Record companies and individuals may submit recordings to be nominated. The entries are entered online and then a physical copy of the product must be sent to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Once a work is entered, reviewing sessions are held by over 150 experts from the recording industry. This is done only to determine whether or not a work is eligible or entered into the proper category for official nomination.
The resulting list is circulated to all NARAS members, each of whom may vote to nominate in the general field (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist) and in no more than nine out of 30 other fields on their ballots. The five recordings that earn the most votes in each category become the nominees. There may be more than five nominees if there is a tie in the nomination process.
Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars) are generally invited to screenings, or sent DVDs, of movies nominated for Oscars. In contrast, NARAS members receive no nominated recordings.
After nominees have been determined, final voting ballots are sent to Recording Academy members. They may then vote in the general fields and in no more than eight of the 30 fields. NARAS members are encouraged, but not required, to vote only in their fields of expertise. Ballots are tabulated secretly by the major independent accounting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Following the tabulation of votes the winners are announced at the Grammy Awards. The recording with the most votes in a category wins and it is possible to have a tie. Winners are presented with the Grammy Award and those who do not win are given a medal for their nomination. In both voting rounds, Academy members are to vote based upon quality alone. They are not supposed to be influenced by sales, chart performance, personal friendships, regional preferences or company loyalty. The acceptance of gifts is prohibited. Members are urged to vote in a manner that preserves the integrity of the academy. The eligibility period for the 2011 Grammy Awards is September 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010.
Because thousands of recordings appear each year and very few voting members have heard more than a relatively small number of them, it is likely that many individual votes will be cast by voters who are unfamiliar with all the recordings nominated in that category. Additionally, because of the small number of votes cast in many of the categories, a lobbying campaign for a particular recording may need only a few dozen votes for success. Large choruses have achieved Grammy awards after persuading many of their members to join NARAS.