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The different types of music awards

By BBC Maestro

Last updated: 09 August 2022

Great music deserves to be recognised. Creating a chart-topping album or a hit single requires the work of many hands – those of the artist or musician, songwriters, producers, videographers and many more. So it’s no surprise the breadth of awards given in music is huge.  

In this article, we’ll explore some of the different types of music awards that exist today, with a focus on the ones that create a buzz across the industry.

Grammy Award - National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) 

A Grammy is one of the biggest awards to win in entertainment - akin to the Academy Awards (honouring film achievements), the Emmy Awards (honouring television achievements) and the Tony Awards (honouring theatre achievements). But, of course, a Grammy rewards outstanding achievements in music. In the industry, it’s one of the top three music awards to win, alongside a Billboard Music Award and an American Music Award.

The ceremony celebrates the exceptional success of musicians, singers, composers, producers, sound engineers, technicians, and many others in the music creation space. The four big awards are the Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist, and these are not restricted by any genre or criteria.

The big four Grammy awards:

  • Album of the Year is awarded to the performer, songwriter and production team of an entire album.
  • Record of the Year goes to the performer and production team of a song.
  • Song of the Year awards the songwriter/s of a single song.
  • Best New Artist is given to an artist without reference to a specific song or album.

For genre-specific categories, winners are selected from across 25 different types of music – covering genres like pop, rock, rap, R&B, country, reggae, classical, gospel and jazz and more. Most genre-specific awards include Best Performance, Best Song and Best Album  but new category awards pop up often too. For example, within the 2023 ceremony awards, two new additions included Best Spoken Word Poetry Album, Best Score Soundtrack For Video Fames and Other Interactive Media. You can find the full list of the 2023 Grammy Award nominations and wins here.

But why is it called a Grammy you ask? Its title is a shortened iteration of ‘Gramophone’,  which the statuette resembles. Winners receive a large golden gramophone that sits on a black sloped base.

record player

American Music Awards 

Also known as the AMA’s, the American Music Awards is said to be the largest fan-voted awards in the world. It honours the latest and best talent within the contemporary music scene.

Unlike many other big entertainment awards, the public can determine who wins. The nominees are selected based on album and song sales or streams and radio airplay, as reflected by Billboard charts. But fans can vote via the American Music Awards website and even via social media.

American Music Awards can be won for the following categories:

  • Artist of the Year
  • New Artist of the Year
  • Collaboration of the Year
  • Favourite Music Video
  • Favourite Trending Song
  • Favourite Pop Male Artist
  • Favourite Pop Female Artist
  • Favourite Pop Duo or Group
  • Favourite Pop Album
  • Favourite Pop Song
  • Favourite R&B Male Artist
  • Favourite R&B Female Artist
  • Favourite R&B Album
  • Favourite R&B Song
  • Favourite Country Male Artist
  • Favourite Country Female Artist
  • Favourite Country Duo or Group
  • Favourite Country Album
  • Favourite Country Song
  • Favourite Hip-Hop Artist
  • Favourite Hip-Hop Album
  • Favourite Hip-Hop Song
  • Favourite Latin Artist
  • Favourite Latin Duo or Group
  • Favourite Latin Album
  • Favourite Latin Song
  • Favourite Rock Artist
  • Favourite Inspirational Artist
  • Favourite Gospel Artist
  • Favourite Dance/Electronic Artist

Their prestigious Artist of the Year award has been long dominated by Taylor Swift. She is the biggest winner of the award since its first introduction in 1996, currently holding 6 wins and 8 nominations (the most of any artist).

The BRIT Awards - British Phonographic Industry

This iconic music award is awarded at the annual Brit ceremony that usually takes place in Q1 each year.

The current categories an artist can win are:

  • British Single of the Year
  • British Album of the Year
  • British Artist of the Year
  • Songwriter of the Year
  • British Producer of the Year
  • Best New Artist
  • British Group
  • British Pop/R&B Act
  • British Dance Act
  • British Rock/Alternative Act
  • British Hip Hop/Rap/Grime Act
  • International Song
  • International Solo Artist
  • International Group
  • Rising Star Award

The list of songs, nominees and albums is gathered by the Official Charts Company and is given to the BRIT voting academy - made up of over 1,000 key figures in the music industry, including former nominees or winners. These members will then vote, which then decides the winners.  

