Self-Promotion Reigns at Award Shows

By | January 11, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Hey, did you know Busta Rhymes has an album out? Or that Britney Spears has a new movie coming up? If you didn’t know, they and other stars at Wednesday’s American Music Awards made sure you did, relentlessly plugging their new albums and projects at every opportunity. While awards shows have always been an opportunity for self-promotion, ceremonies these days include, more than ever, mini-commercials.

“‘Genesis’ is in stores right now, in case you didn’t know!” shouted Rhymes before announcing the award for best new country artist.

Backstreet Boy members Nick Carter and Kevin Richardson began their presenting duties by showcasing their new protege, the virtually unknown Krystal, who inexplicably burst into song before announcing the next award.

And Spears’ performance of her latest single, “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” was prefaced by a clip from her upcoming movie, “Crossroads.”

Not that the American Music Awards, which were held in Los Angeles, is unique to the trend. At last September’s MTV Video Music Awards, OutKast plugged its clothing line and MTV personality Ananda Lewis hawked her new television show.

But perhaps the most audacious moment came when Macy Gray, before announcing the award for best new artist, urged everyone to “to take a minute and concentrate on my dress.” What was so special about the dress? It read, “My new album drops Sept. 18, 2001.” (It didn’t work though – the disc was one of last year’s biggest flops.)

MTV’s senior vice president, Tom Calderone, said while such antics are not new, they have become more prevalent because “the stakes are so high now.”

“In their minds, it’s probably a great time for them to sell stuff that’s coming up that week…. And remind people that they are still relevant.”

In addition, it gives them an opportunity to advertise to millions of people, for free.

Among the mini-ads at the AMAs were Nelly’s announcement that his new disc would be out in April, and Master P, who, with 12-year-old son Lil’ Romeo at his side, promoted his new CD, “Game Face,” which has sold poorly.

“Go out and pick up the new album!” he told viewers.

And as rappers Method Man and Redman were about to announce the winner of another award, they had this reminder: Their new movie, “How High,” was still in movie theaters.

While there were plenty of plugs at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards show, Calderone said MTV tries to dissuade artists from doing so. And when the network repeats the awards show, it edits out the self-promoting banter.

“The feedback we get from the audience is that they get annoyed when someone does that,” said Calderone. “They think it’s a desperate attempt for attention.”

While Calderone didn’t believe the self-promoting would stop anytime soon, he said it probably should.

“If the artists listen to their fans or their potential fans and see what they say, I think you’ll see it slow down pretty considerably.”

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