By: Chris Conte
Award shows. They have massive social media buzz, a captive international audience, and occasionally some powerful performances. But as with much-advertised, slickly-produced, industry-touted events, is it necessary or is it just another corporate cash grab, and yet another opportunity for mainstream superstars and their mega-labels to pat themselves on the back? Do award shows actually mean anything for the everyday fan?
The electronic music industry has become a $6.9 billion industry (and that's 2014 numbers, when it's all tallied up from 2015, expect that number to be significantly higher). So of course greedy corporate entities see it as a cash cow waiting to be carved up and served to a wider audience to line their pockets. That's to be expected. If there's a way to make a buck off something, a P.T. Barnum figure waiting in the wings will swoop in, dumb it down, and dish it out on paper plates to middle America.
But is this what has become of our beloved dance music culture? A phenomenon that grew out of secret warehouse parties, and invitation-only hideouts in the desert, woods, or insert-remote-location-of-your-choice-that-you-had-to-risk-life-and-limb-to-find-only-to-spend-the-next-twelve-hours-dancing-like-a-madman-to-cool-stuff-that-would-NEVER-get-played-on-the-radio. This must be what real punks felt like when Green Day's Dookie went platinum.
Only people who are behind the scenes of these award shows know exactly what goes on (read: how the winners are actually chosen). Sure, you can put up online polls, but are they really the deciding factors or are the winners being chosen with an agenda in mind? Whether it’s a money fueled one or truly peer-driven, we will never know. As Wu-Tang put it so artfully: "cash rules everything around me." Is it so unlikely the industry cabal gets together and big-time labels bid on which of their artists will win the award, and the trophy goes to the fattest pile of coin? Call us conspiracy nuts, if you, but that's not entirely far-fetched.
Another scenario to consider is past presidential elections; there is the popular vote and then there is the electoral vote. Remember Bush v. Gore back in 2000? Gore won the popular vote but Bush became President.
Now I don't want to push agendas myself, I'm just laying out possible scenarios. In a perfect world, all the fans would get to vote and the winner would be chosen out of those results. Are there award ceremonies where that happens? Sure. Are there award ceremonies where an oligarchy of cigar-chomping insiders choose the winners? The vast majority, my friends.
Award shows like the Grammys and the Oscars, albeit the biggest ones, occasionally get it right. At the Grammys there are plenty of nominees you haven't heard of--I'm not talking the major awards, but there are categories where you might not know some of the artists or producers. Once in a while someone wins a well deserved award. On the other hand, there are occurrences like J. Cole's unfortunate story. He is the first artist in 25 years to go platinum without a single feature and did not win a Grammy.
The question here is does the EDM scene really need an award show? My opinion is no. It's a money grab. The latest attempt to repackage dance music for the masses is the first network broadcast of an EDM-centric awards show in the shape of the Electronic Music Awards & Foundation, slated for broadcast later this spring. What are they gonna call the golden hardware? The Spinnies? Is it some sort of joke that EMAF backwards spells FAME?! Are they laughing at all of us in the mahogany board room?
The producers created a platform where they can pack a room full of famous DJ's and sell airtime to conglomerates. Award shows are here to make money. Do you think Calvin Harris or Disclosure really give a shit if they win a MTV VMA or an EMAF Award? My bet is they could care less. They are told to show up by their managers and record executives. There is a plethora of equal or better albums this year. There are plenty of better festivals then the ones listed here. Why are Diplo and Skrillex both nominated for DJ of the year!? They've been DJ'ing together as Jack U for the majority of the year! The whole thing is a farce. It's not for the fans. The farce is a ploy to get ratings and to fill the executives already stuffed pockets just a tad bit more.
The worst part is the pressure on artists to show up. They are labeled as ungrateful or pretentious for not showing up. Which is of course completely unfair. During their whole career their faces and music are used as tools by higher ups to make profit. They know these shows are bullshit but are forced to come under a veil of forced gratitude. Once you sign your soul to the devil, there is no turning back. "Go out there smile, say lit as many times as possible and be appreciative you're receiving this awesome paperweight."
