There are very few things that every sane, rational person can agree on, but we should all be able to agree that the GRAMMYs disqualifying music released for free is dumb.
20 years ago, tying award eligibility to commercial releases made sense. The GRAMMYs needed some way to weed out amateurs or they'd be deluged by submissions, and cutting off people who couldn't get anyone to buy their music at a time when music buying was everything was a good place to start. But then this whole internet thing happened. You may have heard about it. Now it's not just amateurs who give away music for free, it's some of the biggest names in music, and so of course cutting them off also cuts off some of the defining music of our time.
"Music must be commercially released in general distribution in the United States....Recordings must be available for sale from any date within the eligibility period through at least the date of the current year’s voting deadline (final ballot)." —GRAMMY guidelines
Perhaps no one embodies this better than Chance the Rapper. He's without a doubt a star, someone who's been on national TV more than Ryan Seacrest lately, and someone who's making more money than most from touring, merch and endorsements. He's also someone that has yet to receive so much as a GRAMMY-nod, despite a classic album (don't call Acid Rap a mixtape) and being heavily involved in Surf, a musically excellent free-project the GRAMMYs should have otherwise eaten up. And since Chance has vowed to never sell his music, unless something changes on the GRAMMY side, we could watch one of the best voices in music spend their entire career without any recognition from an organization allegedly devoted to recognizing the best voices in music.
He said let's do a good ass job with Chance three / I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy - "Ultralight Beam"
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Well, as Gandhi definitely would have said if he was alive to hear Acid Rap, be the rap change you wish to see in the world. A petition is currently circulating asking the GRAMMYs to change their requirements, and it currently has over 15,000 signatures, including one from Mr. Chancellor Bennett himself.
And it's not just Chance, this rule also disqualifies incredible work, era-defining work from everyone from Big K.R.I.T. to Future and more. So while a petition alone won't force the GRAMMYs hand, it may be enough to press them to make a change they obviously should have made years ago.
Do your part, sign it, and when Chance steps up to that podium to accept an award for Chance 3, we'll be able to say we did it together.
UPDATE: Even though it's on Apple Music, the GRAMMYs have confirmed that Chance's new album, Coloring Book, is not eligible for a GRAMMY because they don't recognize "stream only" releases, although a rep says the committee is looking into the idea of changing that.
UPDATE 2: The GRAMMYs now says that it's open to considering the inclusion of free music: “The Grammy Awards process is fluid and, like music, continues to evolve.”