It looks like a switch to online ballots has already helped the 2018 Grammys to be more relevant. With so many young, female, and people of color artists receiving nominations across the board, fans have been pointing out that the snub-prone awards show seems a little more inclusive than usual.
To qualify as a Grammys voter, you need to be a music industry professional with creative or technical credits on at least 6 commercial tracks on a physical music release (or 12 on a digital album). In other words, voters aren’t supposed to just be label executives and retired producers sitting at their grand pianos. They’re supposed to be touring artists, engineers, and songwriters too. A paper form that had to be mailed to your house, filled out by hand, and then mailed back to the academy presented a challenge for a lot of professionals in the industry.
John Legend explained the situation in an April interview: “Of all the academies in the world musicians are probably the most transient. And you send us a paper ballot and expect us to return it in a few weeks, and we might be on tour. So sometimes a voting body might not reflect those musicians who are at the height of their careers, out touring… instead it could be artists who are retired, more conservative.”
Online voting has clearly had a massive impact on the Grammys this year. Something I didn't consider before until (massive name drop) @johnlegend explained how loads of younger/current artists were on tour during the paper ballot https://t.co/g10s55uSiy pic.twitter.com/Zil0gHEgEB
— Roisin O'Connor (@Roisin_OConnor) November 28, 2017
Fast forward about six months and the Grammys reportedly now have an online portal for academy members to vote. “Despacito” became the first Spanish-language song to be nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Every lead artist nominated for Record of the Year was a person of color, and the list for Album of the Year did not contain a single white male artist for the first time in Grammy history (though there’s some discussion about a technicality).
Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow seems to have noticed a shift too, telling Billboard it’s “a wonderful reflection on our organization and how relevant and in touch and savvy our voting members are.”
Shoutout to the world wide web.