Monday, February 11, 2019

The Grammy Ratings Will Tank | Lefsetz Letter

Because they’re mass in a niche world.

The irony is they’re on CBS, the aged “Tiffany Network” that appeals to alta kachers. Supplying adolescent programming to adults is like asking them to ride hoverboards or get tattoos. At best, the Grammy telecast is a train-wreck drive-by for the almost retired to discuss around the water cooler the following day. As for youngsters…

They won’t watch. This is not opinion, this is fact. In a world of cord-cutters addicted to on demand streaming services.

Ironically, the Grammy Awards are as niche as possible, with their infinite categories. But those unheralded award winners have been banished from the telecast, so we can focus on the Big Five which no longer have meaning. The only people who are aware of the music of the nominees of all eight challengers is…nobody, certainly not the audience. You’d have to be a fan of the Grammys themselves, and no one is, not even the organization, which is a fan of the check from CBS.

As for CBS…you’ve got to give Les Moonves credit, he built a streaming app with original content long before Disney. He was thinking forward, like HBO, but isn’t that the problem with so many prescient leaders, like Anthony Weiner. Then again, I’d heard of Weiner because he appeared on Bill Maher’s show on the aforementioned HBO. If he was ever on network, I never saw it, because I don’t watch network.

So CBS has a model of declining ratings wherein they sell advertising to corporations willing to reach the largest possible audience, however small. But in an era of direct, targeted marketing, this is positively old school. You know where the best place to advertise it? Amazon! Because that’s where people go to buy!

The only thing going for the Grammy telecast is the weather. Hopefully in the middle of winter, viewers will be stuck at home with nothing else to do.

Of course this is a failed paradigm too, because the target audience, the youth advertisers want to reach, are living in a world of on demand entertainment at their fingertips. They’d rather post to and peruse Instagram than sit there like a couch potato being fed pabulum that they don’t care about.

Music was and still is the canary in a coal mine, where disruption happens first and we figure it out first. But instead of pushing the envelope, the old wankers at the Grammys just keep repeating the old formula expecting the old result.

But what made the modern Grammys matter was the “Grammy Bounce,” first evidenced by Bonnie Raitt nearly thirty years ago. You win and suddenly you’re a national superstar. Your record sales immediately take off, your road business improves, the media acknowledges your greatness and…

This doesn’t happen anymore, hasn’t in years. The only people unaware of the music of these acts are not only the last to know, but the last to care, and small in size. Active listeners are already aware. Sales are dead, streaming increases are de minimis, and the acts don’t need the telecast, they can reach their audience online without being told what to do by the Grammys. True artists resist pressure. And isn’t that what being a rock star is all about?

Certainly in the sixties and seventies.

We lived in a monoculture in the eighties and nineties, as a result of MTV. And Mike Greene elevated the telecast by being a rock star himself, no one could tell him what to do. But like Black Sabbath or the Wu Tang Clan, the labels and everybody surrounding the acts loved the eyeballs and cash that came with him.

“The Innovator’s Dilemma” says you disrupt yourself before someone else does. The Grammys should be on demand online. Or at least teasers. Categories should be broken, nominees should be lessened, there should be a fan vote, even the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame does, and the CMAs have “Entertainer of the Year”!

Instead we get medleys and mashups with laugh value at most. Furthermore, students don’t have the home theatres to get the most out of the sound anyway, they’re married to earbuds and computer speakers.

Meanwhile, unlike the Oscars, the Grammys have hip product that people are actually interested in. But they’re wrapping it up in an antique show, not knowing that great content gets buried in bad distribution.

That’s right, distribution is king. And a network telecast at an appointed time is a dying paradigm no different from “Must See TV.” That was the nineties, but the last I checked it was the twenty first century.

So the biggest acts won’t appear and the mainstream media keeps publishing puff pieces as if anybody cares.

As for winners… We learned long ago, with the MTV Movie Awards, that they no longer matter, especially to an audience grown up where everybody got a trophy.

It’s about the show.

And this is the same damn one as ever with lower wattage stars, believing if you throw disparate elements together people have got to watch.

But it didn’t work for the Olympics, those ratings tanked. As they have for every awards show. Hell, they’re having trouble getting hosts for future Winter Olympics. And in case you aren’t paying attention, even action sports have faded, they were creatures of the nineties, just like snowboarding, whose numbers are dwindling.

The new keeps on coming as the old circles the drain. And in entertainment, the two don’t meet. Except maybe on television.

It’s no different from having to endure Thanksgiving or Christmas with the extended family watching what Grandpa wants with no clicker.

But who’d want that?

P.S. It doesn’t matter what tonight’s telecast does, sinking ratings are the trend. And those who survive notice the trends and adjust, as opposed to terrestrial radio, which keeps telling us how powerful it is in the era of streaming. But terrestrial radio has no choice, the Grammys don’t have to drive over the cliff, but they’re choosing to do so.

P.P.S. The Grammy telecast is like SNL, only oldsters watch. Old media trumpets skits like they matter, and youngsters know if anything happens they can catch it online the following day, but the show is too long in the tooth and not edgy enough for them in an era where you can tune into narrowcasted entertainment that appeals directly to you.


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