By Jim McCarthy May 1, 2012 0 comments

Speaking of the Tonys, Three Things an Awards Show Can Be

Yesterday, our friend Neil Patrick Harris tweeted that he couldn’t wait for the Tony nominations and that they were “the biggest day in the world for a very small faction of people.”

Well, fair enough, but it’s also fair to say that Neil has helped make that “faction” quite a bit bigger by hosting and promoting the event, as well as his general support for theatre and live entertainment.  And it’s also exciting that shows brought to the stage by innovators like Jordan Roth are continuing to get nominations and will undoubtedly win plenty of awards.

This topic brings to mind for me the whole question of what an award show should be.  It seems as though there are three ways to go:

1.  An industry gathering.  The Pollstar Awards recognize peer achievements in the concert biz and no one watches them, yet to people inside that business, they’re interesting and important.  A night to recognize hard work and give out back-pats to those who deserve them.  Most industry awards fall into this category, of course.

2.  A marketing tool to consumers. The Academy Awards and the Grammys function as an industry gathering, kind of.  But their primary purpose is to build excitement for the industry itself, to market the product.  The attendees aren’t there so much to get together with each other as to be in front of the audience at home.

3. A real time, participatory event. Not that I can think of a great example of this, but imagine a cross between the Super Bowl and American Idol, an event where no one knows who is going to win and the behavior of the audience determines it or at least in part.  The most obvious thing would be audience voting, but it could also be something like audience purchasing or real time audience content creation.  Imagine a night where perhaps you have some pre-determined nominees, but during the course of the event, the audience in person and at home are given some new material or new information and their votes or actions in some way determine the winner.  It sounds far-fetched, and I don’t know if it would ever make sense for the traditional awards shows we’re used to.  What I can say with some confidence though is that the first major 21st century awards “show” is more likely to be like this than to make everyone put on black tie and reveal the winners as chosen by a semi-secret group of insiders.

So file this one in the ‘possible futures’ category and remember you read it here first when it starts happening.

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