Music streaming is more than just a sideshow for the music industry these days. It is the typical method by which most music fans discover new artists, and the means by which musicians release the majority of their latest material. So the Recording Academy’s new choice to include streaming-only releases in its annual pile of Grammy-eligible jams shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to anybody.
Still, for musicians like Chance The Rapper (pictured above), who never has had a major label, and who puts out all of his music for free online (barring a short Apple Music-only window which was employed for this year’s blockbuster Coloring Book mixtape), the new rules will probably come as a welcome change.
For the industry, however, the reality of including streaming exclusives in the Grammy race is a relatively sticky one.
“Our trustees felt like the time had come; it’s been on our radar for a couple of years now,” said Recording Academy SVP of Awards Bill Freimuth in an interview with Billboard. “The goal was to include recordings that were worthy of Grammy consideration that were streaming-only — which it turns out were a pretty small number — and exclude the 12-year-old singing a Beyoncé cover into her comb that’s easy to put up online also these days for streaming.”
In order to qualify for a streaming-only Grammy, artists have to have released their material on an “applicable streaming service,” which is technically defined by the Academy as “paid subscription, full catalogue, on-demand streaming/limited download platforms that have existed as such within the United States for at least one full year as of the submission deadline.”
This means that streaming exclusives, such as those which will only appear on Apple Music or Tidal forever, will be eligible for Grammy awards, even if they are never playable in any other format or on any other service.
For the time being, the new rules also mean that releases put out on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and Tidal will be eligible for next year’s awards, but those put out exclusively on Pandora and Soundcloud Go will not — the former because it doesn’t have a paid tier at all, and the latter because its paid tier was just launched in March.