The “secret committees” — groups of anonymous voting members who decide the nominations in key genres like rock, rap and dance music — were first brought to the public’s attention in 2020 when former Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan filed a complaint against the organization following her ouster.
“The Grammy voting process is ripe with corruption,” Dugan alleged in her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, pointing particularly to instances in which “members of the board [of trustees] and the secret committees chose artists with whom they have personal or business relationships.”
After the Weeknd didn’t receive any nominations at the most recent Grammy Awards despite having one of the best-selling albums (After Hours) and singles (“Blinding Lights”), the singer blamed the “corrupt” voting body. “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans, and the industry transparency…,” the singer tweeted in November 2020.
The Weeknd added in March 2021, “Because of the secret committees, I will no longer allow my label to submit my music to the Grammys.”
In response to the controversy, the Recording Academy announced Friday that those categories decided by the “Nominations Review Committees” (“15-30 highly skilled music peers who represented and voted within their genre communities”) will now be “determined by a majority, peer-to-peer vote of voting members of the Recording Academy.”
“It’s been a year of unprecedented, transformational change for the Recording Academy, and I’m immensely proud to be able to continue our journey of growth with these latest updates to our Awards process,” Recording Academy chair and interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said in a statement. “This is a new Academy, one that is driven to action and that has doubled down on the commitment to meeting the needs of the music community.”
Additional changes to the voting process include a 10-category and three-field limit on what Recording Academy members can vote on (it was previously 15), and confirmed that more than 90 percent of members will have gone through “the requalification process by the end of this year, ensuring that the voting body is actively engaged in music creation.”
“As an Academy, we have reaffirmed our commitment to continue to meet the needs of music creators everywhere, and this year’s changes are a timely and positive step forward in the evolution of our voting process,” Bill Freimuth, the Academy’s chief awards officer, said in a statement. “We rely on the music community to help us to continue to evolve, and we’re grateful for their collaboration and leadership.”
Additionally, the Recording Academy announced a pair of new Grammy categories — Best Global Music Performance and Best Música Urbana Album — as well as extending the eligibility deadline for the 2022 Grammys an extra month to September 30th, 2021. All changes announced Friday will take place immediately for the 64th annual Grammy Awards, set for January 31st, 2022.