More than 26 million viewers watched Arcade Fire take home Album of the Year during the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, the most since 2001, but that hasn’t stopped the Recording Academy from implementing a major overhaul for the 2012 edition. Today, Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow, Academy chair emeritus Jimmy Jam, and Academy VP of Awards Bill Freimuth made the announcement that next year’s celebration will have only 78 categories, compared to the 109 of 2011. The categories of dance, alternative, new age, reggae, comedy, and many of the technical categories remained unchanged, but nominations have been consolidated across some of the more popular fields to eliminate gender-based awards and aesthetic overlap. The changes are lengthy, so they follow in bullet form:
— Pop, R&B, Rock and Country stripped of gender-based categories. Awards will now be given in each genre for single “solo performance”.
— Elimination of several instrumental categories.
— R&B awards reduced from 8 to 4. Three categories of female, male, and duo or a group vocal performance have been consolidated to lone R&B performance award. R&B album and Urban/Alternative performance dropped from consideration.
— Rock, Country, and Pop awards reduced from 7 to 4.
— Gospel categories reduced from 7 to 5.
— Jazz awards down from 6 to 4.
— Classical categories down from 11 to 7, and opens the door for classical albums to compete for Album of the Year and other cross-over genre categories.
— Hawaiian music, Native American music, Zydeco and Polka have all been folded into the single Regional Roots Music category.
According to a Billboard interview with Neil Portnow, “Every year there are changes but we’ve never stopped and stepped back to look at the whole thing.” Portnow continued, “[We asked], is there an underlying infrastructure and rationale across all the awards as to how we’re doing this? And what we found is, there wasn’t.” In order to better align the structure with current trends in the field, the Recording Academy also announced new rules on entries and voting to better evaluate the ever-evolving categories.
— Each category must have at least 40 artist entries to move forward.
— Only three recordings will be nominated if submissions range between 25 and 39.
— Less than 25 submissions and the category will not be submitted.
— If submissions remain lower than 25 for 3 consecutive years, the category will be eliminated.
— Voters can now vote in up to 20 genre categories and four general categories, up from 9 in previous years.
To better visualize the changes, a “category map” is available here. Keeping the process diplomatic, Portnow, Freimuth and Jam will participate in a live online chat at Grammy.com at 6pm EST, with fans urged to submit questions via Twitter using #GRAMMYChanges or on Facebook.