It’s the end of the monoculture.
There’s a fiction we all care about the same things.
The ascension of the importance of the Grammys coincided with the MTV era, and that ended nearly twenty years ago.
So why did viewership then go up?
First of all, there was the hangover.
Secondly, there was the Twitter era.
Now no one notices and no one cares. That’s not to understate the importance of hip-hop and women, it’s just that we’re all in our own niches, and old people don’t listen to new music and young people don’t care about old music and ergo, a Grammy ratings flop.
The show was constructed for an old era. For when the show and its awards counted. Furthermore, we live in an on demand era, one wherein you don’t have to watch SNL because the good moments are all online shortly thereafter. If anything happened on the Grammys you’d find out about it. But by playing it safe, the show had no water cooler moments, in an era where so many work from home or are freelance entrepreneurs and there is no water cooler.
Playing it safe is anathema, isn’t that what music has taught us? That the new and cutting edge wipes out the old? Which is why we don’t want to see Sting, Bono and Elton. The Beatles and the British Invasion wiped out Bobby Rydell and so many more, the kids stopped paying attention.
And the kids drive the culture.
So what now?
The truth is as dominant as hip-hop is, there’s a whole swath of the public that is not paying attention and doesn’t care. Hip-hop won because it embraced new technologies, i.e. Spotify and Soundcloud and new distribution methods, i.e. mixtapes and singles…this is the future, when are the other genres gonna wake up?
They will, but they’re so inured to the past, like the Grammy show, that they’ve been left behind. Rock is a marginal enterprise where outside of the radio format, i.e. Active Rock, the bands are meaningless, they barely pop up on streaming services, it’s as if in the old days their records were unavailable in chain stores.
Country has made inroads in streaming, but the powers-that-be don’t want to break the hegemony of country radio, they’re like religious zealots who don’t want to find out their children are atheists.
As for pop… It’s so busy trying to reach everybody that it reaches nobody. Formula never works in music, not for long, and it even stopped working in movies, sequels killed the summer box office.
So where do we go now?
Realize we live in a Tower of Babel society, we’re all speaking a different language. The odds of someone listening to the same music as you are de minimis.
Second, it’s nearly impossible to get the message out, there are too many news sources. So either you’re a nobody or someone who believes they’re a somebody who is not. Meanwhile, traditional markers don’t account for this. There’s still a “Billboard” chart, there are still record reviews in the paper, it’s like it’s still 1989, no one wants to catch up with the present.
As for the Grammy Awards and the telecast…
First and foremost the Grammy organization needs a rethink. Neil Portnow was a placeholder after Mike Greene, who made the Grammys what they are/were and ruffled too many feathers. You see Greene was a renegade who stood up to the powers-that-be, Portnow is a tool of the labels and usual powers when they matter less and less. If the Grammys are to mean anything, they must be more independent. Now they rely on CBS and are so out of touch that the ratings have flopped.
As for the show itself…
The one they’ve been doing will no longer work. I know they’ve got a big contract with CBS, but that does not mean viewers care. To tell you the truth, they should make a deal with Netflix, wherein every nominated track, IN EVERY CATEGORY, has a video that the public can peruse and vote on. Then there’s a show, actually multiple shows, wherein every nominee performs said track live, and then an awards show that’s only awards, no music.
You might not agree with this formula, but the point is you’ve got to think outside of the box. You’ve got to go back to the basics, you’ve got to go back to the music itself.
Now we’ve got performers who are not nominated singing songs that are not nominated while only a few awards are given out. Who wants that?
The VMAs blew a hole in the awards show paradigm by knowing to create moments along with the music. There was irreverence, it felt like the show was on the pulse.
But then that show died.
Nothing is forever. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect to succeed. The world is constantly changing and you’ve got to change with it, otherwise you’re left behind, listening to your classic rock records thinking about the good old days.
Like the Grammy show producers and voters.
It can be fixed. But probably not by the old white men in charge.
We live in a rainbow world. Forget the orange man in power and his vocal fanbase, the truth is gay marriage is legal and everybody now knows a trans person and if you’re not looking forward you’re being left behind.
Like the Grammys and this telecast.