The Grammy Awards have announced their decision to slash the number of categories. Awards will now be given for seventy-eight titles, rather than the previous one hundred and nine.
The move has been presented as an economic renovation of the previous system. Organizers have further assured critics and concerned musicians that the tactic is chiefly designed to streamline acts into more cohesive award categories. The Grammy Awards provide a chance for under-represented artists and styles to gain industry appreciation and worldwide publicity. Opponents to the new changes have stressed that access to the music industry could be seriously reduced for many.
Most worrying to world music fans is the deletion of several small categories of awards for musical genres that stand at the periphery of the mainstream music industry. The groupings for Hawaiian, Native American, Tejano, Cajun and Zydeco music have all been wiped. Genre-specific entries from these areas will now be amalgamated in to broader categories such as ‘American Roots Music’. The awards for ‘Best Contemporary World Music Album’ and ‘Best Contemporary Folk Album’ have also been cut.
Critics have highlighted the danger that choice genres and smaller artists will be squeezed out by the more popular styles that may dominate a category. The likelihood of a Native American musician winning a Grammy will certainly be smaller under the new system. Similarly contemporary artists that will be in direct competition with more popular classic, traditional and vintage styles could find award success considerably harder to achieve. TheRecording Academy's Vice President of Awards, Bill Freimuth has rebutted criticism by proposing,‘Whenever you're categorizing music, you're going to end up with some odd bedfellows’. The music industry is tightening its belt worldwide in response to shrinking sales and a financial recession, major industry players must act carefully to prevent world music from being muffled and hidden from view.