Billboard Awards gives commentary on state of music

Award shows have always been weird to me.

One reason is because it makes me uncomfortable to see someone win in their category and the fake reactions of those who didn’t. Another reason is what I see to be the purpose behind them. Sure, it’s exciting to see a professional in their field awarded for their work on a large scale, but it all boils down to money. Award shows are part of a business.

Billboard held their yearly music awards show on Sunday. The show attracted an estimated 26 million viewers who tuned in to watch Drake win a Billboard record 13 awards including ones for Top Artist and Top Rap Album.

The rapper also won in two categories that speak to the nature of this particular awards show: Top Billboard 200 Artists and Top Song Sales Artist. In addition to publishing content about the music world, Billboard is also known for its music charts. Awards are usually handed out for achievements and it’s true that it’s an achievement that Drake led other artists in his category in song sales, but do sales amount to talent?

There are other award shows that are geared towards awarding individuals for their talent such as The Grammys and The Oscars. Shows like the Billboard Music Awards and the People’s Choice Awards are designed to give awards to popular candidates. This is why they were created, of course; however, the issue here lies with the kind of merit that comes with awards handed out at these shows. Should more people listen to Zayn since he won the Billboard award for Top New Artist? Should they respect Twenty One Pilots more since they won the Chart Achievement Award presented by Xfinity?

Award shows like this one from Billboard were created to award popular musicians and, in turn, increase their music and concert sales from its audience being exposed to them. It’s this purpose that could have serious implications during the creative process in the music industry. It’s no secret that the popular songs on the radio are popular because of the way they sound and are structured. They were essentially written and produced by people who know how to sell music to the general public.

When a musician or band doesn’t follow this formula in its early life and suddenly start doing so, they’re often labeled as “sellouts” by its fan base. Rock band Linkin Park has received this kind of criticism in recent weeks following its recent “One More Light” album release which features a more pop centric sound than its preceding albums. Obviously, musicians are their own beings and can create and experiment however they would like, but you have to wonder if a band like Linkin Park changed their sound in order to appeal to a more general audience and increase its own music sales.

Music is just one form of entertainment media and like its other types, it’s meant to sell. There will always be those musicians who create quality and creative content for themselves and for its fans to enjoy. And there will always be musicians who will be known for creating music that sells.

I wrote an article last spring about music shaming and in no way am I saying that listening to popular music is a deciding factor in your humanity. I’m just hoping that this trend of awarding individuals for their music sales doesn’t affect the way music is created going forward.

Gabe Hewitt

Gabe is a junior mass media student at MSU. He's usually up for anything. You can find him on Twitter (@gabehewitt) or you can email him at gabriel.hewitt@mnsu.edu.

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