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Are the Grammy’s Rigged?

Are the Grammy’s Rigged?

The Grammy’s took place a little over a week ago. The big news was not necessarily who won or lost. It may or may not have been Cardi B and Megan the Stallion’s performance of WAP. What was big news was the Weeknd boycotting the Grammy’s.

Looking back in history, the Weeknd is far from the only artist who has turned their back on the Grammy’s claiming that they are rigged and/or that the selection process is unfair. This article will take a look at the awards show as we do a little investigating of our own.

History of the Grammy’s

Originally called the Gramophone Awards, the Grammys are meant to recognize achievement in the music industry. The ceremony is hosted by the big three major networks and features performances by well-known artists and the presentation of the awards themselves.

The Grammys originated during a Hollywood Walk of Fame project in the 1950’s. Record executives who were chosen for the Walk of Fame committee began compiling a list of record industry people they thought might quality for a Walk of Fame star which would be embedded in Hollywood Blvd.

Upon doing so, they realized that there were many talented executives and artists who would not receive a star. Therefore, they decided to create an award’s show similar to the Oscars and Emmys, only for music.

The first Grammy Awards ceremony was held on May 4, 1959 and honored the 1958’s musical accomplishments. Although the 1959 event was televised, it didn’t end up being aired until 1971.

The awards show was held simultaneously in two locations, those being the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA and the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City. 28 awards were giving out that night.

Since then, the number of awards given out as fluctuated and, at one time, over 100 awards were dispersed in one night. This number has since been reduced. But no matter how many awards are currently being given out, the show has certainly grown in popularity over the years.

How it Works

The selection process for the Grammys starts with an entry process. Media companies and individual members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) may submit recordings for consideration.

Entries are made online and physical copies are sent to NARAS. Then there is a reviewing session that involves 150 experts who determine if the recording was submitted into the correct category.

Next, eligible entries are sent to voting members who vote to nominate recordings in the general fields (Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist) as well as nine of the thirty other fields on their ballots. The five artists that receive the most votes become the nominees.

Note, although media companies are permitted to submit artists, they are not allowed to vote for them.

Review committees are sometimes also brought in to decide on the nominees.  If there is a tie, more than five nominees may be voted in.

After each category has been whittled down to five nominees, voting members vote in the general fields as well as nine of the thirty other fields.

Members are encouraged but not required to vote only in their field of expertise. They are required to vote based on the quality of the music alone and should not be swayed by friendships, music sales, regional preference or loyalties. They are also not allowed to accept gifts or bribes.

 What are the Grammy Categories?

There are four awards that fall in the Grammy’s ‘general field’. They are not restricted by genre. These are as follows:

  • Album of the Year: This is awarded to the performer, songwriter and production team that worked on the album.
  • Record of the Year: This is awarded to the performer and production team of a single song.
  • Song of the Year: This is awarded to the songwriter of a single song.
  • Best New Artist: This is awarded to a breakthrough performer who releases the first recording that establishes them in the industry during the Eligibility Year.

Other awards are given for performance, production, artwork and videos in specific genres. Special awards are given for longer lasting musical contributions in the industry.

Because so many awards are given out, only the ones with the most popular interest, usually about 10-12, are given out during the televised ceremony. These include awards in the four general categories that were previously mentioned as well as select awards given out for the popular genres.

The other Grammys are given out during a pre-telecast “Premiere Ceremony” that takes place in the afternoon before the live telecast.

Are the Grammy’s Rigged?

Based on the information provided so far, it seems like the Grammy’s are very above board. However, over time, many artists have come forward claiming that voting is swayed to favor people of a certain color and gender and artists of a particular genre.

They also alleged that even though voting members are not permitted to accept gifts and take bribes, it happens more often than you would think.

Let’s take a look at what some modern artists are saying:

Zayn Malik

This One Direction star has never been nominated for a Grammy. He dropped his 3rd solo album, “Nobody is Listening” in January but it wasn’t considered. The industry claimed this was because it wasn’t released within this year’s eligibility period of Oct. 1, 2019 to August 31 of 2020.

Malik left a foul-mouthed rant on Twitter saying it was impossible to win unless you give the voters a gift.

As a side note, it is not uncommon for fans and artists to think they have been snubbed when the reason they were not nominated is actually because their music was released outside of the eligibility period. The academy will often recognize pieces that are over a year old to account for worthwhile music that was released in the early or later parts of the year.

The Weeknd

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The Weeknd’s album “After Hours” was the biggest album for the first half of 2020. That’s why he and everyone else was stunned when it didn’t receive a Grammy.

The Weeknd thinks that this may have been tied to his Superbowl performance that took place just weeks before the Grammy. He claims there were conversations regarding the Grammys’ concern that his earlier performance might hurt viewership for his performance on the awards show. He went ahead and did both performances but then received no Grammy.

The industry claims the Weeknd’s lack of a nomination had nothing to do with the Superbowl because voting in all categories had ended well before the Superbowl performance had even been announced.

All the same, the artist, who has previously been nominated for ten Grammys and won three, will no longer be allowing his record label to submit his music to the Grammys. He claims the industry owes himself and his fans transparency that they are not delivering on.

 The Weeknd also made allegations of Grammy ‘secret committees’. Word of secret committees within the industry are nothing new.

