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NEAR TRUTHS: THE DISRUPTIONS OF 2019, PART 2

ENVELOPE PUSHING: The recently announced Grammy nominations, industry folk seemed to agree, were a mixed bag—on the mark in several of the top categories but wide of it in others. The situation added momentum to the discussion about who’s influencing the noms “in the room,” and charges of conflict of interest on the part of certain advocates. On the other hand, some asked, who’s in the game enough to influence Grammy without being an interested party? In the immortal words of Irving Azoff, “If there’s no conflict, there’s no interest.”

These noms don’t reflect the full impact of new leaders Deborah Dugan and Harvey Mason, Jr., whose promised overhaul of Academy procedures, from awards on down, should be more detectable next time around. Dugan and Mason have strongly impressed insiders with their focus, ideas and relatability, and they bring complementary skill sets to the table. Both have responded clearly to industry calls for greater diversity at both the leadership level and in the expansion of membership; expect diversity and inclusion to be major watchwords going forward. Which brings us to the long-awaited report from Tina Tchen; it arrived on 12/12 with recommendations for achieving greater diversity, as well as for a “ranked choice voting system” for the big four categories, which was not approved at the Board’s last meeting.

NOM STARTER: Grammy’s Dugan and Mason also have their hands full balancing accountability with the need to create an awards show/telecast that satisfies the biz and still commands a sizable TV audience. That’s no mean feat, as music is increasingly driven by younger consumers and TV viewers are overwhelmingly more upper-demo. Putting established stars on the stage for great “moments” while giving strong looks to young breakouts is key to the formula, and producer Ken Ehrlich is preparing for his final go-round after four decades. How will he, Jack Sussman and Ben Winston thread the needle? Can we expect a musical extravaganza saluting Ken? It’s now being suggested that—to honor Ehrlich’s 40 years of resourceful producing and commemorate his final turn running the telecast—a big, ratings-boosting tribute segment could ignore the noms entirely and feature music luminaries such as Elton John, U2, Paul McCartney, The Who, Queen and/or assorted Nashville stars who were left out of the party.

The Grammy-show team is believed to have been understandably nonplussed by the noms, starting with the inclusion of several obscure acts in Best New Artists ahead of proven arrivals like Lewis Capaldi and DaBaby. Then there’s the fact that TV-friendly megastars like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé didn’t make it into the AOTY category, which underscores why the Secret Nominating Committee has become an effective talent booker for the American Music Awards.

Speaking of the AMAs, numbers-watchers observe that despite featuring almost every major pop star of the moment, that show failed to move the ratings or consumption needles. Two takeaways: (1) Pop stars of the moment don’t drive ratings; and (2) the TV audience no longer moves the needle, because of the way the charts are now tabulated. Billboard and Dick Clark Productions, the awards-show machine behind the AMAs, Golden Globes and Billboard Music Awards, is part of the media portfolio assembled and empowered by Todd Boehly and now overseen by MRC. DCP CEO Mike Mahan is now said to be heading up and out. What we’re looking at, then, is two important music companies with exactly zero music professionals at the top. What could possibly go wrong? With the Bible hemorrhaging money and the awards shows increasingly less able to justify their elephant-bucks deals, it’s clear that both are operating on antiquated business models.

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