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.
The first hurdle to understanding the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards entry process is knowing what determines a release’s eligibility for the awards, and there are several factors that play into this:
Release date. The release date is the date that your release can be purchased by the public. Not the date you submit it to a manufacturer, not the date that you mail it to a sales outlet, and not the date that you upload it to a digitlal download service. If it can’t be bought by the public, it hasn’t be “released.” If you do release a recording during a calendar year, it may be eligible for the following year’s Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. If you put out a release and it is available for purchase by the public between January 1 and December 31, 2014, it could be eligible for the 2015 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. But this is just the first consideration.
If you want to be sure to make this deadline, don’t wait until a month before the end of the year to start manufacturing physical CDs, or the final weeks of the year to try to upload your new release to a digital online service. Chances are you won’t make it. Apple has been known to shutdown their acceptance of new releases to be sold in iTunes in mid- to late-December. None of these factors will be considered if you miss the release deadline. Either you make the deadline or you don’t, and if you miss it, don’t blame the manufacturer or online service for your failure to plan and execute your release with sufficient time. You’ll simply have to wait another year for your release to be eligible.
Distribution. As noted above, only commercial releases are available for the awards, and releases must be available for puchase at established retailers. There are three primary means of accomplishing this:
- Get physical product (CDs) into retail stores. This can be done through a music distributor like Mountain Apple Company, or as simple as having a single retail location have your CDs available for sale.
- Get physical product (CDs) onto established online retailers like Mele.com. It is not sufficient to sell CDs off of your own website. It needs to be available at an established online retailer.
- Get digital product into an established online service such as iTunes, Amazon.com or CD Baby. This is often most easily accomplished by using an intermediary service such as TuneCore. This is far less expensive than manufacturing CDs, but does have its limitations.
At this time, it is not sufficient for an artist to sell CDs at performances or off of their own websites, nor can you sell digital downloads from your own website alone. The CDs or audio files need to be available for purchase through established retail channels. The board has discussed the possibility of allowing releases like this, but no changes appear to be imminent.
Residency. Many of the award categories and genres are restricted to residents of Hawai‘i. Specific categories are open to US residents, and there is a single, special award for international artists who record certain musical genres. This complex issue will be the subject of its own post. But Hawai‘i residents are largely eligible in all categories. If a mix of Hawai‘i residents and non-residents participate in a recording, it complicates things, and the presence of a resident on a recording as an artist, composer, engineer, producer, liner note annotator or graphics artist does not mean that non-resident contributors will also be eligble for anything. And just because a release is eligible in one category doesn’t mean it is eligible in any others. This is a bit convoluted to get into here, so stay tuned for further elaboration.
Who qualifies as a “Hawai‘i resident” has evolved, will continue to, and changes have been necessary as people have been known to less than forthright about their residence status in the past. Currently, it means that the artist (or other contributor) had lived in the state for at least six months during the year the recording was released. Situations have arisen where this hardly seems fair, and changes may be made at some point, but this is the criteria right now. In several circumstances, this has been one of the more difficult determinations for the selection committee and the board.
Document your release and distribution. Save confirmation emails from manufacturers and online distribution entities. Take screenshots of iTunes, CD Baby and other services that show a release date for your music. Save physical invoices, packing/shipping lists and other correspondences. Sometimes there are discrepancies in these dates and this may be beyond your control. Unless they show the release being available in different years it won’t matter. If they are, it is something you’ll need to take up with the HARA selection committee and perhaps the board. If you are doing something as simple as dropping CDs off at a mom-and-pop store, print up an invoice or agreement, and have them sign and date their receipt of your product. Documentation is your friend! If there are legitimate concerns about the date of the release, documentation can save your bacon.
Get your releases entered on time. The last day to submit releases for the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards is usually the last day of January that follows the eligibility year. But the day may vary depending on if it is a work day or not. In years past, the board was known to accept late entries, but this practice has been halted. Miss the deadline and your release won’t appear on the preliminary ballot, and it won’t be eligible the following year either. If it is released in 2014, it must be entered for the 2015 awards by the deadline, or it will never be eligible in the future.