Grammys So White

It’s not just the Oscars. The Grammys are incredibly white, too.

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On Monday night, the brightest stars in popular music will walk a red carpet, watch a few performances, and win a few Grammys. Well, some of them will. And the Grammys that everyone wants are the awards given out at the end of the show—the big four: Album of the Year, Best New Artist, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year.

In the wake of April Reign‘s #OscarsSoWhite campaign—calling out racial disparity in Hollywood nominations and awards—we decided to give the four big Grammys categories a similar shakedown. What we found was depressingly unsurprising: Like the Oscars, the Grammys are incredibly, unacceptably white.

Grammy for Album of the Year

The biggest award of the night is the Grammy for Album of the Year. It’s a category that creates headlines, be it because Beck was chosen over Beyoncé (as in 2015) or Daft Punk was chosen over Kendrick Lamar (in 2014). Consistently, the backlash to the awarding of this prize comes because a white male artist is chosen over another non-white nominee, and when we look at the numbers for this category, it’s pretty obvious why.

White men have been nominated for Album of the Year 49 more times than all other groups combined. They have won the category three times as many times as any other group.

It’s important to note that the first Grammy for Album of the Year (and most of these categories) was given in 1959, five years before the Civil Rights Act was passed. One easy way to try and discount this data is to say that times have changed—and in some ways they have. But in some ways, they most certainly haven’t.

Since 2000, 42.5% of the nominees in the Album of the Year category have been white men, and they have won 53% of the time.

Interestingly, the Album of the Year category is the only one in which men outperform women in awards. White men have won 33 times; men of color have won the award 10 times—more than white women (9) and women of color (4). (Keep in mind that Stevie Wonder has taken home this award three separate times.)


Grammy for Best New Artist

Of all the Grammy categories, this is one of the few where white men aren’t 1000 miles ahead of everyone else. White men still dominate in the Best New Artist award, but it’s a slimmer margin than in the other three major categories. In the Best New Artist category, women make up 42.5% of the nominees, and people of color make up 28.5%.

In this category, though, there’s an extreme racial divide that we don’t see in the other categories. White artists make up 71.4% of the nominees in this category, and they win the award 77% of the time. That’s an unacceptable division.

And things don’t seem to be getting better: Since 2000, 67.5% of the nominees for Best New Artist have been white, and 73% of the winners have been white. The Grammys aren’t as white as the Oscars are across the board, but in this category, they’re pretty damn close.


Grammy for Record of the year

The Grammys’ two biggest awards for individual songs have a subtle distinction: “record of the year” is awarded to a performer, and “song of the year” is awarded to a songwriter. You might think that there would be a lot of overlap between the two categories, but generally, there’s not. The art of composition is very different from the art of recording.

But the data in both categories? Very similar. White people are nominated and win more often than people of color, and white men are nominated and win twice as much as every other group.

Unlike the award for Best New Artist, though, the tides of inequality for nominations seem to be shifting in this category. White men have only made up 28.7% of nominations since 2000. However, they still managed to win 60% of the time. Women of color only make up 14.3% of nominations in Grammy history, but they have made up 25% of nominees since 2000. However: Only one woman of color, Norah Jones, has won Record of the Year since Whitney Houston won in 1994.

Grammy for Song of the Year

Of all the top four Grammy categories, the data for Song of the Year is the most depressing. Song of the Year honors the songwriters and composers who write the songs. As I wrote when I was gathering data for the songs of 2015, women who write music make up a teensy, tiny percentage of the industry. Nowhere is that more clear than in this category, where 69% of the nominees are white men. Only two women, Beyoncé and Alicia Keys, have ever won Song of the Year.

This category, like Record of the Year, has improved in recent history. Since 2000, white men have only been nominated in this category for 42.5% of the spots. But like Record of the Year, they’ve won 53.3% of the time.


Compared to other music award shows, like the VMAs and AMAs, the Grammys look incredibly progressive. But in their four biggest awards they fail to reflect the racial and gender composition of America—as well as of modern music.

Since the beginning of Grammy history, people of color have won 20% of these awards. Only 33.4% of award winners have been women. And things are not getting better: Since 2000, only 19.6% of the winners have been artists of color. And since 2000, only 39.3% of the award winners have been women.

It’s not just the Oscars. The Grammys are incredibly white too.