The Grammy Awards are to undergo a major overhaul for 2012, reducing the number of prize categories by 31. While 109 awards were handed out this February, next year it will be just 78.

One of the major changes is the merging of the male and female categories for best pop vocal, country vocal and R&B vocal performances. Quite rightly, as Recording Academy president Neil Portnow points out, "A great singer is a great singer is a great singer, and somebody that has a gift in terms of their voice, and is at the top of their game in terms of their delivery and emotion, really isn't necessarily defined by gender."

But while the change is good news for gender equality within the music industry, viewing male and female artist on the same level rather than seeing the need to segregate them, there's bad news for many niche musical genres. The Guardian reports that The Academy has revealed plans to do away with a number of more obscure categories, including "prizes for best classical album, Hawaiian music album, Native American music album, zydeco or Cajun music album, country instrumental performance, and children's spoken word album". In an effort to get the total number of awards down, the Grammys will no longer specifically award "contemporary" music, and have scrapped awards for contemporary blues, R&B, folk and gospel.

The end result is that it is now more difficult for artists to earn a nomination in each of the fewer, but broader, categories. Portnow told the Associated Press, "It ups the game in terms of what it takes to receive a Grammy. We are talking about the most prestigious, coveted award and it should be a high bar in terms of the measurement of receiving that."

The Academy even has plans to decrease the number of Grammy Awards further in future, with new guidelines stating that any category with fewer than 25 nominations will be put on a one year hiatus, and after three years will be permanently discontinued.