HITS Daily Double


The Industry Pushes Back at a Less-than-Open Process

The Grammy nominations announced 12/6 morning contain the usual surprises and snubs—all well and good. But as for the process that led to these decisions, we know nothing whatsoever, because Neil Portnow and the Recording Academy have kept the whole thing a mystery, as always.

Why does the Academy insist on keeping its process under wraps? Why can’t the nominations be presented with context and transparency? Why does the secret committee need to be secret?

There's a growing resentment toward the Grammys stemming from the belief among many that the organization is elitist and arrogant. But most people with a horse in the race aren’t willing to go on the record with their criticisms, fearing reprisals if they speak out.

Some, however, are speaking out.

“Given what we’ve heard from the Academy in the past, there’s reason to wonder about the degree of openness in the nominating process,” notes attorney Aaron Rosenberg. “To what extent does the committee have final say? How much of a voice do Grammy voters have? How subjective is the decision-making? My clients, and the other industry people I work with, would certainly like to know.”

“One question that always comes up when I’m talking to artists and biz people is, ‘Who’s in the room?’” says manager Jordan Feldstein. “There’s a strong perception that this cabal is in a smoke-filled room representing whatever various agendas that don’t necessarily reflect the will of the community. I think the Academy could do a lot more to clarify how things work, which would only be good for the Grammys going forward.”

"To be perfectly honest, the Grammys are of so little interest to me I hadn't even noticed the nominations were out!" says Modest! Management head Richard Griffiths. "I've always assumed they're a stitch-up."

Wouldn’t it be illuminating to know who or what came in sixth, seventh and eighth in various categories, and what factors caused, say, Sturgill Simpson to snag the fifth Album of the Year slot, shocking the handicappers? Or what caused the secret committee to go with two indie artists and two country artists, rather than giving Alessia Cara the nod, as most expected, instead of one of the outliers?

“How much of a voice do Grammy voters have? How subjective is the decision-making? My clients, and the other industry people I work with, would certainly like to know.” —Aaron Rosenberg

On Sunday, following the conference championship games, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee revealed the four teams it had collectively selected for the playoffs and the seeding of each. But that was just the beginning of the presentation, which aired live on ESPN. Committee chair Kirby Hocutt was then grilled in great detail about how he and his colleagues had arrived at their decision, how close Penn State came to getting in, which other teams were seriously considered, and so on. Hocutt wasn’t intimidated by the barrage of questions; he’d anticipated them, and he thoughtfully answered each one. Football fans may not have agreed with the committee’s four picks, but at least they knew why and how they reached their final decision. The big reveal was the centerpiece of the show.

Come on, Neil, it’s time to lift the veil. What are you trying to hide? Take a cue from the CFP Selection Committee. Open up the Grammy-nomination process once and for all.

"Sure, ‘best’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘biggest,’” says one label CEO. “Obviously, picking the nominees is a subjective process. We get that. But whose opinions are being reflected? Is it a fair and diverse process? Prove it.

"If the Recording Academy wants consumers to stay invested in the Grammys, it needs to let them in. Stop hiding. And get with the times. The consumer is more interactive than ever, thanks to social media and the instant gratification in the digital era. Fans are curious, involved and vocal; if they sense that they’re being shut out, they tune out.

"When a record sells streams for weeks on end, doesn’t that reflect what people think is ‘best’? And when those massive hits are left out of the top categories, don’t people at least deserve to know why? At this point, thinking otherwise is just archaic—and frankly embarrassing."