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AMA Battles Almost As Fun As Show

Britney Spears, Kid Rock, Usher, Mick Jagger and Cher will all perform on next week’s American Music Awards, while Sean “P. Diddy” Combs tries his hand at being a television host. But none of that promises to be quite as fun as the backstage bickering that has consumed music’s two big awards shows.

The bad feelings burst into the open last month when Dick Clark, executive producer of the American Music Awards, accused the Grammy Awards of essentially blacklisting artists who appear on Clark’s show.

Clark said in a lawsuit that Michael Greene, head of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, strong-armed Michael Jackson into breaking a promise to appear on the AMAs. The AMAs air Jan. 9, and the Grammys are held on Feb. 27.

Greene has denied wrongdoing, and Clark said Jackson has subsequently agreed to appear on the American Music Awards.

Yet Billboard reported that in 1995, Greene told the music industry publication that “artists who perform on the AMAs might as well buy a ticket to the Grammys, because it’s unlikely they’ll be performing on our stage.”

The Recording Academy argues that with a limited amount of airtime, it makes no sense to have artists on the Grammys who performed at another awards show a month earlier.

“This is a situation where, in all honesty, I got fed up,” Clark said. “I don’t take kindly to being pushed around.”

A week or so after the spat became public, Clark said Jackson phoned him to say he will appear on the AMAs, to accept the organization’s Artist of the Century award. Clark is going forward with his lawsuit, however.

Jackson won’t perform at the AMAs. But due to a delicious bit of television gamesmanship, viewers will be able to see him sing by clicking their remotes.

CBS – the network that also televises the Grammys – scheduled a rerun of the Jackson tribute concert that unexpectedly drew 30 million viewers last November to air directly opposite the American Music Awards on ABC.

Clark’s show, with winners chosen on the basis of record sales, has faded in the TV ratings recently in comparison with the Grammys. The Grammy awards have worked hard to overcome ahopelessly unhip image.

In 2001, for example, the AMAs drew 16.2 million viewers to the Grammys’ 26.7 million. As recently as 1996, the two shows had the same size audience. In 1993, the AMAs had 35 million viewers and the Grammys had just under 30 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Clark pins his show’s slippage to ABC’s troubles over the last several years.

“It’s a more competitive atmosphere,” he said. “When you’re not on the No. 1 network and can’t get the promotion you used to get, you have to fight for your life. It’s not a very difficult analysis.”

It’s also not that simple. ABC was actually the top-rated network – thanks to the then-success of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” – at the time of last year’s American Music Awards.

Clark, who built his career counting down the hits on “American Bandstand,” believes there’s a place for awards based on what people buy.

“I like popularity polls,” he said. “This is not to demean the Grammys – the Grammys are to the recording industry what the Oscars are to the movie business. It’s just a different way of approaching things.”

Lenny Kravitz, R. Kelly and Shaggy will compete for favorite male pop artist in the AMAs, while Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez are up for the top female award. The Dave Matthews Band, ‘N Sync and U2 are the nominees for favorite group.

For the first time, the AMAs will honor a favorite inspirational artist.

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