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Grammys will let streaming-only music compete for next year's awards

Most user-generated uploads to YouTube wouldn't count, though, even if they're 100 percent original.


Rapper Kanye West planned to release his album "Life of Pablo" only on subscription service Tidal this year.

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The flashiest US music awards show will start considering tunes released solely through the music industry's biggest business now: streaming.

The group that runs the Grammy Awards said Thursday that streaming-only releases would be considered for next year's awards, set to be doled out in February for music released in the year since last October. Previously, music needed to be sold in a physical format or as a digital download to qualify, according to the rules set by the Recording Academy.

The Grammys change comes after streaming revenue overtook downloads (PDF) as the music industry's No. 1 business last year. It's rare for a high-profile release -- the kind likely to garner Grammy buzz -- to be sold solely on a streaming service.

Chance the Rapper is the exception. His "Coloring Book" was the first streaming-only release to chart on Billboard's album ranking in May. And Kanye West made waves earlier this year, when the capricious megastar said he would release his latest album only on Tidal, the subscription streaming music service owned by Jay Z and a slew of other music giants, including West himself. (West also sold it as a download on his own website, and later widened availability to Spotify and Apple Music.)

But the Grammys didn't exactly open the floodgates to every original recording available online. To qualify, the recording needs to be on "paid subscription, full catalog, on-demand streaming/limited download platforms," so anything that somebody posts on the free tiers of YouTube and SoundCloud wouldn't count.

Grammy applicants also need to have an International Standard Recording Code, known as ISRC, which is a string of letters and numbers that identifies individual musical recordings. In the US, the RIAA administers the codes. Anyone can get one for a recording that's uniquely his or his own.