Perhaps the most talked-about new category for the upcoming 65th annual Grammy Awards is songwriter of the year, non-classical. The Recording Academy shed more light on the award and how the nominees will be determined in its “rules and guidelines” handbook, which it put online on Thursday (July 14).
Voting members of the Academy will first vote in the category. Their top 30 choices will be presented, in alphabetical order, to nominating committees comprised of songwriters that will be formed in each of the Academy’s three “regions” — East, South and West.
(The East region is comprised of the Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, chapters. The South region is comprised of the Atlanta, Florida, Memphis and Nashville chapters. The West region is comprised of the Los Angeles, Pacific Northwest, San Francisco and Texas chapters.)
The Recording Academy will hand-pick the members of these three regional nominating committees. The Academy says that the members will be “diverse” (which usually means balanced along racial and gender lines, with some attention also paid to LGBTQ status and age) and “highly relevant” (which is likely coded language for “currently active,” rather than someone whose main credits are years or decades in the past).
It’s often hard for the Academy to get “highly relevant” people to participate in committees like this because they’re so busy working, but the Academy says that the nominating committee will meet just once — so the time commitment would not be prohibitive.
Members of all three regional committees will listen to the submitted material, discuss it, and submit “in secret” a weighted ballot of their top five selections. The ballots from all three regional committees will be tallied to determine the final nominees.
Each songwriter may submit up to nine songs for consideration, so each committee may be charged with listening to up to 270 songs (30 times nine), a formidable task. (They most likely won’t listen to all the songs all the way through, but will cherry-pick and listen to the ones under discussion.)
The award will be the only category in a new songwriting field. It will not be in the “general field” (commonly called the Big Four), which includes song of the year.
Here are the rules governing the committees, taken directly from the “rules and guidelines” handbook, with minimal editing, mostly to conform to Billboard style on such matters as capitalization.
“Functioning in the same way as a craft committee, the regional songwriter of the year nominating committees will be comprised of diverse and ‘highly relevant’ songwriters across all genres and areas of the craft. The committees will be assembled by the Recording Academy. Suggestions for nominating committee candidates will come from the chapters and be vetted by the awards department in consultation with the CEO [Harvey Mason jr.] and Recording Academy chair [Tammy Hurt], The final population of these committees will be done by the CEO and Recording Academy chair. The nominating committees will meet once. They will be given a list of the voters’ top 30 choices from the first-round voting in alphabetical order.
“The nominating committees will be provided the submitted material, both audio and lyrics, from the songwriters on this list, to listen to and review, and then discuss it amongst themselves. At the end of the nominating committee meeting each committee member will submit in secret a weighted ballot of their top five selections. These ballots will then be tallied to determine the final nominees.
“Nominating committees will be chaired by a voting member in conjunction with an Academy staff member. … The chair’s job will be to guide the committee through the process. Although the chair shall be impartial on the decisions taken by the committee, they will be a voting member of the committee.”
Here is general information about the new award, also taken directly from the “rules and guidelines” handbook. This was previously reported when the Academy first announced the new category, one of five being added this year, on June 9.
“This category recognizes the written excellence, profession and art of songwriting for non-performing and non-producing songwriters.
“This category is for songwriters whose body of work released for the first time during the current eligibility year represents artistic excellence in the area of songwriting.
“Songwriters must have written a minimum of five songs in which they are credited ‘solely’ as a songwriter or co-writer. Songs in which the songwriter was also credited as a primary or featured artist, producer or any other supporting role do not qualify to achieve a minimum song threshold for consideration.
“Songwriters may supplement their core five song submission with up to four more songs in which the songwriter has songwriting credits as well as additional credits such as primary or featured artist, producer or any other supporting role.
“The maximum number of songs cannot exceed nine entries, which is comparable to the number of submissions allowed for consideration in the producer of the year, non-classical category.
“Songs from albums released in a previous year are not eligible, even if released as a single or added to a new album released during the current eligibility year. Re-released, covered, remixed, reissued, and historical recordings of songs are not eligible.”