Who Votes for the Grammy Awards?

A Look Behind the Scenes of the Grammy Voting Process

Taylor Swift at the 2016 Grammy Awards
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor/Getty Images

The very first Grammy Awards were presented in 1959. Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee won Record of the Year Award for Volare. Henry Mancini took home the first Album of the Year and the Best Vocal Performance Awards were presented to the legendary Ella Fitzgerald and Perry Como. Ever since then there have been raging conspiracy theories about how Grammy nominations and winners are chosen. But a closer look behind the scenes reveals how the whole process actually works.

The Recording Academy Voting Members

According to the Academy, the voting members behind the Grammy awards include music industry professionals who represent a diverse set of backgrounds. Members professions can include anything from vocalists to songwriters, engineers to producers, and everything in between. To be qualified for membership, however, voting members must have creative or technical credits on at least six commercially released tracks on a physical music release or 12 on a digital album. Voting members must also be good standing with their dues (which are only $100/year!). According to Billboard.com, 12,000 of the Academy's total 21,000 members are eligible to cast ballots.

If someone doesn't meet the requirements, he or she may still apply to become a voting member with an endorsement from at least two current Recording Academy voting members.

The Grammy Voting Process

According to Grammy.org, the Grammy voting process is comprised of several stages consisting of submission, screening, nominating, special nominating committees, final voting, and results.

The Academy's voting members, whose contact information is not disclosed, are all involved in the creative and technical recording fields. They participate in the nominations that determine the five finalists in each category and the final voting which names the Grammy winners. Here's how each stage of the process unfolds.

1. Submission

Recording Academy members and record companies submit music and music videos to the Recording Academy for consideration. Submissions must be commercially released during that eligibility year via general distribution in the U.S. by a recording label or recognized independent distributor, on the Internet, through mail order, or retail sales to a national market. The Academy receives over 20,000 entries per year.

2. Screening

A star panel of 150 experts in various fields receive each Grammy submission to make sure that it is eligible, meets the qualifications and that it's been placed in the proper nomination category (e.g., jazz, gospel, rap).

3. Nomination

Voting members receive the first-round ballots during this stage, making up to five selections in each category. They vote only in their areas of expertise which can include as many as 20 categories in the genre fields (of which there are currently 30) plus the four additional categories of the general fields (which include the coveted Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist awards).

4. Final Voting

Voting members then receive final-round ballots. The finalists named by the special nominating committees, which includes craft and other specialized categories, are also tallied in this ballot. During the final round, Recording Academy members can again vote in up to 20 categories in the genre fields plus the four categories of the General Field as well as a limited number of subcategories. Deloitte, an independent accounting firm, tabulates the votes.

5. Results

Final results remain unknown until the Grammy Awards presentation at which time Deloitte unveils the winners' names in sealed envelopes. Did you know that only 30 percent of the awards are actually presented during the televised event? The remaining 70 percent are given out in the afternoon before the live show.

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