Thirty-nine years of Juno Awards and it is still possible to not know how the top prize in Canadian music is selected. Heading into Juno Awards' week 2010, we decided to take the question to the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) for a proper answer.
"It is a really thorough process that works with hundreds of volunteers each year," Manager of Awards and Special Events with CARAS, Brenna Knought, told The Telegram.
Setting the rules
It begins with the nominating and voting committee, with 45 members, responsible for keeping things on the up and up for the public and representatives in the industry.
"We're always open to feedback from the industry, especially and the public," Knought said. That feedback is directed to the nominating and voting committee.
In May or thereabouts, Knought said, the committee meets - questions, congratulations and criticisms in hand - to discuss the next year's Juno Award requirements.
In some cases, changes to criteria are forced by changes in the industry as a whole, Knought said.
For example, the CD and DVD artwork of the year category has been changed to Recording Package of the Year, with a revival in vinyl and the increase in online album downloads.
In other cases, changes in the music being produced by Canadian artists can lead to new or re-titled categories. For example, there was the creation of an adult alternative album of the year category in 2005.
"This is my seventh Juno Awards and I've seen a significant amount of change," Knought said.
Accepting and evaluating submissions
Requirements set, the Juno Awards begin accepting submissions. The submission period for the 2010 Juno Awards opened on October 1.
You do not need to be a mega-mix superstar or a double-platinum dandy to be considered for a Juno.
Just look at Beats on Canvas, Knought said. "They self-recorded their album with no funding and they received two nominations (this year)," she said.
As the final, drop dead deadline passes, submissions are provided to the music advisory committee.
The committee includes 180 members, subdivided into category-specific advisory boards.
In order to be nominated in a given category, an album must pass general eligibility requirements for the Juno Awards and, then, requirements for the category to which it has applied.
Naming the Nominees
From the pool of eligible entries, nominees for each of the categories must then be selected.
Each category has its own evaluation criteria to determine the shortlist of nominees.
But the big sellers and media hounds automatically get nominated, right?
"There's only nine categories that (require acts to submit sales figures), that have any sales component," Knought said.
That's nine out of 39 categories.
For the record, the nine are: JUNO Fan Choice Award, International Album of the Year, Album of the Year, Artist of the Year, Group of the Year, New Artist of the Year, New Group of the Year, Pop Album of the Year and Rock Album of the Year.
Of these, only International Album of the Year and Album of the Year will have nominees named without voting by CARAS members and/or the category's jury panel (For a complete list of the requirements for each category, see :http://junoawards.ca/nominees/submissions/).
With recommendations in, industry voting is completed and nominees are announced in a news conference.
Filling the envelopes
The final round of voting takes place to determine the Juno Award winners (for 2010, held from March 8 to March 20).
The bulk of award winners are selected by the jury panels in their category.
There are a total 330 volunteer judges for the Juno Awards juries in 2010, Knought said.
They are selected one category at a time and they operate under category-specific criteria.
"They're all relevant. They all work within that industry (genre)," she said.
In addition, she said, "we never let the same judge the same category two years in a row."
The judges do not receive piles of CDs in the mail.
"We used to physically ship CDs to the judges," Knought said. Yet the system changed for the 2009 Juno Awards, moving to streaming and digital download.
The new system proved so effective, it provided the basis for a similar system for this year's Grammy Awards.
"They modeled it after our awards," Knought said.
Dinner, a raging amp and a statuette
Finally comes Juno Awards week.
There are 39 Juno Awards. Thirty-two of those are handed out the night before the Juno Awards broadcast at a private industry dinner.
The other seven awards will be handed out on Sunday, April 18, at Mile One Centre during the Juno Awards broadcast.
While Knought said there may be a lot of attention paid to known names and Billboard charters, the average musician nominated for a Juno Award is usually a working stiff, with more than one skill set.
"Even classical artists- a lot of them have full-time jobs. A lot of them are teachers," she said.
So it is worth looking closely at a name you've never seen before, she said.
"There's a lot of really cool stories out there and a lot of really meaningful things that happen for industry artists," Knought said of the Junos.
Awards aside, 2010 will be the first year Juno-related music events will run a full week before the awards broadcast.
Between these Ruckus on the Edge events, the 100-act strong JunoFest in the downtown, MusicNL marathon sets and independent productions, there is no better time to discover some new music or find a new favourite venue.
For a taste of the work of Juno Award nominees without leaving the comfort of home, go online to The Telegram website (www.thetelegram.com), to the Juno Awards page and look under the yellow arrow, all the way down, clicking on "Juno Award Songs Sampler."
In looking at the Juno Awards rules, we had to ask the question that has been nagging:
How is it possible Nickelback have been nominated for awards in 2010 with the same album they were nominated with in 2009?
In 2010, the band is up for rock album of the year with "Dark Horse," the same release that won them album of the year and group of the year in 2009.
As it turns out, it is very much within the rules.
"Dark Horse" was released in an overlap for the eligible release date periods from this year and last. OK there.
It also was not nominated in the rock album category in 2009 (something that would have disqualified it for this year as you cannot have your album nominated two years in a row in the same category).
And so, the nomination stands.
"If it falls within the submission guidelines, we really have no reason to disqualify it," said Knought.
The Telegram requested an interview with Nickleback on the qualification quirk, but were informed the band would not available for print interviews prior to the Juno Awards.
The artists who have taken home the most statuettes, are:
Anne Murray, 24 awards
Celine Dion, 20
Bryan Adams, 18
Alanis Morissette, 12
Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, 12
Shania Twain, 12
The Tragically Hip, 12
Gordon Lightfoot, 11
Blue Rodeo, 10
Charles Dutoit, 10
If you or someone you know will be playing a show during Juno Awards week, we want to hear from you.
Send the show details (date, time, place, players) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Then, each day during Juno Awards week, look for this box in The Telegram where we'll have everything that's on the schedule for that night - from Ruckus on the Edge events, MusicNL-sponsored concerts and the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences nominee-filled spectacles.
Most importantly, we'll have your unofficial events.