After former Academy CEO Deborah Dugan was removed from her position, she also spread information about a secret committee which included representatives whose identities were not revealed to the public. These voting members were alleged to oust artists from ballots in favor of performers they had prior relationships with.


Halsey is another performer who became disillusioned when her album ‘Manic’ failed to earn a Grammy. She claims that the awards show is rigged due to bribes and secret performances.

Justin Bieber

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Bieber was in ‘disbieberlief’ when he found out his bestselling album “Changes” only got a nod for Best Pop Vocal Album instead of being considered for Best R & B album. He felt the album was miscategorized. He has boycotted the Grammys ever since.

Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj became upset when her seven top charting songs failed to get her recognition as best new artist of the year. She subtly pointed out that skin color and gender may have been at play when she found that she lost to the white, male artist, Bon Iver.

She has since been nominated for 10 Grammys but never took home one.

Kanye West

West also claimed that racial inequality has came into play in the Grammy voting process. During his presidential campaign, he went public posting a video on Twitter of him dunking his Grammy in the toilet and then urinating on it.

The Issues at Hand

Now let’s take a look at some social issues that may be playing into the Grammy’s voting process.


There are several artists that claim that the Grammy’s are more likely to nominate artists and music that is commercially successful rather than those that are critically acclaimed. This is a common complaint with rock and metal artists especially.

In fact, in 2012, a Grammy restructuring took place in which the separate categories for hard rock and metal albums were combined and the Best Rock Instrumental Performance category was eliminated due to a waning number of entries.

Because categories for these genres are limited it’s not unusual for artists to find themselves running against bands that significantly vary from their own stylistically. When rock and metal bands are nominated, its usually the more pop oriented ones that get recognized, if at all.

In any event, R&B and pop genres tend to set the vibe for the rewards show in general.

Artists to criticize the awards show for its commercialism include Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder who, upon winning the award for best hard rock performance in 1996 said, “I don’t know what this means. I don’t think it means anything”.

Maynard James Keegan, lead singer of Tool, did not attend the Grammys when he won an award calling the organization, “a gigantic promotional machine for the music industry”.

Sinead O’ Connor refused to attend the ceremony even after being nominated for three awards. She claimed this was due to their extreme commercialism. As a P.S., she ended up winning the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance even though she was not present to accept it.

Racial Matters

The Grammys have also been accused of snubbing black artists. Drake accused the show of seeing him only as a rapper and not a pop artist due to his cultural background. He feels their mis-categorization may have cost him his award and he has boycotted the show.

A similar sentiment was considered when Beyonce lost to Adele for Album of the Year. Many felt that her loss was due to a panel of all white judges as well as her pro-black performance at the Superbowl that happened just a few weeks before the awards.

When Adele accepted her award, she even hinted that Beyonce was more deserving.

Female Artists

The Grammys have also been criticized for their treatment of female artists.

 The artist Lorde turned down an invitation to perform at the Grammys for a Tom Petty tribute because they would not give her a solo, even though she was nominated for Album of the Year. She argued that all the male performers were granted a solo.

The awards show has also been accused of failing to nominate and award female artists and industry professionals. The organization has responded saying women need to step up in being considered. They also refer to the low percentage of women in the industry.

The Grammy industry has definitely gone through its share of controversies. What’s your take on it? Will you be striving to get a Grammy? Or will you be shunning it along with so many artists that have come before you?


Now let’s take a look at some Grammy FAQ’s you may find interesting.

Do you get paid for winning a Grammy?

The short answer to this question is no. However, Grammy winners do get bragging rights, and those bragging rights come with their share of rewards and increased revenue opportunities.

Research shows that artists that win Grammys see an increase of at least 55% in ticket sales. Producers that win Grammys are typically able to charge twice as much for their services.

Can independent musicians get nominated for a Grammy?

We often think of Grammys as being reserved for very famous artists. But there are tons of awards across dozens of categories that can be won by indie artists. Winning can be a huge boost to an artist’s career.

In order to submit your work, your song will have to be commercially released and sold in the United States. It will have to be available through a broad distributor other than the artist’s web site.

If your song ticks off the boxes, you can submit it to the Recording Academy for consideration. This will require you to fill out a good amount of paperwork. You must also consider that you will be going against thousands or other applicants, but you gotta be in it to win it!

In order to get closer to getting that nomination (or better yet the award) it is recommended that you get a publicist. The publicist will draw attention to you amid the chaos and the other nominees and categories.

Past indie Grammy nominees advise artists to focus on what their audience needs and provide something to fill that need. This will create a platform that allows you the share the ‘why’ of your songs.

Artists are also advised not to make a Grammy nomination their endgame. Rather, it is important to enjoy the journey and let things happen organically.

How old do you have to be to win a Grammy?

Photo credit: AP

In order to win a Grammy, you must be at least 13 years old. Billie Eilish became the youngest person to win a Grammy taking home the award in 2020 when she was just 18 years old.  

Do I have to be a member of the Recording Academy to win a Grammy?

You do not have to be a member of the Recording Academy to win a Grammy. However, if you are a member, you will be able to submit your own music.

In order to join, you must receive two recommendations from music industry workers. Academy members can recommend new members in their account. Nonmembers can make recommendations using a Non Member Recommendation Form.

 After you are recommended, you must complete a profile of yourself and submit it by March 1 to be considered in the year’s class. If your membership is approved, you’ll receive an invitation to join the academy by June 30.

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