The 2017 Grammy’s set a new standard by awarding an artist with streaming-only albums three Grammy awards. Chance the Rapper received awards for Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, and Best Rap Performance (for his collaboration with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz).
However, due to the fact that he did not have any legitimate studio albums, many felt as though this was an unprofessional move by the academy.
The official guidelines for the Best New Artist award states that it will be awarded to “A new artist who releases during the Eligibility Year, the first recording that establishes the public identity of that artist.”
Essentially any new artist who is able to first gain notice, and not necessarily create their first album, is eligible for the award. Similarly, the guidelines for Best Rap Album are awarded to albums “regardless of album sales or chart position… and contain at least 51 percent playing time of the tracks.”
This was the first year streaming-only albums were considered for the Grammy Awards. This means that no physical copies were available; all music had to be streamed through apps such as Soundcloud or Spotify. Due to the fact that album sale and chart position are invalid in the consideration for these album awards, Chance was eligible even though he had no physical albums to sell.
Many feel that by doing this, the Grammys have opened doors for smaller, lesser known artists to be able to receive prestigious recognition.
However, this raises many other issues, such as whether other prominent streaming-only artists will be given the same amount of attention when being considered for awards.
Artists who sign to labels might also feel hindered by the loose guidelines since they do rely on album sales. Large studios might also suffer large declines in clientele, especially when you consider that it is now a possibility that aspiring musicians will only turn to outlets like Soundcloud to create their albums or mixtapes.
Chance’s wins may mark a turning point for the music industry, where labels grow obsolete in favor of a fragmented listening audience.