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NEAR TRUTHS:
SPECIAL PROJECTS

ON DEMAND AND THE LACK THEREOF: TV awards shows have had a rough ride in the last few years. In fact, they’ve been hit by a perfect storm as the already-declining ratings earned by such events, due to demographic shifts and the waning influence of the broadcast networks, have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Suddenly these trophyfests, already struggling to balance a young-skewing slate of artists with an aging TV demo, couldn’t even have live audiences—and were beset by COVID-prompted cancellations—which sucked much of the remaining energy out of the proceedings.

For the biz, the value of these shows had already diminished considerably thanks to the advent of the streaming ecosystem, which widened the gap between the primary streaming audience—i.e., the kids leaning on the button—and the older, TV-viewing audience. The pandemic has seen streaming platforms gain market and mindshare as everyone hunkered down at home and on-demand consumption triumphed. Broadcast TV, meanwhile, struggled that much more to move the needle even slightly for music. One has to look back more than a few years to find an instance of an awards show's having a real impact on an artist’s fortunes in the marketplace—Chris Stapleton’s post-CMA surge, which has never really ended, was nearly eight years ago.

There is inherent value in these big trophy parties, particularly for artists, whose brands benefit significantly from the accumulation of awards. Sweeping the Grammys has been great for the likes of Adele, Sam Smith and Billie Eilish, whose profiles were boosted mightily (especially among casual music listeners) by all those wins, which were amplified by expert deployment of the socials. Taylor Swift, too, has done a remarkable job of leveraging her brand as regards awards shows, of which she could fairly be dubbed the queen.

TV can still make a difference in reaching a bigger audience—consider the 10m or so viewers attracted by Adele’s 2021 special, One Night Only, which was a major part of the best album setup in recent memory. Adele’s 30 has passed the 5m mark worldwide (with 2.3m in U.S. activity), and she enjoyed a massive, long-lived #1 smash with “Easy on Me.” Creatively, she informed fans about the latest chapter of her life, and she effectively used her platform to dispense some sage advice about relationships and mental health. On the NBC special An Audience With Adele, now streamable via Peacock—which first aired in the U.K. last year as part of the album launch—Adele’s vocal power and abundant English charm are an unbeatable combination. Her funny, saucy authenticity continues to be a huge asset and a potent counterweight to the emotional fireworks of her singing. Is on-demand viewing helping lift 30 (and Adele’s catalog) again, just as Columbia prepares to launch a new single?

Under the right circumstances, music TV can help artist brands—aiding in ticket sales particularly—which explains why major stars continue to perform on excruciating cheesefests like the Billboard Awards or the American Music Awards. Dua Lipa—the last pop star to truly break out of the U.K.—certainly got a bump from the Grammys and other high-profile TV, which powered her single “Levitating” to stratospheric heights. Conversely, the streaming era has produced few big stars who can move the ratings needle. And even the top-tier acts to emerge during this period can struggle to sell tickets. It’s interesting to note that this year’s biggest streaming songs are largely carryovers from last year—Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves,” Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby,” The Kid LAROI’s “Stay,” etc. The biggest new chart phenomenon has been Disney’s Encanto, from the film of the same, a giant streaming success for Disney+ (nobody leans on the button like children).

ECHO CHAMBER: Most feel the recent ACM Awards were far from the standard show the country event has represented over the years, hamstrung as they were by an oversize Vegas venue, the difficulty of filling seats in COVID times and the unaccustomed format of on-demand streaming (via new partner Amazon). Both the ACM and Amazon accomplished their objective of expanding their brands. But the energy in that cavernous space was noticeably low, and while some artists fared well, several others paid the price. A majority of insiders expect the ACMs to bounce back from these difficulties with lessons learned as the traditional awards shows retool for the on-demand era. In fact, word has it that Amazon was pleased with the show, and this may well mark the beginning of the on-demand era for awards TV. Grammy’s $70m-per-year deal with CBS expires in three years; can network TV expect to compete with the ultra-deep pockets of Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google, Disney et al. for a deal in terms of reach or money?

THEY'RE NO
JUAN SOTO
KD and Kyrie got nothin' on these two ballers. (8/16a)
GRAMMY CHEW: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT BRUNO
Giving Encanto its due. (8/16a)
HITS LIST, YUP
They're the cat's meow. (8/16a)
ON THE COVER:
MO OSTIN
The greatest (8/16a)
WE'RE SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, BUT WE JUST HAD TO TELL YOU
Oh, no, not again. (8/12a)
GRAMMY SEASON
New categories! New rules! New WTF!
THE BIG DEAL
It's the one you didn't see coming.
RAID AT MAR-A-LAGO
"Who took my passports?"
HITS' 36TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
Allow us to apologize in advance.
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