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The meaningless of awards shows

As a wide eyed kid and watching television with my parents and also when first married, there was a certain excitement in knowing who the winners might be. There were even office pools with odds to guess the results of the Oscars.

Times change, however, and social media has changed everything and most people I know. Amongst my “life changes” is that, thankfully, I’ve stopped being the rabid fan of television talent shows, notably the early seasons of “American Idol”, and, most definitely, music awards shows.

If these were already starting to lose their appeal decades ago when they became turgid and cornball karaoke competitions for a middle age audience wanting to see a kid bellow out a Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey hit, they’re now as irrelevant as hula hoops, Vanilla Ice and what’s called “chart success”.

Precisely which chart? There are so many around these days for every music genre and sub genres hiding in sub genres.

The other question is this: Even if topping whatever chart, was this achieved through buying one’s way up there or through real sales and popularity?

I guess one has former host of the Golden Globes- Ricky Gervais- to thank for finally taking a pick axe and killing off pretty much every tiresome and hypocritical awards beast with some much needed Truth serum.

It was wonderful television- all those award winning faces having to ad-lib for the cameras and look au fait with what Gervais was lobbying their way like mega grenades. He was a better goodfella than Joe Pesci.

The first time I saw the inner workings of these awards shows “up close and personal” was when with the Regional Office of Universal Music Asia and being, er, entertained for lunch by MTV Asia executives.

The music video channel with its superficial VJs and overnight cool senior executives had been launched as part of STARTV.

For us in the music companies, we bought into this cow patch because, well, it was a hugely successful and ultra hip brand. We so wanted to be part of the Great Hip.

The fact was that the channel hadn’t done its homework. Perhaps so wrapped up with its image, there was the belief that in complicated Asia one size fit all. Like that singing, dancing Bollywood videos would attract audiences throughout the region, and that music videos by artists singing in Mandarin would attract non-Chinese audiences etc etc.

All this from senior executives supposedly in sync with the tribal habits of hip young Asians?

This went on for a while until everything came to a screeching halt. The American Music Television station had to backtrack, regroup and eventually be made available on three different satellite beams for three very different groups of viewers from different parts of the region- India, China and Southeast Asia- mainly Indonesia and the Philippines.

Somewhere along the way, and to keep the interest level in the channel from not tanking completely, along came The MTV Asia Music Awards.

This is when I realised just how easily duped those of us in the music companies could be- and how it didn’t matter. We had no shame.

MTV Asia needed some mouth to mouth resuscitation and damage control and so approached each of the major music companies to see which international artists we could deliver to them for their awards show.

Depending on the popularity of the artist or artists available, and in return for us flying these artists over on our dollar, perhaps- just perhaps- they could win a certain award. It was a good carrot to dangle in front of us.

Winning was everything and something that would make us look good with Head Office and artist management.

There was also the opportunity for any artist who supported this MTV awards show to be owed something in the way of a payback like being named Artist Of The Month, something especially important if there was a new record and an accompanying tour to promote.

Here’s the thing: None of us saw anything wrong with any of this.

Did we think about the music fans and that perhaps the awards they were receiving were fixed? No.

For many of us, it was about surviving and moving up the corporate ladder.

If our bosses agreed to what we were negotiating for our artists and for our company, why should we worry? Ignorance is bliss.

These days when music has been devalued and is listened to in bibs and bobs with there being so much of everything to watch and listen and taste at that buffet table of content, whether the Grammys, the Grannies or the Oscars or the Tonys, winning one of these awards might be nice for the mantelpiece, but how many care about who, for instance, has been named New Artist Of The Year or is the winner of any category?

Did the Beatles ever win a Grammy? Or Dylan or Joni Mitchell or Led Zeppelin or the Stones? Think they care? Do you care?

There are so many Lifetime Achievement Awards being hurriedly given out these days to “legacy acts” so as to render them meaningless.

Personally, it’s an insult to some great artists.

It’s almost as if the jury of some of these awards shows might be suffering from guilt pangs for ignoring these artists when in their creative prime. Could these almost token awards appear to be about making up for lost time. Really lost.

Earlier this week, a colleague mentioned that boy band BTS had “done it again”. I had no idea what he was talking about. Still don’t. He was, I thought, talking about the K-Pop phenomenon having won their second Grammy. Really?

Knowing something about the money that’s gone into making K-Pop go global, here’s someone still to be convinced that a Korean act can be such a mega success in what appears to be a xenophobic America. But wait: Just maybe the party’s over? And not a nanu second too soon.

More interestingly, a friend who loves her music and I were talking the other day about the “Get Back” documentary on the Beatles when she mentioned about the “anti awards awards”, or The Tribute Awards.

Though still to be forty, and with nothing to do with the music business, she certainly knows her Bob Dylan from Dylan Thomas and all the greats who have come before and are now gone and sadly forgotten.

Her idea is not some awards show, but how here’s a concept for a documentary that salutes the musical past and introduces a generation who don’t know about some of the greatest musicians and music that’s been lost in the Lido Shuffle.

Smart lady. This just might be the spark needed to re-start the fire and interest in music, at a time where often, everything old is new again.

Fingers crossed that someone makes this happen.

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