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Recording Academy overhauls Grammy rules to build 'trust' in 'integrity of the awards'

The rules, which will go into effect immediately for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards, arrive after reports of turmoil with the Recording Academy's ranks.
Image: Billie Eilish poses in the press room during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center
Billie Eilish poses in the press room during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on Jan. 26, 2020 in Los Angeles.Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for The Recording Academy file

The Recording Academy announced a set of new rules for the Grammy Awards on Wednesday, including guidelines that will address potential conflicts of interest among nomination review committee members.

According to the new rules, every person invited to participate on a nominations review committee will be provided with an interest disclosure form where they will record "to the best of their knowledge" their connections with any recordings or artists that may be up for nomination and any other "actual or perceived" conflicts of interest they may have. Should a conflict that was not disclosed later be discovered, the person will be "barred from future Nominations Review Committee participation."

In another marked change, committee members will also be required to take off for one year after three years of serving on a nomination review committee instead of taking off every five years, as a previous rule dictated.

"We believe that transparency is key to building and restoring trust in the Academy and in the integrity of the Grammy Awards," a spokesperson for the Recording Academy told NBC News. "The Recording Academy is entering a new chapter and we want to continue to work with the music industry to continue to drive change."

The Recording Academy also revamped the rules for the best new artist category by no longer specifying a maximum number of releases that would prohibit an artist from being entered into the category. As a result, artists who may have a fuller portfolio but who have only gained traction in the preceding year due to a breakthrough hit could be entered to win the award.

The rule change comes after years of fans advocating for the Recording Academy to abandon the threshold. Artists like Lady Gaga and Whitney Houston were disqualified from the category during their breakthrough years because of the category's past rules that artists who had been previously nominated for a Grammy Award or who had previous recordings could not be nominated in the best new artist category.

Among the other changes announced include changing the title of the best urban contemporary album category to best progressive R&B album "to appropriately categorize and describe this subgenre," which incorporates elements from a variety of music genres, including hip-hop, rap, dance, electronic music pop, country and rock. Similarly, the best rap/sung performance has been renamed to best melodic rap performance to better represent the "growing hybrid performance trends within the rap genre."

"Because the GRAMMY Awards reflect what's happening in music, the awards process constantly evolves to meet the needs of all music makers," the spokesperson added. "The process is driven by music makers and experts who offer proposals to amend our rules based on the specific needs of their community."

The Recording Academy also made its rulebook detailing these changes and others available online for the first time Wednesday.

The changes, which will go into effect immediately in preparation for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards, arrive after reports of turmoil with the Recording Academy's ranks. Deborah Dugan, who was placed on administrative leave from her post as chairman/CEO of the Recording Academy after accusations of "misconduct" toward an employee, was terminated earlier this year. Before her termination, however, Dugan filed a discrimination complaint against the Recording Academy, claiming she was placed on administrative leave in retaliation for having sent a memo outlining concerns about the organization." She described the academy as an "old boys' club" and alleged that the nominating process for the music industry ceremony is "rigged" and rife with conflicts of interest.

"I am gratified that the Recording Academy finally adopted many of the proposals I initiated while I was its CEO to make the Grammy voting process transparent and fair," Dugan wrote in a statement. "It is a good first step toward systemic change."