The Recording Academy announced yesterday that it plans to decrease the number of Grammy categories across all genres. The revised category count drops from this year’s 109 to 78 and will go into effect at the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012. Fewer options will make the Awards more competitive, as will the increase of the minimum number of entries per category from 25 to 40. Most of the Academy’s changes involve combining separate categories, like those for male and female performers or solo and group performance, into one overall category. Staple categories like Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist remain untouched.
Erasing the gender boundaries of the categories certainly shows some progress in a popular music world that still insists on segregating female contributors as “women in [rock, pop, hip-hop].” But some fear that streamlining the categories could squeeze out some lesser-known artists, as they are pitted against megastars.
One category that no longer exists in the new format is Best Urban/Alternative Performance, awarded to Cee Lo Green in 2010 for his track “F*** You.” Hip-hop and electronic duo the Foreign Exchange received a nomination for that Grammy in 2009 for its track “Daykeeper” from the album Leave It All Behind. Foreign Exchange’s Nicolay told CMJ that he views the Urban/Alternative category as one that allowed him and other artists of his generation who do not “really fit any specific box, like R&B or rap,” to compete against mainstream performers. Had the 2012 restructuring existed in 2009, the Foreign Exchange would have gone up against R&B artists like Beyoncé, Maxwell and Jamie Foxx, all Grammy winners in that year’s R&B categories. “We were hoping to submit our latest album, Authenticity, for consideration in [the Urban/Alternative] category,” Nicolay says, “but I don’t really see the point of us going up against a Rihanna or Usher in a big R&B category.”
How this will affect the diversity of future Grammy winners remains to be seen. But Nicolay offers one theory as to why the category changes happened: “Perhaps the wins of Esperanza Spalding and Arcade Fire had the powers that be a little too worried.”
In other news…
• A recent survey by ReverbNation and Digital Music News revealed that more than 75% of indie artists want to get signed to a record label. Sony was listed as the label of choice for pop, rock and alternative musicians, while hip-hop artists have their eyes on Def Jam.
• Amazon launched the Amazon Cloud Player, a service that lets users upload their music to Amazon’s servers and stream it online either through a computer or an Android. Mashable was there to give its preliminary thoughts on the player. Ben Parr’s piece includes keywords like “quick” and “responsive,” and the bold statement that the player “could even make iTunes obsolete for many people… .” Though not everyone agrees.
• Digital tracks are slowing the decline in U.S. music sales, according to Billboard.biz. While the first quarter of 2010 showed a 6.1% drop in sales, the same period in 2011 experienced only a 1.3% dip.
• After pulling the Grooveshark music app from the Android Market this week, Google received props from Congress and the title of “serious hypocrite” from others. And the music piracy battle rolls along.
Industry Wrap is a weekly CMJ column covering industry-related music news. Send tips to Christine Werthman at email@example.com.