2024 Grammy Nominees for Best Immersive Audio Album

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For vocal or instrumental albums in any genre. Must be commercially released for physical sale or on an eligible streaming or download service and must provide a new immersive mix of four or more channels. Award to the immersive mix engineer, immersive producer (if any) and immersive mastering engineer (if any).

  • Act 3 (Immersive Edition), Ryan Ulyate, immersive mix engineer; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Ryan Ulyate, immersive producer (Ryan Ulyate)
  • Blue Clear Sky, Chuck Ainlay, immersive mix engineer; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Chuck Ainlay, immersive producer (George Strait)
  • The Diary of Alicia Keys, George Massenburg & Eric Schilling, immersive mix engineers; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Alicia Keys & Ann Mincieli, immersive producers (Alicia Keys)
  • God of War Ragnarök (Original Soundtrack), Eric Schilling, immersive mix engineer; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Kellogg Boynton, Peter Scaturro & Herbert Waltl, immersive producers (Bear McCreary)
  • Silence Between Songs, Aaron Short, immersive mastering engineer (Madison Beer)
 
Well, I own one of those. Guess I need to check out the others.

@sjcorne, was Ryan’s Atmos mix released on streaming or on a physical disc? I thought it was only as a download. Could have totally missed that, but it was download only, I think I’m extra impressed to see it recognized.
 
As of now, it's only available as a download on IAA :)
After I wrote that it occurred to me that all titles are submitted. It’s not like the Grammy folks accidentally stumbled across it, right?

However it got on the list, I think it’s great... for Ryan, for IAA and for the idea of downloads for Atmos. I’m rooting for this one to win.
 
This year's list of Immersive nominees is more of a head-scratcher than usual--I expect QQ denizens will get more satisfaction from the IAA Listeners' Choice Awards (voting closes Nov. 15!)--but well-deserved kudos to Ryan, just the same!

Interesting, however, to see Dolby's name all over the awards this year, both literally and figuratively. Pretty much every nominee in the top categories--Record, Album, and Song of Year--has an Atmos mix. (Not always an impressive Atmos mix, but still.) Ditto for Classical Engineering and Production and lots of other categories across all fields. (Full list, detailed | Full list, brief)

I really enjoyed this analysis from Ann Powers, Nate Chinen, and other NPR Music contributors:
https://www.npr.org/2023/11/10/1212359752/2024-grammy-nominations
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This year's list of Immersive nominees is more of a head-scratcher than usual.....

That was my first thought as well. But then I remembered that this award is supposed to be about the quality of the mix, not necessarily the content. As I hadn't heard any of these, I decided to see what was available on Apple Music. Three of the five nominated albums are available to stream in Atmos. I checked out a couple of tracks from each and I gotta say that the mixes are all excellent. (I don't have Atmos so I'm downmixing to 5.1, but they all sound great that way). I can't really fault the nominating committee for picking any of these. I even found myself enjoying the music even though two of the artists I never really cared for and another I had never heard of. Worth giving a listen.....



 
That was my first thought as well. But then I remembered that this award is supposed to be about the quality of the mix, not necessarily the content. As I hadn't heard any of these, I decided to see what was available on Apple Music. Three of the five nominated albums are available to stream in Atmos. I checked out a couple of tracks from each and I gotta say that the mixes are all excellent. (I don't have Atmos so I'm downmixing to 5.1, but they all sound great that way). I can't really fault the nominating committee for picking any of these. I even found myself enjoying the music even though two of the artists I never really cared for and another I had never heard of. Worth giving a listen.....



I’ve got all three on my list to listen to because, yeah, I want to hear what they think is a great mix worthy of a Grammy. None of the three would be something I might typically listen to. Couldn’t find the soundtrack in Atmos on streaming, though.

I own Ryan’s album via download, but haven’t yet heard in my four-height setup. Love the songs, though.
 
I have noticed that the term surround is being used much less lately and "Immersive" being commonly used to describe all varieties of surround mixes.
 
