Reward your entertainment brand -- even if it might not be the best? That's what music marketing executive Steve Stoute was really talking about.
Is Esperanza Spalding a better "new artist" than Justin Bieber? And -- a few years ago, in another Grammys category -- was rock-jazz band Steely Dan better than Detroit's own Eminem? Stoute doesn't think stuff like this is right -- and he took out a big ad in the New York Times to say so.
Stoute said that an artist who sold 19 million albums -- like Eminem did with "The Marshall Matthews LP," should have won best artist, best album, best something at the Grammy Awards. Steely Dan? Not a factor -- from a business data point anyway. The paying public wasn't wrong. Right?
He told The Hollywood Reporter that CBS' improved ratings for the recent Grammy show resulted directly from the appeal of specific popular artists: "Artists are not getting the critical recognition they deserve. The Grammys didn't use Esperanza Spalding in the promos to sell the show. They used Justin Bieber and Eminem."
So, if you apply this logic to television, "American Idol" is clearly the best regularly scheduled series -- not just the most watched. Of course, you could carry this argument further -- the Super Bowl is actually the best TV show every year. After all, 100 million people -- sort of paying customers -- say so.
Remember Stoute's perspective: business and marketing are the real measures of success. Quality? That doesn't necessarily occur in conjunction with business and marketing.
Stoute moans that music labels pay for the artists to appear on the Grammys. He wants to reward marketing executives, labels, and fan efforts in making a piece of art a success. There's nothing wrong with that. But that's another awards show. Just label it clearly so viewers know what they are getting into -- like the "People's Music Awards" or "Business Executives Music Awards."
No doubt that Spalding's win surprised everyone. But even Stout wouldn't disagree that she is a strong artist. (The fact that Spalding isn't really a "new" artist" is another issue). TV is great for creating tension -- if not controversy. And that's what we got with the recent Grammy Awards.
Want to create a TV music award show -- or any award show -- where you know the results via business revenues and big global fan buzz? You'll have one lame piece of entertainment. The question -- separate from the business elements - is whether or not some artists really suck or are mediocre from an artistic point of view. Give an honest show about that.
Does the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences have problems with its voting process and other issues? Sure. But many entertainment award shows are in the same boat. You might ask the big movie studios -- who lost best picture Oscars to small independent companies the last few years -- the same question about commerce vs. art.
You want to give awards to the obvious choices? Kanye West over Herbie Hancock? That should have been an easy one. And that's just the point. Are you sure that's what viewers want to see?