The award for a Brit features Britannia (a female personification of Britain) and is regularly redesigned by some of Britain’s most iconic artists and designers.

Mercury Prize – The Mercury Prize

Celebrating the best British and Irish albums of the year and the artists behind them is the Mercury Prize. It’s comparable to the Turner Prize in the art world and the Booker Prize in literature.

Open to all genres of music, the prize is awarded to 12 shortlisted albums with their respective artists receiving a trophy. The UK music industry submits over 200 albums for the prize every year. These can be from artists who hit headlines or emerging artists.

The overall winner receives a trophy and a cash prize of £25,000. The judging panel of the award are experts across the music industry, each with a variety of backgrounds. It usually includes musicians, music presenters, producers and journalists within the industry.

a person plays the guitar on stage

Ivor Novello Award – Ivor Academy

Named after the Welsh actor, singer and composer, Ivor Novello, this award honours song writing and composing. The award is a bronze sculpture of Euterpe, a musical muse in Greek mythology.

The awards are given at two separate annual events – The Ivors and The Ivors Composer Awards. The Ivors reward British and Irish songwriters and composers for their talent. In 2021, the Ivor Academy announced that its Academy-tier members would be able to vote for the Songwriter of the Year award and its annual ceremony. The Awards committee selected a shortlist of five nominees and then the vote fell to the members.

The Ivors Composer Awards celebrate creative excellence across classical, jazz, and sound arts. You may also come across the latter referred to as the British Composer Awards. These were renamed in 2019 as part of a brand revamp.

An Ivor Novello award can be won for the following:

  • Songwriter of the Year
  • Most Performed Work
  • Best Contemporary Song
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically
  • Album Award
  • Best Television Soundtrack
  • Best Original Film Score
  • Best Original Video Game Score
  • Rising Star Award with Apple Music (who sponsors the event)

Billboard Music Awards – Billboard 

A Billboard award is an accolade given by the music publication Billboard, to honour the best talent in America’s music scene. The finalists are based on song and album sales, streams, radio airplay, touring and social engagement which Billboard tracks. It’s been held annually since December 1990.

The general categories are Top Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album, Top Hot 100 Song and Top New Artist. It awards artists, albums and tours across a variety of genres – from rock and R&B to dance/electronic to gospel music. If you’re keen to take a closer look at some of the specific awards, you can explore the extensive 2022 list of winners.

Canadian rapper Drake has claimed the most Billboard Music Award wins, as he currently holds 34 under his belt. Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber follow closely behind with 29 and 26 Billboard awards each.

records and earphones

MTV Video Music Award - MTV

Commonly abbreviated as the VMAs, the MTV Video Music Awards commemorates the best in the music video medium. From Best Artist and Song of the Year to Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction, the awards cover the whole spectrum of work required to pull off a great music video.

Since 2006, viewers can vote for their favourite videos in the general categories via the MTV website.

A VMA can be won for the following achievements:

  • Video of the Year
  • Song of the Year
  • Artist of the Year
  • Best New Artist
  • Best Rock
  • Best Pop
  • Best Collaboration
  • Best Group
  • Best Alternative
  • Best Hip-Hop
  • Best R&B
  • Best Latin
  • Best K-POP
  • Song of Summer
  • Best Choreography
  • Best Direction
  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Editing

The artist who owns the most VMAs is Beyoncé with 29 awards. Madonna currently sits in second place with 20 awards and Lady Gaga in third place with 18.

The VMA trophy is an astronaut on the moon – which was one of the earliest representations of MTV in its debut days, colloquially known as a ‘moonman’. MTV launched with a video of Apollo 11 firing off to space in 1981. In the footage, the astronaut lands on the moon and plants a flag of the MTV logo. It symbolised the act of claiming unchartered territory – which aligned with the aims of those artists and musicians who were propelling the music industry forward.

There are many music awards celebrating the work of key players in the music industry around the world. Across genres, you will find awarding bodies that reward up-and-coming artists or honour the famous chart-toppers. With independent artists making more music now than ever, keep an eye out for new awards that may crop up. In the meantime, if you want to make your own music, why not take a look at Mark Ronson’s course on Music Production or Gary Barlow’s online songwriting course?

FREE video lesson: Finding the right mic

With Mark Ronson
A collection of BBC Maestri including Julia Donaldson, Alan Moore and Edgar Wright displayed alongside some gift boxes with orange bows

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