In the world of commercial music, two citations reign supreme: The Grammys and the Billboard Music Awards. Either distinction puts a pretty feather in the proverbial cap of an aspiring or established musical act. Either trophy can nicely adorn a mantelpiece. The question is, is one accolade more prestigious than the other? When it comes to the Billboard Music Awards vs. the Grammy awards, it’s all in the perspective.
BBMA vs. Grammy: Crunching the numbers
The 2016 Billboard Music Awards show was the highest-ranked telecast on May 22 as well as the third-largest viewing audience for any ABC transmission, ever. The three-hour broadcast garnered nearly 10 million viewers who simultaneously generated close to 2 million tweets, according to Dick Clark Productions.
By comparison, the 2016 Grammys boasted a viewership of some 25 million who tuned in to watch Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Meghan Trainor, and others receive honors from The Recording Academy (formerly the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences). The 2017 Grammy awards show fared even better, with an estimated 26 million viewers.
Billboard Music Awards vs. Grammys: Who wins and why
Billboard awards are based on sales. Period. One doesn’t have to be a great artist to haul home a wheelbarrow full of BBMAs. It doesn’t hurt, of course, to have some talent to back up the honor, but all it really takes to win a Billboard award is one year of superior sales. Social engagement, radio airplay, and touring may be factored into Billboard’s two brand-new fan-voted categories for Top Social Artist and Chart Achievement.
Grammys, on the other hand, are awarded for musical merit without regard to chart position or album sales. Artists, their peers, and qualified members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) are recommended, but not required, to vote only in categories in which they can claim expertise. Because they are awarded by their musical peers, one might think band members revere the Grammy awards. One would be mistaken. In fact, plenty of would-be recipients eschewed the honor.
Grammy controversy: Winners who shunned the golden gramophone
Sinead O’Connor became the first artist to refuse a Grammy. Nominated for four awards in 1990, the Irish chanteuse cited the “extreme commercialism” of the Grammys as her reason for declining trophies for her album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. The following year, Public Enemy boycotted the event because their category, Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group, was not to be televised. That same year, Def Jam CEO Russell Simmons expressed displeasure at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ “same old broken-record snub of inner-city contributions to the music industry.”
When Pearl Jam’s single “Spin the Black Circle” won the 1996 NARAS nod for Best Hard Rock Performance, frontman Eddie Vedder mumbled against the veracity of the award.
“I don’t know what this means. I don’t think it means anything. That’s just the way I feel. There’s too many bands, and you’ve heard it all before… Thanks, I guess.”
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails called the Grammys “an utter waste of time” after a 2014 awards show appearance with Queens of the Stone Age was preempted in favor of an airline commercial. Reznor told the Hollywood Reporter he was proud of his Oscar but less than enthusiastic about his numerous Grammy awards.
“Having won a couple Grammys for stupid sh*t — best metal performance — it’s hard to feel good about the integrity of that. If that’s how much you’re paying attention to what you’re giving out, why should I think that really means anything? When the Oscar [nomination] came up, it felt very different. I can’t tell if that’s because I’m older or it felt like it’s coming from a more sincere pedigree.”
Tool vocalist, Maynard James Keenan, didn’t even show up the night his band received a Grammy. Keenan explained his anti-Grammy stance to NY Rock magazine.
“I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don’t honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It’s the music business celebrating itself. That’s basically what it’s all about.”
Love ’em or laugh at them, the Billboard Music Awards and Grammys aren’t going away anytime soon. At the time of this writing, viewer stats for the 2017 Billboard Music Awards show have not been made available.
[Feature Image by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP]