Disclaimer: I am not a member of the Board of Governors of HARA. What I write here is based on my prior experience as a board member, continuting interaction with them and other members, and continuing service on the selection committee. Hopefully it will help, inform and entertain you, but take it with a grain of salt, and a dash of sarcasm.
Since last December or so, I’ve gotten a lot of messages, texts, and emails from folks asking for help or advice about their entries for the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards (there is a different season for Grammy requests). Sometimes I feel like I need to add “Music Awards Program Consultant” to my résumé. While it may seem more convoluted than necessary, it’s really not. It is a challenge for the Board and office staff because of the number of categories and variety of criteria that guide them in placing releases in various categories. The changing landscape of the recording industry also requires that they adjust as necessary.
Do your homework in advance – not at the deadline. If I could offer one piece of advice to any artist it would be this: start thinking about the awards before you even start recording. I can hear the protests: “we don’t think about awards, we do it for the art.” Yeah, right. You may say so now, and actually feel that way, but it will pass. Many don’t think or care about it until the awards come around and you find that the academy puts your release someplace that you don’t think it belongs, or you find out that it is not eligible at all because you missed a deadline or didn’t know the residency requirements. Then the whining begins.
It is complicated but it is not rocket science. If you want to enter your release in Hawaiian, jazz, rock, alternative… whatever, know what criteria the academy uses. Just because your release might sound “jazzy” doesn’t mean it’s “jazz”, and I have laughed out loud at what some people have tried to enter in that category in years past. You are free to record whatever you want and call it whatever you like, but HARA’s job is to offer a level playing field, applying the same criteria to all entries. In recent years categorizing releases had gotten increasingly difficult. The board and selection committee do the best they can to accommodate requests, but sometimes it is not possible.
The only thing that remains static is change. The criteria for the awards is posted online. While the board frequently makes changes, it is most often done to clarify grey areas, deal with attempts to “game” the awards (i.e., enter a release into a category for which it is not eligible, or is not commercially available, or was not released in the eligibility year, fib about where they lived the year prior or… you get the idea), and changes are also based on member feedback. However, changes implemented do not take affect until after the new eligibility year begins. In other words – if you see the criteria as they are posted now, and if any changes are made by the board, they will not affect any releases you put out this year. If you are planning to put out a release in 2014, it behooves you to download and read this document. Know what the criteria and quantums are. If your “Hawaiian” release doesn’t have 75% or more tracks in the Hawaiian language, then it is not a “Hawaiian” release as defined by the board for purposes of the awards. If you live outside of Hawai‘i, there are only a handful of awards that you are eligible for. There are other subtleties to the awards that seem to escape many members. I’ll get into these issues more in a future post.
Preliminary ballots for the 2014 awards are in and, to my understanding, are being tabulated right now. You have control over your future entries in the awards, you just need to do your homework.