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Grammy Ratings

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The internet killed MTV.

Have streaming television, social media and on demand music services killed the Grammy telecast?

I’ll say yes.

In case you missed the memo, which you probably did, since you obviously missed the show, Golden Globe ratings tanked by 62%.

Now we can say they were hobbled by Covid-19.

Then again, aren’t awards shows exhibited in the middle of winter when everybody is supposedly home, a prisoner of their television set?

But people don’t tune in for the winners, but for the dresses!

Well, now you can get your fill of fashion online, on demand.

But there are TV and movie stars!

But they’re no longer heroes in a world where everybody can be a star and everybody is equal, where no one is perceived as better than anybody else, except by the young nitwits who are not going to sit through a three hour telecast anyway.

The awards telecast is history. At least as a ratings/revenue bonanza. They’re predicated on the fact that we care who wins, which we don’t, and that we have limited access to the stars, which we don’t, if anything they’re overexposed. Also, trying to be everything to everybody is a failed paradigm that has been sinking since the advent of cable TV, never mind streaming outlets.

Come on, who wants to watch the Grammy show?

It’s not like Trevor Noah sends hearts in the younger demo pitter-pattering. And the older demo doesn’t stay up late enough to watch this show. As for those in the middle, Gen-X’ers…they want to see eighties acts, not the fly by night performers of today. As for millennials? They’re the generation that grew up with hip-hop, maybe if a show skewed their way they might be interested, but that’s not the case.

Furthermore, mainstream music has never meant less. Used to be we all listened to the same acts, watched the same television, but that’s history. You can be a fan of a streaming TV show that no one else you know has watched. What are the odds that your favorite act is actually gonna appear on the Grammy telecast? Low.

Give Ben Winston credit, the show skews young, but this is the generation that cares least about TV, that may not even have access to broadcast television, they don’t pay for cable and see no need to fiddle with an antenna. As for highlights? Those are available online the next day, if not instantly, you never miss anything in today’s connected world, assuming you care to begin with.

MTV had it right with the VMAs, at least back in the beginning, before they were solely hypefests for album drops. Yes, when it becomes solely about promotion the public feels it, is turned off and abandons the enterprise. The show and the viewer must be one. It’s a silent pact. Once you’re trying to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes…and today audiences are more sophisticated than ever. Anyway, MTV knew the awards show format was broken, so they made it about the spectacle, not the awards themselves. We remember Uncle Miltie and RuPaul, not anybody who won that year. Meanwhile, for decades we’ve been subjected to “Grammy Moments,” duets no one is interested in and no one cares about. We live in a coarse, no limit society, when you play it safe no one’s interest is piqued, especially when you create content that is insipid.

As for the Grammy organization itself, it has lost all credibility. The voting system is opaque and years of infighting, the Deborah Dugan debacle and excoriation by every hip-hop titan of note has made the whole enterprise smell like doo-doo. In a world of MeToo and Black Lives Matter the Grammys circled their wagons, refused to air their dirty laundry and said they can fix their problems themselves. Yeah, LIKE A POLICE DEPARTMENT!

Used to be we could accept that network television was bland and safe. But no longer. You used to watch HBO for boobies, they called it Skinemax, but now full nudity is available 24/7 via Google…skin is not enough to sell a TV series, you’ve got to have more. And music is certainly not enough to sell an awards show, it’s available everywhere, if anything the problem is we have too much music in our lives, we’re overwhelmed with music!

Not that anybody at the Grammys knows any of this.

This is no different from tech, from Clay Christensen’s rules in “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” The only way to survive disruption is to disrupt yourself. And if you don’t, you’re on your way out, you will be superseded and forgotten.

But CBS has trouble getting eyeballs at all, network TV ratings themselves keep dropping, and the Grammy organization is inured to CBS’s cash, that’s what keeps the organization alive. That’s right, without CBS’s money, the Grammys are nothing, they don’t stand alone, they’re tools of the network and the major labels. Oops, I told the truth! But the truth is the younger generation who the Grammys depend on to watch have known the truth for years already, the Grammys appointment television? Why bother to watch at all!

It’s sad. Seeing these alta kachers parade the same formula year after year. It’s kinda like those old black and white reefer and sex movies they show in schools. The kids laugh at them, they’re completely out of touch. And in case you don’t know, the D.A.R.E. campaign was a complete failure.

Now if the Grammys were smart, and forward-looking, which they’re is not, it’s an old fart organization run by males, they would ask themselves what their mission is. Is it to provide perks for those on the board? To make a TV show? To raise money for charity? Or to shine a light on musical achievement.

That’s its true mission, the music.

And the truth is finally the Grammys are somewhat in touch. Yes, wait long enough and the world comes to you. In other words, it’s the eighty-odd categories that now matter. The emphasis should be much more on the down ballot awards, they shouldn’t be shunted to a separate broadcast. The truth is by exhibiting the work of the supposedly less popular, viewers will be intrigued, because they might actually learn something, might find they’re interested in these other genres.

Then again, that still might not work as a TV show, in a world of narrowcasting, maybe the Grammy telecast, assuming there even is one, needs to be broken down into fifteen or thirty minute segments.

And maybe it should not only be about performances. It should be about creativity. Yes, people tune into television when there’s STORY! There’s no story in the Grammys. It’s just awarding the overexposed. How someone made it. Their challenges. That would be interesting.

This is not rocket science, it just requires some of the innovative thinking employed to make great music. It requires a blank sheet of paper. We’ve lived through two plus decades of technological innovation, yet the Grammy telecast has remained the same… That’s a recipe for a DECLINING DISASTER!


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