THE GRAMMY'S Voting Process Is Imperfect. It’s also perfect.
There’s a lot to complain about the Grammy’s. People love to crap all over it. Hell, I have more than a few gripes about it myself. And that’s not just coming from a member of the Recording Academy, but also a former judge in the Engineering Committee of NARAS’s New York Chapter!! But in spite of itself, I have to admit something. I think their process works. (Don’t think I’m saying that just because I’ve earned a Grammy Nomination as a “Recording & Mix Engineer for Best Album of the year” with The Roots)
The truth is, I’ve spent a career helping to develop a variety of young and exciting new artists for the music industry. As Chief Creative Officer of an international, artist-driven music company (HAUS), our whole existence is based on offering fresh, musical perspectives for Brands, Advertisement, Film and TV. So just like everyone else, I don’t like seeing the same artists nominated over and over again, year after year.
Of course, I blame the Grammy judges. These artists, engineers, producers and songwriters, to name a few, all have one fatal flaw in common. They’re all human. And that’s where the judging process begins to fall apart, even though the Grammy’s have an elaborate voting process designed to be technically full proof. For example, there’s been a recent transition to online voting where voters are instructed to only vote in the categories where they are most knowledgeable and qualified. It lets voters know which of the 15 eligible categories they have used as they move through the application, and will automatically block them from placing votes in too many other categories.
But the reality is that judges, just like everyone else on this planet, are influenced by the culture around them. All too often, they vote for what are considered the most popular songs because those are the ones that they hear over and over again on the radio, on Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify and ultimately in their heads. In other words, the songs and the artists that they are already familiar with as listeners are the same ones they are voting for as judges. The technical voting process loses to the human heart. Maybe that’s why Beyonce kept getting nominated year after year. Or Taylor Swift. After all, they were the biggest artists getting the most air time.
All of which means, at the end of the day, the winning votes may not go to the “best”, the most innovative, the most creative, but rather the ones that are currently most popular. Because it’s the most popular songs that truly resonate. The one’s we find ourselves humming in elevators, singing in our cars and doing Karaoke too. The songs that the MusicTellers at Haus believe tell a story to our soul. Even if we don’t know why. So while many will no doubt criticize the winners this Sunday for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, I believe it will still manage to do the impossible —reward the artists for the songs that truly resonate.
Good luck, Grammy judges.