexible voting option or appeal to artists who may be on the road during the period for voting.
“It’s been something we’ve been talking about for many years, and looking forward to the day when this has arrived,” said Bill Freimuth, the academy’s senior vice president of awards.
The Grammys have long faced criticism for favoring traditionalism over more adventurous and diverse artists. R&B star Frank Ocean, for instance, chastised the Grammys for awarding album of the year to Taylor Swift rather than Kendrick Lamar in 2016 and accused the institution of a “cultural bias.”
Such criticism only intensified after Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” lost the top album prize to Adele’s “25” at this year’s ceremony. Adele herself bowed to Beyoncé in accepting her award. “You are our light,” Adele said from the Grammy stage.
“I don’t think there was ever any opposition from members or trustees, but there were a lot of technical issues,” Freimuth said of the voting-process tweak. “We wanted to be sure our auditors at Deloitte were happy with their ability to still tabulate the ballots correctly.
“Security was always a major issue, because it could become a target for hackers,” he said
Raising, perhaps, the specter of Moscow’s Red Army Chorus stealing the album of the year Grammy?
“We’re buttoned up as much as we possibly could be along those lines,” he said.
One other big benefit Freimuth cited was the prospect of a more accurate and representative vote tabulation. Grammy rules allow all members to cast votes in the four marquee award categories — record, album, song and new artist.
Voters also are allowed to cast ballots in up to 15 other fields, but in the past a small percentage of voters has marked more than 15, resulting in those ballots, except for the top four categories, being discarded.
The other major rule change will put songwriters alongside performers, producers, recording, mixing and mastering engineers in collecting statues for album of the year if they’ve contributed to at least 33% of the playing time on a winning album.
The request was proposed more than a year ago, said Freimuth, adding, “My knee-jerk reaction was that we have a special category for songwriters, so why would we need to? But after I let it sink in, I thought, ‘Wow, why didn’t we think of this before?’ Songwriters are really significant contributors and they should not be overlooked.”
The academy also has expanded its definition of what qualifies as an album to recognize differences that often exist among pop albums and those in the classical, jazz and dance fields.
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