List of Grammy Award categories

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The Grammy Awards are awarded in a series of categories, each of which isolate a specific contribution to the recording industry. The standard awards list nominees in each category from which a winner is selected. 28 Grammys were awarded in the first award ceremony, but the number of awards has grown and fluctuated over time as new categories are added and some older ones removed, at one time over 100 awards were given.[1]

Special awards[edit]

There are special awards which are awarded without nominations, typically for achievements of longer than the past year, which the standard awards apply to:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award is a Special Merit Award presented to performers (and some non-performers through 1972) who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.
  • Trustees Award is a Special Merit Award presented to individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance (and some performers through 1983), to the field of recording.
  • Technical Grammy Award is a Special Merit Award presented to individuals and/or companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.
  • Grammy Legend Award is a Special Merit Award is presented to individuals or groups for ongoing contributions and influence in the recording field; it was inaugurated in 1990.
  • Grammy Hall of Fame Award was established in 1973 to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old. Winners are selected annually by a special member committee of eminent and knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts.
  • The MusiCares Person of the Year Award was established in 1991 to recognize a musician who has made an outstanding contribution to music and in addition has been active in works of philanthropy. This award is presented by the MusiCares foundation annually.

General Field[edit]

The General Field (also known as the 'Big Four') are four standard awards for musical works which do not restrict nominees by genre or some other criterion:

  • Album of the Year is awarded to the performer and the production team of a full album.
  • Record of the Year is awarded to the performer and the production team of a single song.
  • Song of the Year is awarded to the writer(s)/composer(s) of a single song.
  • Best New Artist is awarded to an artist without reference to a song or album.

2017 Grammy Awards[edit]

As of the 2017 ceremony, there are 84 categories, including the General Field but not including special awards.

Contemporary Instrumental
Musical Theatre
Music for Visual Media
Surround Sound

No longer awarded[edit]

Music Video/Film

Changes in the 2010s[edit]


On April 6, 2011 the Recording Academy announced a major overhaul of many Grammy Award categories.[2] In 2012, the number of categories fell from 109 to 78. Some categories were discontinued, others were merged or renamed.


On June 8, 2012, the Academy announced a few changes as of 2013, including the addition of three new categories: Best Classical Compendium, Best Latin Jazz Album and Best Urban Contemporary Album. This meant the number of categories in 2013 rose to 81.

According to the Academy, the Best Classical Compendium is "for an album collection containing (...) newly recorded material of performances (vocal or instrumental) by various soloist(s) and/or ensemble(s) involving a mixture of classical subgenres."[3] Albums entered in this category cannot be entered in other classical album categories, but individual tracks can.

The intent for the newly formed Best Latin Jazz Album is "to recognize recordings that represent the blending of jazz with Latin, Iberian-American, Brazilian, and Argentinean tango music."[2]

The new Best Urban Contemporary Album category is for albums with contemporary songs derivative of R&B. It is for artists who blend contemporary styles with R&B music, such as urban (euro)pop, urban rock and/or urban alternative.

Other changes for the 2013 Grammy Award season were:


From 2014, there will be further changes. One is the introduction of a new category, Best American Roots Song, which will encompass all of the subgenres in the American Roots Music field such as Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk and regional roots music. The award will be presented to the songwriter(s). The Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance category, introduced in 2012, will be split and will recognise metal performances only. Hence it will be renamed Best Metal Performance (returning to the situation prior to 2012). Hard rock performances will now be screened in the Best Rock Performance category, thus losing its own genre award. The two Music Video categories will be renamed. The Best Short Form Music Video will become the Best Music Video category, while the Best Long Form Music Video will now be known as Best Music Film. The rules and description of these two categories will not change. Also new for 2014 is the Music Educator Award per the Grammy Website " recognize current educators (kindergarten through college, public and private schools) who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools..."[4]


The Recording Academy introduced further changes beginning on the 2015 ceremony: particularly allowing samples or interpolations of previously written songs in all songwriting categories, most notably the Song of the Year category.[5] Additional changes include:

The introduction of the changed will push the total number of categories to 83.[5]


In June 2016, the Grammy organization announced changes to the voting and awarding process.[7]

Recordings released solely through streaming services became eligible to enter the award process. These recordings must be available through streaming platforms. Applicable streaming services are paid subscription, full catalog, on-demand streaming/limited download platforms that have existed as such within the United States for at least one full year as of the submission deadline. All recordings entered must have an assigned International Standard Recording Code (ISRC).

Best New Artist rules were amended to remove the album barrier given trends in how new music and developing artists are released and promoted; many new artists first release singles, tracks, or EPs rather than full albums. To become eligible in the category of Best New Artist, the artist, duo, or group:

  • Must have released a minimum of five singles/tracks or one album, but no more than 30 singles/tracks or three albums.
  • May not have entered the category more than three times, including as a performing member of an established group.
  • Must have achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and impacted the musical landscape during the eligibility period.

The Best Blues Album category was split back into two distinct categories, as they were prior to 2012:

  • Best Traditional Blues Album (Blues recordings with traditional blues song and harmonic structures, including various subgenres such as Delta blues, Piedmont blues, jump/swing blues, Chicago blues, and classic/Southern soul).
  • Best Contemporary Blues Album (Recordings which may employ non-traditional blues rhythms such as funk, hip-hop, reggae, and rock, or which feature contemporary techniques such as synthesizers or loops).

The Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category (in the Rap field) was renamed as Best Rap/Sung Performance to allow solo performances, a result of "the current state and future trajectory of rap by expanding the category beyond collaborations between rappers and vocalists to include recordings by a solo artist who blurs the lines between rapping and singing."

Additional amendments were made to the number and type of music creators recognized in the categories of Best Choral Performance and Best Jazz Vocal Album.