The broadcast of the 2021 Grammy Awards, music’s biggest night, is quickly approaching. With superstar nominees like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Billie Eilish, many fans are asking the question, “How can I vote for the Grammy Awards?”
Fans have become more a part of award shows than ever. Some programs, such as the American Music Awards, are entirely fan-voted. So it make sense that fans want to support their favorites artists at the Grammys as well.
So how can you vote for the Grammy Awards? The short answer is: You can’t, unless you’ve released an album at some point. Only recording artists and others associated with the music business are allowed to vote for the Grammys.
Here’s an explanation of who can vote for the Grammy Awards.
Who Can Vote for the Grammy Awards?
Unlike fan-voted award shows like the AMAs, the Grammys are presented by the Recording Academy. Only Academy voters can vote for the awards.
According to grammy.com, voting members of the Academy are “professionals with creative or technical credits on six commercially released tracks (or their equivalent).”
This pretty much means that anyone who’s ever released a record can vote for the Grammy Awards. Producers, mixers, arrangers, songwriters, and other professionals are eligible as well. Record company executives, music video directors, authors of liner notes, and others who make a living in the music business may also have eligibility.
The Academy offers two non-voting membership options. Associate memberships are offered to writers, record label executives, managers, merchants, and other individuals involved in the music industry. Student memberships are offered to college students seeking a career in the music industry.
However, those with associate and student memberships in the Recording Academy cannot vote for the Grammy Awards. The minimum yearly fee for joining the Recording academy is $100.
Grammy voters have a lengthy code of conduct they must abide by to remain active.
How to Vote for the Grammys: The Actual Process
At the end of each eligibility year (usually at the end of September), record labels submit potential nominees to the Recording Academy, which verifies their eligibility, categorizes them by genre, and send out a huge ballot to the approximately 13,000 voting members of the Academy.
Voters aren’t allowed to vote in all 84 categories; they may vote in only 15 categories, plus the four General Field categories. That’s an attempt to prevent uninformed people from outside genres from influencing the results. You wouldn’t want a country artist voting for the Best Dance Album, for instance, since they probably don’t have expertise in that field and would be likely to simply choose the most famous name.
After the initial round of voting, things get complicated. In some fields (Pop, Alternative, Comedy, Reggae, Spoken Word, and a few others), the top 5 vote-getters from the first round of voting automatically become the five nominees.
In most fields, however, there are “Nominations Review Committees,” sometimes informally referred to as “quality control panels,” that meet in secret to listen to all the top vote-getters, and then they choose the best five from that group. The Country, Rock, Rap, R&B, and Dance fields are among those use these panels as a way to try to ensure quality.
Grammys Chief Awards Officer Bill Freimuth once told MTV how this process works: “Country music is one of the fields that has this; they have a nominations review committee that meets, made up of voting members of the Academy. They meet for two or three days and go through the top 15 selections from voting members, and they sit in the room and listen to all of them back to back, and they then vote via secret ballot to narrow those 15 down to five.”
This infographic from the Grammys explains it quite well.
What if Fans Could Vote for the Grammy Awards?
The Academy’s exclusive membership has no doubt contributed to the award show’s reputation for having a stuffy, less-than-edgy representation of popular music. The Grammys are criticized annually for not truly rewarding the year’s best music. But the exclusive nature of the club also makes the Grammy the most prestigious award in the industry.
If fans could vote for the Grammy Awards, the results would certainly be different. The winners would more closely resemble the winners of the American Music Awards, which are entirely fan-voted. But the Grammy would probably lose some of its luster.
The fact that fans cannot vote for the Grammys is part of the reason why the Grammy Awards are more unpredictable than other music award shows. These days, fan armies are so huge, that anytime a superstar like Taylor Swift or BTS is nominated, they’re pretty much guaranteed to win, because their social media fanbase will go all-out to submit millions of votes.
With the Grammys, only a few thousand Academy members have that honor, and they often resist the most commercially successful options. That does make the Grammy Awards harder to predict.
Grammy Voting Process: Summary
So that’s how the Grammy voting process works. Sorry, Ariana Grande fans, but you won’t be able to cast a vote for “Rain On Me.” Taylor Swift supporters, you’ll just have to hope the Academy likes Folklore as much as you do.
Fans can continue to vote for the American Music Awards and some MTV Awards, but when it comes to the Grammys, all of us non-musicians can be nothing more than spectators.
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