In 2013, Chance the Rapper told Rolling Stone that he “might not ever drop a for-sale project. Maybe I’ll just make my money touring”. The Chicago native has released two free solo mixtapes so far, 10 Day and Acid Rap. On May 13, Chance is set to release his 3rd mixtape, Chance 3 and like his previous releases, he’s set to release it for free. In that same interview with Rolling Stone, he was asked if he “thought about signing with a label?” He replied by saying “There’s no reason to. It’s a dead industry.”
Its crazy because most independent artists would do anything to be in Chance’s shoes. He’s performed on The Tonight Show, The Late Show and SNL all without being signed to major record label. He’s done major festivals, tours and continues to sell out shows but his music is still not for sale. How much is he leaving on the table, I’m not exactly sure but I know that it’s a lot. There’s something else he’s leaving on the table; The opportunity to win a GRAMMY.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) has declared that in order for a release to be considered for a Grammy award, the project must be “commercially released in general distribution in the United States, i.e. sales by label to a branch or recognized independent distributor, via the internet, of mail order/retail sales for a nationally marketed product. Recordings 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).”
A fan started a petition to allow free music to be eligible for consideration and at the time I’m writing this, it has 21,756 signatures. Chance is a talented artist and I think he deserves the opportunity to be recognized by his peers, but what about other free releases? Adding free releases to the GRAMMY process could be a logistical nightmare. The Recording Academy screens every release entered for consideration so I want you to do me a favor. Head over to Datpiff or LiveMixtapes and take a look at the upcoming releases. There’s at least 100+ mixtapes dropping next week. Can it be done? Sure, but… why? I loved Big Sean’s Detroit mixtape and it was so good that it could have possibly be nominated, but it wasn’t a commercial release.
Chance should really consider selling his music because he has enough fans that would buy it which would lead him to be considered for a nomination. Regardless of how you much you think music is worth, it isn’t completely free to create and musicians who create it deserve to profit off it. After Chance retires from touring, he’ll have the opportunity have his music catalog work for him… but only if its available for sale.
Update: A rep from the Recording Academy told Billboard that “the awards process is reviewed and refined on an annual basis.” The Grammys then issued a statement to Billboard clarifying that while free albums and streaming-only albums would not be eligible under the rules in place for last year’s awards, there is an annual review process that takes place after each year’s presentation that determines any changes that will be made. That process has not been completed yet — the awards telecast is typically held in late January or early February — which means the criteria for the 2017 nominations is not yet set in stone.
“The Grammy Awards process is fluid and, like music, continues to evolve,” the statement says. “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. Rules for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards will be announced this June.”