The Recording Academy, whose members determine the Grammy Awards, has announced a new "community driven" membership model, as part of an an effort to increase diversity and build a more relevant organization. But could new professional recommendation and peer review requirements have the opposite effect, turning Academy membership and The Grammys into an insider's game?
Industry Recommendations and Peer Review
The new member submission process shifts to an annual cycle based on two key elements: industry recommendations and peer review. In addition to the Recording Academy's old basic requirements, each new member submission must include two professional recommendations in order to be considered for membership.
Next, a Peer Review Panel of music creators will convene each spring to evaluate all new member submissions and will consider a range of criteria -including craft, genre, and overall diversity- in determining whom to invite into the Recording Academy.
"The move to an annual review cycle will enable the Recording Academy to look at both its existing membership base and prospective submissions, and be thoughtful about how each individual new member decision stands to shape the collective body," the Academy said in a statement. Earlier this year, the trade group assembled a Task Force On Diversity & Inclusion and invited 900 creators to become voting members in an effort to effect immediate change in advance of the upcoming 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards.
"The GRAMMY Awards are already renowned for being a peer-awarded honor, and our new membership model further reinforces that peer-driven commitment to excellence," said Laura Segura Mueller, Vice President of Membership & Industry Relations. "Membership is the lifeblood of the Recording Academy and a privilege we strive to uphold. Our new membership model puts the power in the hands of the music community and is designed to build an active, representative membership base that reflects our broader culture. By changing the process to Recording Academy membership, we remain committed to setting a positive example for the music industry as a whole."
Deck Is Now Stacked Against Outside Creators
New requirements, including two professional recommendations and peer review by industry insiders, could make it harder for new, fringe and niche creators to even apply for membership and therefore even more unlikely to be recognized with a nomination or award.
Previously, Recording Academy membership was based primarily on credits and accomplishments.
It seems highly unlikely that a brilliant creator working from her bedroom or another making important music from their tribal home and sharing it with the world on Spotify knows two qualifying music industry "professionals" to be able to apply. And are their peers likely to sit on the officially appointed "peer review" selection committee?
Just when we thought the digital age had eliminated the gatekeepers, The Academy has appointed new ones.
Learn more about the new membership model and submission process here.