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THE GRAMMYS AND THEIR INCREDIBLY SLOW ACCOUNTANTS

 

Who's gaining momentum in Grammy balloting? Who's losing momentum? We all watched the Golden Globes on Sunday, with its emphasis on female empowerment. Could that possibly boost Lorde's chances for Album of the Year?

What, are you kidding me with these questions? The Grammy cake was baked on 12/21, which was the final day of voting. That's fully five weeks before the results will be revealed on the 60th annual Grammy Awards telecast on 1/28.

Will somebody please tell me why it takes Grammy accountants five weeks to count the votes? Other award shows work much closer to deadline, so their results are fresher and more current. Oscar ballots are due five days before the awards are announced.

(I can practically hear Grammy officials saying, "Yeah, that didn't work so well for the Oscars last year, did it?" Nice try, but the La La Land snafu had nothing to do with their more timely voting system. It was the sole fault of a star-struck accountant who acted like he had never seen a celebrity before.)

It seems obvious that voter participation would go up if the voting were conducted closer to the awards. Few people are swept up in Grammy fever in mid-December. They're busy with other things, which, at that time of year, is an understatement. If the voting deadline were, say, 1/15, far more people would vote. Even more people would vote if it was 1/23—five days before the show.

And the voting would be a more current snapshot of voter opinion, shaped by the things we're all seeing and hearing and experiencing, individually and collectively. It would no longer be an old snapshot of how people felt five weeks previously. Ever been to your dentist's office and all they have to read is a five-week old issue of People?  It seems kind of stale, doesn't it? The Grammys can do better than that.

Here's another wacky fact: The voters had just two weeks (12/7 to 12/21) to vote. So the accountants have two-and-one-half times as long to count the votes as the voters have to vote. What's wrong with this picture?! The voters should have the luxury of time to listen to recordings and consider their decisions. What's the point of giving that luxury of time to the accountants? The Grammys have it backwards.

There are conspiracy theorists who argue that the reason that the Grammys insist on having the voters wrap up their work five weeks before the telecast is that they need the time to reconvene their secret, blue-ribbon committee, officially known as the Nominations Review Committee. Under this theory, the committee not only picks the nominees (which the academy freely acknowledges has been the case since 1995) it also picks the winners (which the academy has never acknowledged.)

It seems obvious that voter participation would go up
if the voting were conducted closer to the awards.

I don't believe this theory. If the committee picked the winners, I don't think Adele would have swept the Big Three awards again last year (she had already swept the Big Three five years previously). They might well have given her Record and Song of the Year, but saved Album of the Year for Beyoncé (who has never won in that category, and whose victory would have been seen by many as a breakthrough for the Grammys). I think Adele's sweep all but proves that the committee doesn't pick the winners.

But here's the thing: When you behave suspiciously, you encourage suspicion. When you behave transparently, you don't. When the Grammys insist that the voting membership complete their work five weeks before the results will be known, they encourage people to wonder why.

I think Neil Portnow and Bill Freimuth should take their counterparts at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to lunch and ask them how they manage to get things done so efficiently. (This year, the Oscars' final round voting period ends on Tuesday, 2/ 27. Winners will be announced five days later, on Sunday, 3/4.) The Oscar team may find it hard to believe that the Grammys (or their accountants) have insisted on a five-week lead time. It is fairly mind-boggling in 2018, when things move fast—especially in popular music. Most of us wouldn't have it any other way.

Here are the relevant dates, taken directly from the Recording Academy's website.

First-Round Ballot Period: 10/16–10/29/17

Nominations: 11/28/17

Final-Round Ballot Period: 12/7–12/21/17

60th Annual GRAMMY Awards: 1/28/18

 

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