It’s almost time for the announcement of the slate of nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2017. A lot of discussion goes to specific acts that we want to or think we’ll see on that ballot, but this is a list of some things I’d like to see happen with the process itself.
1.More Secrecy: Gotcha! Well, with ballots anyway. If the Hall wants induction to be perceived as an honor, it has to respect the process first. Official voters shouldn’t be allowed to discuss their votes, post ballots online, and generally treat the process with less respect than a middle school student council vote. We shouldn’t see cryptic tweets with the results 12 hours before the announcement from halfway around the world. Known preferences and leaks notwithstanding, a secret vote and use of an independent auditor are a given with other major awards; they should be here.
Conversely, the rules governing the procedure should be public. Artists and fans deserve to know the process and be able to believe that things aren’t happening by fiat or lobbying, as they may have with the inductions of Grandmaster Flash, Miles Davis and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
It’s not “rock and roll” to be slack with this stuff, just unprofessional. Secrecy for the procedure, transparency for the process.
2.More inductees: According to information now unavailable at rockhall.com, classes can have five to seven artists, and classes that size have been enshrined in the past. But recently the Hall has capped them at five, a number too small to address a growing backlog and ensure diversity. “Sure” nominees (as expected this year with Pearl Jam) mean even fewer slots, and that the winner of the fan vote has always been inducted further muddies the waters—the voters and the fans really agree completely every time? The concern with ceremony length shouldn’t take precedence over the mission.
3.More women: This shouldn’t be hard, since only two women (Janet Jackson and Chaka Khan) were nominated last year besides (I believe) Alfa Anderson and Luci Wright of Chic. The Hall often seems to operate in a vacuum, but there are plenty of deserving candidates and it needs to show that it’s listening on this.
4.More secure fan vote: We’ll likely never know who hacked last year’s fan vote. But this year, look for a limit on daily votes by ISP if not also by device. The effect should be interesting. The Hall can talk to the IT guys at Ultimate Classic Rock if they need help-they’ve been running online polls like this with limits for years.
5.Less (as in no) conflict of interest: Last year the Hall recognized Bert Berns posthumously with the Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement. In itself, it was a fitting tribute, as was the biographical Broadway musical. Paul Shaffer and Steven Van Zandt’s involvement in that project was doubtless a labor of love; what’s not fitting is the fact that they are also members of the committee that apparently bestows that award unilaterally. Another transparency issue that undermines the Hall’s credibility and the recognition for its honorees.