The Recording Academy recently announced major changes to the Grammy Awards. This year’s event in February saw awards presented in 109 categories in genres as far-flung as Best Latin Jazz Album and Best Native American Music Album. Following a fresh look at the categories, the nominations process, and the motivation for it all, the Academy has slashed the number of categories to 78.

Significant changes have taken place in Christian music, including a noteworthy name change. Our industry has long struggled with what to call the genre. Contemporary Christian Music has been a somewhat contentious moniker through the years, and organizations such as the Gospel Music Association and the Gospel Music Channel have worked hard to promote a broad description of what gospel music really means. If the industry has trended from “CCM” to “Gospel”, the Grammys have gone the other way.  What was formerly called the “Gospel Field” will now become the “Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Field”.

The categories in that field have been cut from 7 to 5. Here’s the breakdown:

Old Categories:

Best Gospel Performance
Best Gospel Song
Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album
Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album
Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album
Best Traditional Gospel Album
Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album

New Categories:

Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance
Best Gospel Song
Best Gospel Album
Best Contemporary Christian Music Song
Best Contemporary Christian Music Album

The Academy reports a determination that “there are two distinct wings to the gospel house: Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and Urban or Soul Gospel”. The statement clearly leaves out Southern Gospel, and leaves one wondering what to do with Rap, Rock, Country, Bluegrass, and other smaller subgenres. It is apparent that the Academy will be interpreting these categories as one songwriting award and one album award each for CCM and Urban/Soul Gospel, and a single shared category for performance.

Clearly, scores of artists will be cut out of consideration. It will be interesting to see how broadly the CCM category will be defined. Will that be the place for recent nominees like Lecrae, Fireflight, Jonny Lang, Jason Crabb, and Red?

Some rule changes have been put in place as well that might allow a category to have fewer nominees or not be awarded at all. In the past, each category required at least 25 distinct artist entries. That number has gone up to 40, and categories that cannot maintain that depth could go away. With fewer categories, it’s unlikely that any of the Christian Music slots are in any danger.