Ah, the sweet smell of victory.
It's no secret that I've got some problems with the GRAMMYs. In fact, I've gone so far as to directly talk to Neil Portnow, the president of the GRAMMYs (aka the Recording Academy), about some of my issues. It wasn't just the times that the Macklemores of the world beat out the Kendrick Lamars, it was how outdated the committee's rules and categories felt. Music was in 2016, they were in 1996.
Case in point, to be eligible an album had to be commercially sold, which disqualified stream-only releases like Chance the Rapper's new Coloring Book. In an age where streaming was now the way people listened to music, what sense did it make to disqualify stream-only projects and punish artists for choosing to make their music free if your goal was truly to honor the best music being made?
Petitions were started, angry blog posts were written, and lo and behold, the GRAMMYs listened. As they announced today in a press release detailing a number of rule changes, stream-only releases are now good to go. In other words, you no longer have to sell it to snatch the GRAMMY.
Now the guidelines are:
- Any album released physically, via download or streamed is eligible.
- It must be streamed by a service that has a full catalog (multiple artists, not just one), has existed for at least one year and has a paid subscription option. This means that, in theory, a project only released on SoundCloud would be eligible.
- The music must be original (not infringe on another work's copyright).
Meet those criteria as an artist and you're good money. The GRAMMYs might still ignore you, they might still snub you, but at least you have a chance, pun intended. And speaking of which, while Chance was the catalyst here, it's important to note that this isn't about him, or any one artist. This is about making sure the great artists making great music can have their greatness recognized without being blocked by creaky, old terminology and music industry rules.
And as along as we're here, I should also point out that similarly the committee also changed the rules so that to be considered for Best New Artist someone no longer needs to put out a studio album, they now "must have released a minimum of five singles/tracks or one album, but no more than 30 singles/tracks or three albums," and that the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category has been renamed the Best Rap/Sung Performance, to recognize that often now rappers are also singers (aka the T-Pain rule).
This doesn't mean I still won't be throwing a fit this year when the GRAMMYs once again ignores hip-hop for Album of the Year consideration, but as rarely as I've said this over the last few years, today they did the right thing. I salute you.
Note: Since SoundCloud just launched its subscription service, projects on Go won't be eligible for this year's GRAMMYs, but in theory would be eligible afterward.