Man, Michael Romanowski is cleaning house on immersive mastering! I was privileged enough to visit his previous business, Coast Mastering, on a couple occasions. At that time, he was only set up for 5.1 in his room.
Good for him, but I find it hard to accept that he's so good that only one other immersive engineer should be on the list. No Steven Wilson? No Bob Clearmountain? To only name two masters of the craft.
I find it odd that one engineer would almost sweep the category. Makes me wonder if his organization has some sort of super strong in road to the nomination folks.
 
Good for him, but I find it hard to accept that he's so good that only one other immersive engineer should be on the list. No Steven Wilson? No Bob Clearmountain?
Those are mixing engineers. Romanowski is a mastering engineer. Four different mixing engineers are nominated: Ryan Ulyate, Chuck Ainlay, George Massenburg, and Eric Schilling. (Only Schilling has two mixes nominated, and one is a collaboration.)
 
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Those are mixing engineers. Romanowski is a mastering engineer. Five different mixing engineers are nominated: Ryan Ulyate, Chuck Ainlay, George Massenburg, Eric Schilling, and Aaron Short. (Only Schilling has two mixes nominated, and one is a collaboration.)
Ah. That's a little better.
Still, one mastering engineer is also suss, IMO. Plus mainly albums that QQ types haven't heard of. Very underwhelming.
 
https://www.grammy.com/news/what-is-immersive-audio-industry-explainer-dolby-atmosGood for him, but I find it hard to accept that he's so good that only one other immersive engineer should be on the list. No Steven Wilson? No Bob Clearmountain? To only name two masters of the craft.
I find it odd that one engineer would almost sweep the category. Makes me wonder if his organization has some sort of super strong in road to the nomination folks.
As @JediJoker said: nominated immersive recordings may list the producer, mixing engineer, and/or mastering engineer, and it's the latter category that Romanowski dominates. True, he has also done some mixing in the past, but this year's nominated mixers are Ulyate, Ainlay, Massenburg & Schilling, and Schilling. (No mixer named for Silence Between Songs.)

I haven't carefully studied all the 2024 changes to the Grammy Rules and Guidelines, though I don't think any of them pertain to the Immersive Audio Album category. As of last year, Romanowski and Massenburg were chairing a subcommittee of the Producers and Engineers Wing tasked with "developing a [new] set of technical guidelines [specifically] for immersive audio." (The old set, written in 2004, is still online here.) I don't know how or whether those guidelines would affect the nomination process; I think they're really aimed at clarifying what "immersive" means and spelling out some basic best practices for immersive mixing.

In any case, the nominating process is as follows, as far as I understand it:
  • To be entered for consideration this year, an eligible recording had to be properly submitted between July 17th and August 31 (the online entry period) by a Professional or Voting member of the Academy or by a "registered media company"--typically a record label. According to the rules, "Members are permitted to submit their own eligible recordings as well as the recordings of their peers for consideration." As always, if a recording isn't submitted, it can't be nominated.
  • Both first-round and final round voting in the Immersive Audio Album category is limited to the 20-25 members of the Craft Production committee. I.e., it's they who select both the five nominees/semi-finalists and the ultimate award winners from among all eligible submissions. (See this article in Billboard.)
Here is this year's complete rulebook:
https://naras.a.bigcontent.io/v1/static/66_Rulebook_9.20The nomination process, including Craft Nominating committee guidelines, is detailed on pp. 21-22. From p. 22:
For Best Immersive Audio Album Nominations are selected by a committee of Voting Members. To be eligible to serve on this committee, one must be a Voting Member of the Academy, in good dues standing, and must meet certain qualifications in the Engineering or Producing Fields and be approved by the Trustees. The committee consists of 20–25 members. They review all Immersive Audio Album entries in their meeting and vote for the final five nominees in the Category.
It's not clear who actually served on this year's Craft Production/nominating committee, although I suspect there's lots of overlap with the current P&E Wing leadership.
 
