The honorees through its history have been:
- 1959–1965: Artist only.
- 1966–1998: Artist and producer.
- 1999–2012: Artist, producer, and recording engineer or mixer.
- 2013–: Artist, producer, mastering engineer, and recording engineer or mixer.
Tom Coyne holds the record for most wins in this category as a mastering engineer at four times (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018). Coyne is the only person to win the award four consecutive years (2015–2018). Paul Simon has won three times, more than any other artist ("Mrs. Robinson" in 1969, "Bridge over Troubled Water" in 1971, and "Graceland" in 1988). Tom Elmhirst has won three times as an engineer/mixer (2008, 2012 and 2017).
Roberta Flack was the first artist to win Record of the Year in two consecutive years for the years 1973 ("The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face") and 1974 ("Killing Me Softly with His Song"). This happened again when the group U2 won for the years 2001 ("Beautiful Day") and 2002 ("Walk On"), the only occurrence of an artist winning the award two consecutive years with records from the same album.
Other artists to receive two Grammys for Record of the Year are Henry Mancini ("Moon River", "Days of Wine and Roses"); Art Garfunkel ("Mrs. Robinson", "Bridge over Troubled Water"); The Fifth Dimension ("Up, Up and Away", "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In"); Eric Clapton ("Tears in Heaven", "Change the World"); Norah Jones ("Don't Know Why", "Here We Go Again"); Mark Ronson
("Rehab", "Uptown Funk"); Adele ("Rolling in the Deep", "Hello") and Bruno Mars ("Uptown Funk", "24K Magic").
Frank Sinatra has the most nominations for Record of the Year for an artist and a male artist with seven nominations; he won the award once in 1967 for "Strangers in the Night". The Beatles have the most Record of the Year nominations for a group; they had four nominations ("I Want to Hold Your Hand", "Yesterday", "Hey Jude", and "Let It Be") but never won the award. Barbra Streisand and Beyoncé have the most Record of the Year nominations amongst female artists with five nods. Streisand has been nominated ("Happy Days Are Here Again", "People", "Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)", "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", (with Neil Diamond) and "Woman in Love") but has never received the award. Beyoncé was nominated for "Say My Name" as part of Destiny's Child and four times as a solo act with "Crazy in Love", "Irreplaceable", "Halo", and "Formation".
Christopher Cross is the first artist to receive the Grammy Award for Record of the Year as well as for Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist in one ceremony. Adele is the first female artist to receive the award for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, and Album of the Year, nonconsecutively. Only six artists took the Record of the Year and Best New Artist awards during the same ceremony: Bobby Darin
("Mack the Knife"), Christopher Cross ("Sailing"), Sheryl Crow ("All I Wanna Do"), Norah Jones ("Don't Know Why"), Amy Winehouse ("Rehab") and Sam Smith ("Stay with Me").
Thirty of the winning songs have also won the award for Song of the Year.
The category will expand to include eight nominees in 2019.