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. Twenty-eight 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 one hundred awards were given.
There are special awards which are awarded without nominations, typically for of longer than the past year, which the standard awards apply to:
The General Field (originally known as the 'Big Four') are six standard awards for musical works which do not restrict nominees by genre or some other criterion:
For the 2024 ceremony, there were 94 categories, including the General Field but not including special awards. These categories were consolidated into 11 fields, down from 26.
On April 6, 2011 the Recording Academy announced a major overhaul of many Grammy Award categories. 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[update], 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." 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."
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:
Changes were made in 2014. One was the introduction of a new category, Best American Roots Song, which encompasses all 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, was split and recognises metal performances only. It was renamed Best Metal Performance (returning to the situation prior to 2012). Hard rock performances are screened in the Best Rock Performance category, thus losing its own genre award. The two Music Video categories were renamed. The Best Short Form Music Video became the Best Music Video category, while Best Long Form Music Video is now Best Music Film. The rules and description of these two categories did not change. Also new for 2014 was the Music Educator Award. It recognizes "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."
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. Additional changes include:
The introduction of the changed will push the total number of categories to 83.
In June 2016, the Grammy organization announced changes to the voting and awarding process.
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:
The Best Blues Album category was split back into two distinct categories, as they were prior to 2012:
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.