The Recording Academy has always had rules and guidelines, dating back to its founding in 1957. In recent years, in a bid for greater transparency, and at the direction of Academy CEO Harvey Mason, jr., the Academy has posted its rules and guidelines online. It’s not a little digital pamphlet, either: It’s a 76-page document that spells out in detail what each of the 94 Grammy categories is meant to honor, who is and isn’t in line to receive a nomination in each category and what is and isn’t allowed in terms of campaigning for Grammys.
One of the most interesting sections is “Voting and Solicitation Guidelines.” We learn that “FYC” (industry jargon for “For Your Consideration”) events and communications are allowed, with certain restrictions. FYC communications “include, but are not limited to: emails, mailings, invitations, social media, websites, and print ads.”
The Academy spells out the reason for all these rules: “It is the goal of the Recording Academy to ensure the Grammy Awards process is led in a fair and ethical manner and that voting members make their choices based solely on the artistic and technical merits of the eligible recordings. In an effort to maintain a high degree of integrity and transparency, it is crucial that the following guidelines be understood and followed by all voting members.
“If any activity is determined to work in opposition to the Recording Academy’s guidelines, the Academy may take any corrective actions, including disqualification of entries. Furthermore, any member who has authorized, executed or otherwise enabled a voting solicitation activity that is deemed to have undermined the letter or spirit of the Academy’s regulations may be subject to suspension or termination of Recording Academy membership.
Here are 10 highlights of this section of the Rules & Guidelines booklet on what is and isn’t allowed.
The “Voter Code of Conduct” Includes These Three Cardinal Rules:
“Voters shall not allow their choices to be suggested, directed or influenced by anything other than their own analysis of merit, including, but not limited to: personal friendships, company loyalties, regional preferences, or sales volume/popularity.
“Voters shall not accept money or anything of value in exchange for votes, access to other members (member lists and contact information are confidential), submission of materials for Grammy consideration, or any other privilege of Recording Academy membership.
“Voters shall not enter into any agreements or understandings on how to vote. This includes without limitation: ‘Voting Blocs,’ or groups of voters who agree to vote together. Such groups may include but are not limited to: voters affiliated with a particular record label or management company, or voters linked through social media. ‘Vote Trading,’ or offering to vote in any manner in exchange for another’s vote.”
Analysis: That first rule – to disregard “personal friendships, company loyalties, regional preferences, or sales volume/popularity” and focus on the work itself – has been a Grammy perennial at least since the 1970s (when I started seeing it) and probably since the Academy was founded. It’s an excellent rule, but a hard one to follow.
FYC Communications May Include:
“• Artwork related to product under consideration
• Brief, unembellished descriptions of the recording or creators
• Copies or links to product
• Links to websites that promote eligible recordings
• Link to Recording Academy website where Voting and Solicitation Guidelines are posted
• Lists of the creators who worked on the recording
• Reference to nominations, once nominations are announced. List Category(s) by full name
• Reference to the Grammy Award with proper registered marks. Reference can be made by name only. Use of logo is prohibited.”
FYC Communications May Not:
“• Cast a negative or derogatory light on a competing recording. Any tactic that singles out the ‘competition’ by name or title is not allowed
• Exaggerate or overstate the merits of the music, an achievement or an individual
• Include any Recording Academy trademarks, logos or any other protected information. Logo use is reserved for paid Recording Academy sponsors or partners
• Include entry list numbers or category numbers
• Include chart numbers, number of streams, sales figures, or RIAA awards
• Include personal signatures, personal regards or personal pleas to listen to the eligible recordings
• Misrepresent honors or awards, past or present, received by either the recording or those involved with production
• Reference the year or the telecast number (i.e., 2023 or 66th Grammy Awards)”
Analysis: Most of these rules are wise, but it’s hard to see what the harm would be of referencing the year or the telecast number – or even the entry list numbers or category numbers. As for not allowing FYC communications to exaggerate merits or misrepresent facts, is there any way that rule can be extended to press releases?!
Two More Rules About FYC Communications:
“Such communications are prohibited unless they include an opt-out option.
“Members or their designated publicists are restricted to promoting only their own recordings. There shall be no lobbying on behalf of other members.”
Hosting & Attending FYC Events:
“Independent FYC events, programs or activities may be hosted if they adhere to the guidelines set forth in this document. FYC activities may not include any complimentary meals, alcoholic beverages, gifts, or any other hospitality that could be inferred as a value in exchange for vote consideration. Anything considered by the Recording Academy, in its sole discretion, as unreasonable promotion or gifting is prohibited.
“If members are invited to a ticketed FYC event or program, they must purchase tickets at full price (no comps or discounts).”
Gifting Show Tickets:
“[In the] normal course of business, talent [may] provide, and members [may] accept, individual ticket access and meet-and-greet opportunities through their own personal affiliations. However, widespread gifting of show tickets to members as part of an explicit or implicit FYC/vote solicitation campaign is not allowed. Without limiting the preceding sentence, Recording Academy chapters may not be used as a conduit for gifting to their members, governors and/or trustees. Tickets that are not acquired by members through their own personal affiliations must be purchased at full price (no comps or discounts) — this includes tickets to films and musical theater productions.”
Mailings to Academy Offices:
“Any mailing of FYC product or marketing materials to any of the Recording Academy offices is prohibited, and will not be distributed to members, governors or trustees. Such mailings will be disposed of or returned to sender, [at] the Recording Academy’s sole discretion.”
Analysis: Hopefully, “disposed of” means donated to a worthy charity, not sent to the landfill.
“Contacting Academy members by phone to promote a Grammy-eligible product or achievement is prohibited, even if such contact is in the guise of checking to make sure a sample product or other product was received.”
Analysis: Smart. “Just calling to make sure you got…” are the seven words no one wants to hear.
And Anything Else We Forgot to List:
“It should not be assumed that any tactics or activities not specifically prohibited by these regulations are acceptable. The Recording Academy is willing to review any materials or answer any questions that arise in advance.”
If You See Something, Say Something:
“We encourage our community to help us avoid and remedy violations of these guidelines and ask that you report any findings…”
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