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Listened to Keys, Strait and Beer this morning figuring there must be something special about their albums to get a nomination. (For now I’ll ignore how these things are chosen above loads of other things that could be chosen, but I appreciate @humprof’s post above. Haven’t gone through all the links yet.)

Keys was first and I can see why this would get an immersive nomination. How it ranks with other immersive albums is open for endless discussion, but I do think this is a fantastic mix.

I tend to focus on rock or electronic if I’m going to show off Atmos, but if someone was into this style of music, this would be a solid demo album in my mind.

For a bit of musical whiplash, I went with Strait next. A very nice mix… very nice. But after Keys this album would be one of my cuts if I had to vote for just one of these three.

It’s probably the style of music that, perhaps, doesn’t lend itself as much to the immersive creativity you can pull from Keys’ music. It’s not a bad mix at all, but one of the five best of all immersive releases in a year? I’m not so sure.

This was the point where I thought certainly there was a Steven Wilson mixed album that could have gone in this spot to illustrate the best of immersive mixes. Maybe nothing was submitted, but I would find that shocking. This is where I’d love some transparency... give me a list of everything that was submitted.

Beer was last. While I had heard of Keys and Strait, I had never heard of Beer. (The person, not the liquid.)

Overall her music is a bit more stripped back in places, but it’s a well-done immersive mix. Out of three, immersively speaking, this would rank second for me.

Awards aside, all three of worthy of recognition of some sort for their mixes and worth a listen if you have haven’t heard them. (No odd Jethro Tull type entry. ;))

But are they the absolute best on offer for the period being judged? I’m not even sure we could get agreement on that here much less in the wider world.
 
This was the point where I thought certainly there was a Steven Wilson mixed album that could have gone in this spot to illustrate the best of immersive mixes. Maybe nothing was submitted, but I would find that shocking. This is where I’d love some transparency... give me a list of everything that was submitted.
[. . .]
Awards aside, all three of worthy of recognition of some sort for their mixes and worth a listen if you have haven’t heard them. (No odd Jethro Tull type entry. ;)) But are they the absolute best on offer for the period being judged? I’m not even sure we could get agreement on that here much less in the wider world.
Amen to that last comment! I like that Alicia Keys album, too (haven't heard the others yet), but I don't know that it's an objectively better mix than about two dozen others I could name--starting with the (other) nominees for this year's IAA Listeners Choice Awards.

As you say: maybe many/most/all of our own pet albums just weren't submitted. But I'd love to see the longlist, too!
 
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In any case, the nominating process is as follows, as far as I understand it:
  • To be entered for consideration this year, an eligible recording had to be properly submitted between July 17th and August 31 (the online entry period) by a Professional or Voting member of the Academy or by a "registered media company"--typically a record label. According to the rules, "Members are permitted to submit their own eligible recordings as well as the recordings of their peers for consideration." As always, if a recording isn't submitted, it can't be nominated.
And that is why I rarely care anything about these awards. Unless the voters are supported by a capable independent research staff to assemble a pool of qualified nominations (or are, themselves, capable of selecting them), there is little to learn from the awards. To me, this has be evident for a long time in the often silly, often irrelevant awards for Classical music. It always seems like a popularity contest and PR agent's dream.
 
And that is why I rarely care anything about these awards. Unless the voters are supported by a capable independent research staff to assemble a pool of qualified nominations (or are, themselves, capable of selecting them), there is little to learn from the awards. To me, this has be evident for a long time in the often silly, often irrelevant awards for Classical music. It always seems like a popularity contest and PR agent's dream.
I hear you. But the difference in the 6 "Craft" categories (Recording Package, Boxed/Special/Limited-Edition Package, Album Notes, Historical Album, Remixed Recording, and Immersive Audio Album) where committees of putative experts choose both the nominees and the winner is that members of the nominating committees are presumed to be informed and capable. "To be eligible to serve on this committee, one must . . . meet certain qualifications in the Engineering or Producing Fields. . . ."

Even if that presumption holds, of course, it doesn't rule out bias or favoritism.
 
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