What began as a movement instigated largely by musicians who have been directly affected by the restructuring has expanded to include celebrity sympathizers such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and African American author and civil rights activist Cornel West, who side with those claiming the change has had a disproportionate effect on musicians of color.
"It's no coincidence that most of those categories deleted are over music rooted in the new majority communities," said Roberto Lovato, co-founder of the Presente.org civil rights group that has thrown in with Grammywatch.org to support the protest.
"We support the issues of these musicians and see this as a civil rights issue," Lovato said. "The message is clear: Reinstate the 31 categories now and stop discriminating against black, Latino, Native American and Hawaiian communities."
Since expanding a petition drive that had been started by Grammywatch organizers to Presente's broader-based coalition of activists, Lovato and Matos said the number of signatures collected has mushroomed from about 6,000 to more than 23,000.
Petitions were presented by a group of Grammywatch supporters on Thursday to officials at the Recording Academy's office in Santa Monica.
Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said he's sensitive to the musicians' complaints, but said, "We stand behind our process.... Change is always hard for those that are used to something happening in the same way for a long time. But sometimes change is good."
Reiterating what he said last year when the changes were announced, the most significant retooling of the Grammy Awards structure in decades was the result of "a long, exhaustive study that involved our members, who represent the music community."
Portnow added, however, that "our process is a fluid one, and this year we've already scheduled, as we do every year, meetings of committees that review and deal with issues related to our process. They will meet and evaluate the changes that were implemented, and there will be opportunities for changes again, as there are every year."
Times staff writer Gerrick Kennedy contributed to this report.