Did AMA Winners Thank The Right People For Their Awards?

By Moses Avalon

On the night of November 18, 2007, millions tuned into the American Music Awards to watch their favorite pop artists thank the Lord, Clive Davis, their record companies and others for the awards they took home. But did any of them get it right?

Thanking Jesus at awards shows has been obligatory (even if you’re Jewish) since the 1990s, when Gospel had a brief pop resurgence. It seemed even artists who were fresh out of rehab and hadn’t been near a church in years were thankful for the almighty’s favor.

However, in the last two decades we’ve become more of an agnostic culture. Atheists suing schools over “under God ” in the Pledge, and a host of other cases have made it hip to be a non-believer. Therefore, to keep the spiritual theme, many performers, instead of thanking a deity, expressed thanks for “Being able to get up every day and do what they love. ” It’s a softer way of thanking God even if it did have me wondering if they all hired the same media coach.

The one thing I didn’t hear with quite as much zeal as in previous years was the thrown-in additive, “Oh, and the fans. ” Yes, after each list of CAA executives and A&R zombies came the customary obilgatoration, “The fans, without which I’d be nowhere. ” It was still there, but this year they said it as they shied back from the microphone.

What this really meant was, thanks to everyone who still pays for music. There must still be enough of them to justify the cost of hiring Jimmy Kimmel to host the show and pay $350K for a thirty-second spot. Advertisers would not pay for time on a show that had irrelevant people performing. So, what do these corporations (and their very expensive market research) know about the music business that many ignorant bloggers and mainstream reporters seem to be missing?

I’ll tell you. They know what the artists know. They know how to read a royalty statement. They know that despite the 100s of millions of P2P thefts, CD sales and legal downloading are still viable business models. Yes, yes, there’s the big-bucks licensing stuff. But, “the fans ” does not mean when Pfizer licenses “Celebrate” for their drug Celebrex. It means when an average Joe/Jane goes to the store and buys a track or a disk.

In fact, this entire situation has me wondering what artists should be learning from the current writers’ strike. For those not following the walk-out, the issues are simple: movie and TV writers are asking studios for a share of internet advertising revenue. Studios/producers say there is none, but everyone knows they are lying. They will eventually buckle and give up a small piece.

So, why aren’t record companies asking shows like the AMA and the Grammy’s for a share of ad revenue for the artists? The reasons are complex but boil down to this: artists are too scared.

When they are thanking “the (paying) fans ” they believe that they are thanking fewer and fewer people each year. But they believe this only because record companies and the media has brainwashed them into thinking the business is doing badly. This justifies smaller budgets, mass firings, lower advances, longer terms for royalties, reserves and number of albums, and it discourages audits.

How do I know I’m right? Simple. If major labels artists were really living in the light and seeing the truth they would not be thanking God or the fans. They would be thanking those creating new ways for them to sell their music. They would be thanking those who have created the new revenue steams and technologies that help them connect with more fans than ever before and not un-coincidentally, those who paid the most amount of royalties to artists/labels over the past few years. But can you imagine what that acceptance speech would sound like:

“I’d like to thank Steve Jobs and Apple, Verizon, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Bill Gates, Facebook, and Al Gore for inventing the internet. Oh… and the fans. ”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Mo Out.

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