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American Music Awards By Andy McCarthy
In 1973, Dick Clark began presenting the American Music Awards, as an honor that aimed to compete with the Grammy’s once CBS had taken over the award show’s broadcasts. The first two Grammy broadcasts had been televised on ABC, but after the move to CBS, ABC developed an awards program to call its own. The American Music Awards were born to fill that void, and the hosts of that first year’s ceremony were Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond. Since then, the show has usually featured multiple hosts representative of various genres, but more recent ceremonies have featured a single host instead. The 2009 ceremony featured no host at all, instead inviting various celebrities to introduce each honor.
The goal of the awards show, aside from competing with the one that ABC had lost, was to celebrate the full spectrum of musical offerings, acknowledging excellence in achievement in all genres of American music, from traditional, to country, to rap, to hard rock. Though named the American Music Awards, the name refers more accurately to the music loved in America rather than indicating exclusivity for American artists. Several international recording artists have received honors for their popularity in the United States, including Elton John, Celine Dion, the Spice Girls, and Shakira.
In contrast with the Grammy’s determination of its nominees and winners by votes from entertainment industry members, American Music Awards nominees are based on sales, airplay, social network activity, and video views relating to material released throughout the eligibility period spanning from December 1st of the year preceding the ceremony to September first of the award yet. Data used from the Radio & Records and Nielson Soundscan, a trade publication that tracks music sales, is used to determine the nominees for the year. Until 2007, the AMA award winners would then be determined by public opinion according to polls of 20,000 music buyers themselves regarding who they believed should be honored each year, which visibly makes the AMA’s awards more about popularity than the artistic merit that the Grammys strive to emphasize. Using a national sample determined by a research and consulting company, ballots were sent out to the national sample of 20,000 voters that have been selected based on geography, age, ethnicity, and gender, then tabulated by the accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP. In 2007, voting online became available instead for any member the viewing public to choose their favorites, and winners have been determined that way every since.
Eventually, beginning in 2003, twenty years after having emerged to compete with the Grammys, then in order to avoid taking place in the midst of the Grammy Awards season, the AMA’s chose to move its ceremony to late November, rather than continue having it in January – no longer wishing to compete not only with the Grammy Award audience but also with the Golden Globes and Academy Awards in the midst of their awards seasons. The transition to later in the year now enables ABC to not only have the high ratings it desires for its awards show broadcast, but to also have these ratings factored into November sweeps.
Winners of the American Music Awards receive a crystal trophy in the shape of a pyramid. Roberta Flack was honored with the very first in 1973, as Favorite Soul/Rhythm & Blues Female Artist, and Favorite Pop/Rock single with Killing Me Softly. Other honorees that night included Bing Crosby, Charley Pride, Diana Ross, Al Greene, Carter Family, The Carpenters, The Temptations, Lynn Anderson, Helen Reddy, Charley Pride, Jim Croce, Stevie Wonder, Charlie Rich, and Tony Orlando & Dawn. Other organizations or corporations wishing to give out similar crystal awards can find them online at retailers such as Visual Awards.
In 1996, Garth Brooks rejected his award for Favorite Artist of the Year – a new category for that year’s show – stating that he had not done anything that year and for that reason could not have possibly won an award. He left the award behind on the podium as he departed the stage after his brief speech, slighting its introduction so much that the category did not appear for the award to ever be offered again in future years.
The author of this article is 10 year veteran in the crystal awards and recognition gifts industry.