With all this being said, there are some redeeming qualities of award shows. Perhaps I am being callous by dismissing the attractiveness of watching artists you admire perform and receive accolades. You also can't deny the entertainment value whether it be from the performances or the speeches (or the awkward presenter banter). The acts are always top-tier productions with insanely talented choreography--there is pure artistry at work, no doubt. We're not demeaning the artistic integrity of the dance or visual elements. But really, youre just hoping for a Kanye/Swift or Minaj/Miley moment.
The magnetism generated by prime level charismatic hosts is also undeniable. Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes, LL Cool J hosting the Grammys, Chris Rock hosting the Oscars. These are all super prominent people in the world of entertainment. Though even the Academy Awards are fallible, as evidenced by the nomination snubbing of people of color called out by the Boycott Oscars movement, you can count on there being great writing and well-executed jokes delivered during the monologue (though in a room of stuffy elites, they often fall horribly flat). If you're a fan of calculated performances, time cues, rehearsed, and choreographed dances, A-List celebrities and fashion, what's not to like?
Goldie, the global dance music icon (and recent recipient of knighthood), will be hosting the inaugural EMAF Awards. He stated, "It's an honor to be the first host of these new awards. I want to make sure that the night is exciting and true to the electronic music community."
That's all fine and good, but how representative are the nominees of cutting-edge production techniques, emerging talent, and the latest trends in the electronic industry? With Jason Bentley's Morning Becomes Eclectic one of the nominees for radio program of the year, sure--you come pretty close. But more often than not, the concept of biggest is equated with the concept of best. Imagine if Oscars were dictated simply by box office numbers. The Force Awakens would clean up this year, and Michael Bay would be the most decorated man in Hollywood history.
Furthermore, the categories are a little haphazard. Sure, Jauz and Kygo are absolutely a couple of the best new artists (although we said that about the latter last year). But c'mon, DJ Snake? "Turn Down for What" came out in 2013. A whole year before that, he was nominated for a Grammy for his work on Lady Gaga's Born This Way. Don't tell me the French superstar is anything but an industry vet, despite being a shade under 30.
Should these shows be an exact determination of who your favorite artist is? Absolutely not. Do some of your favorite artists participate? Of course. However, I'm willing to bet the majority of you don't base your musical opinions off who wins award shows, anyway. Depending on what your taste is, you can't disagree that these shows are fun to watch. I'll grant that. Hate watch, love watch, they just want you to watch. Keep in mind there will be winners you disagree with, nominations that seem vapid and performances that you are indifferent to (how do you make DJ'ing super watchable on TV, anyway?). Watch them or don't. Opinions are like assholes, and I'm not saying mine's rose-scented. If you love The Chainsmokers and Jamie xx check out the inaugural Electronic Music Awards & Foundation on Saturday, April 23rd on FOX at 8pm.
EMAF Awards 2016 Nominees
Single of the Year
Calvin Harris & Disciples – “How Deep Is Your Love”
The Chainsmokers – “Roses” (ft. ROZES)
Galantis – “Runaway (U & I)”
Kygo – “Stole the Show” (ft. Parson James)
Major Lazer & DJ Snake – “Lean On” (ft. MØ)
Album of the Year
Alina Baraz & Galimatias – Urban Flora
Calvin Harris – Motion
Disclosure – Caracal
Galantis – Pharmacy
Jamie xx – In Colour
Radio Show of the Year
BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix
BPM with Geronimo – Sirius XM
Danny Howard – BBC Radio 1’s Dance Anthems
Diplo and Friends – BBC Radio 1Xtra
Jason Bentley – Morning Becomes Eclectic – KCRW
Festival of the Year
Creamfields – Daresbury, England
Electric Daisy Carnival – Las Vegas, USA
Sonar – Barcelona, Spain
The BPM Festival – Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Ultra Music Festival – Miami, USA
DJ of the Year
Best New Artist
Best Club of the Year