An online petition to make free music eligible in the Grammy Awards is being considered by the Recording Academy after a petition circulated with support from prominent figures like rapper Chance the Rapper.

The Grammy Awards are arguably the largest music awards ceremony in the world, if not the most renowned, and until now have been inclusive for music released “commercially”. This meant that artists, no matter how popular, were automatically excluded from the rewards if they made their music available for free, something that has held back artists like Chance the Rapper who has released the majority of his music free on his SoundCloud.

A recent petition, with support from the aforementioned Chance, requested support to change the process. With support from over 25,000 people so far it clearly resonated through fans and the industry as the Recording Academy behind the Grammy Awards have revealed they’re going to consider a Free Music category.

Grammys online music petition Chance the Rapper

A spokesperson told International Business Times: “The Grammy awards is fluid and, like music, continues to evolve. As a peer-voted award, the awards process is also peer-determined. Each spring, music creators in the community work with Recording Academy staff to prepare and submit proposals, which are then reviewed by the Board and announced shortly thereafter.”

It’s not a definite confirmation but it’s at least in discussions now, and could potentially lead to us seeing a new Grammys category this year. Whilst the number of significant artists releasing music for free may not be massive it’s still a significant portion. As music becomes internet-central it’s opened up new platforms for artists, such as SoundCloud or their own websites where they can release music for whatever price they want – including free.

Releasing music for free works on multiple levels: It can be a promotional tool to get your name heard (people love free things), a reward to loyal fans, a way to distribute unreleased music, and much more. As the music landscape changes with online it’s only right that academies representing the industry evolve with it.

Grammys free music online petition
Chance the Rapper has built a loyal fanbase and reached international audiences, despite releasing all of his music for free

Max Krasowitz, the man behind the petition, wrote on the petition page:

Ridiculously talented artists who are releasing free mixtapes and projects are not getting the recognition they truly deserve because the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences insists that to be eligible for a prestigious Grammy Award that the music must be “commercially released in the United States, i.e. sales by label to a branch or recognised independent distributor, via the Internet, or mail order/retail sales for a nationally marketed product. Recording must be available for sale from any date within the eligibility period through at least the date of the current year’s voting deadline (final ballot).”

This means that artists like Chance the Rapper, who are now getting national recognition and performing on national platforms (just this past week Chance performed on the Jimmy Fallon show) are being punished for making their music available to everyone, rich or poor, by releasing their music for free. It’s obvious that these artists deserve it even if they can’t afford it, as well as decreasing pirating and illegally downloading music. Not all artists should be forced to release their music for free, but the ones who do should not be punished for doing so. If you would like to discuss this issue further please contact me @krazo05 on Twitter.

The petition is still up and running, if you want to show your support you can sign it here.

Fingers crossed the discussions become a positive result. When any verdicts or updates are announced you can be sure to catch it here on the RouteNote Blog.