Earlier this year, the Recording Academy made a major change to the rules for Grammy nominations. For the first time ever, albums that were streaming-only would be eligible for Grammy contention. This meant physical copies for sale were no longer a necessity in order to be considered for Grammys. With the changing music landscape meaning that an album could become a hit even without being sold in stores, the Recording Academy evidently realized they needed to adjust their rules.
By: Nicholas Johnson
With the nominations for the upcoming 59th Grammy Awards recently announced, the biggest beneficiary was Chance the Rapper. The Chicago rapper’s "Coloring Book" was a streaming-only blockbuster, becoming the first streaming-only album to reach the Billboard Top 10 Albums Chart. Chance was nominated for seven Grammys including Best Rap Album. Considering his competition of artists such as Kanye West, Drake and De La Soul, it is very impressive that Chance was able to join their ranks, even without the backing of a label.
"Coloring Book" was one of the most acclaimed releases of the past year, so it is possible that the Recording Academy felt the pressure to change their rules in order to accommodate it. According to Bill Freimuth, Recording Academy senior vice president of awards, this change was one they had been considering for a while.
"Our trustees felt like the time had come," Freimuth said. "It’s been on our radar for a couple of years now."
While the rest of the Grammy nominations are dominated by artists who have their work available for physical purchase, such as Adele and Beyonce, Chance’s nominations and the rule changes are likely to usher in a new era for the Grammys. The idea has long been held that in order to achieve success via the music industry, you need to have major label support and have your music available for purchase. With the success of "Coloring Book," Chance is absolutely defying that notion.
It seems that promotion might be the key. With the internet being the undisputed outlet to exchange information and ideas, an up-and-coming artist like Chance is wise to utilize it in order to promote their work. Instead of waiting around for a label to notice them, artists can use the internet to show off their work right away and get people excited about it.
So does that mean the nominees for the 60th Grammy Awards will all be streaming-only? Probably not, but there will probably be a few more than last year. On his show-stopping feature on the song "Ultralight Beam" off of Kanye West’s album "The Life of Pablo," Chance says "I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the Grammy." This was before the rules change. Good news, Chance: You no longer gotta sell it.