Full Sail faculty who are voting members of the Recording Academy explain the GRAMMY voting process [GRAMMY WEEK]

Every year during GRAMMY season, the music world turns its attention to the many talented musicians and engineers who are nominated for the awards. This year, Full Sail is proud of the nine grads up for individual GRAMMYs and the 71 grads associated with GRAMMY-nominated works.

But what about that mysterious group of people who select the winners? Full Sail is also proud that there are six voting members of the Recording Academy, the organization that selects GRAMMY winners, right here on campus.

Five of the six faculty members – Mike Reaves, Hunter Menning, Juan Covas, Keith Lay and Chris Jay – are members of the Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy. The sixth, Bill Thompson, achieved voting status through his work as an electronica artist.

All six qualified to become voting members of the Academy by earning technical or creative credits on at least six tracks commercially released in the U.S. (more for digital releases).

The Voting Process

Contrary to popular belief, the voting members don’t vote on everything. They are allowed to vote in eight categories of their choosing, as well as in the four major categories – Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Record of the Year.

Voting is still a lengthy process, however. Voting in eight categories means voting on many more than eight awards. Each category has several subcategories.

“If I choose the rock category, within the rock category, there’s going to be a dozen or so subcategories: Best Male Vocalist, Best Group or Duo with a Vocal, Best Rock Song…,” explains Reaves.

“It takes time to complete one of those ballots,” says Thompson. “By the time you’re done, you’ve actually cast votes for 100 different awards.”

Full Sail’s voting members are quite eclectic.

“I vote for comedy, blues, bluegrass, Americana and rock,” says Jay, a Recording Arts instructor. “I’m kind of the folksy guy.”

Thompson, whose electronica music hit it big in Japan, votes in the electronica category but also in the rock, rap and country categories. “I’ve actually got a pretty good background dealing with hip-hop artists for Full Sail, so I always vote in the rap category; I was in a country band, so I vote country. So it’s pretty disparate,” he says.

Covas has worked with jazz, rock and Latin artists (he earned a GRAMMY in 1998 for his engineering work with Marc Anthony), so he votes in those categories. He is also a voting member of the Latin Recording Academy.

The Grammys Go Digital

Beginning in 2009, the Recording Academy gave members digital access to listen to (but not download) nominated works, first through iTunes and now through a private online site. Prior to that, Recording Academy members could purchase the music at a discount from the Academy or search it through the Internet.

Thompson said the new digital system has been really useful – particularly for lengthy categories like Album of the Year: “I took a long road trip over the holidays, and I was able to just bring their website up through my iPhone, plug it in to my car stereo and I was actually listening to the albums while I was driving,” he says. “So I listened to all five nominees while driving on the road, and I think I was able to make a really good choice for the vote then.”

Since the members only have about three weeks to cast their votes, having easy access to all of the nominated music is critical, the faculty members say. That’s because they all take the process very seriously.

“It’s the biggest event in our world all year long,” says Menning.