Watch It, VGMA Board Members!

By the grace of God, I got the opportunity to visit United States for the umpteenth time and albeit the harsh weather conditions and the lack of scrumptious local dishes, it is always a good feel to be in a very well-organized country like the U.S.

Like I do with almost every country I visit, I pay critical attention to their entertainment industry and with America being utopia when it comes to show business, there’s always that guarantee that one will be drawn to something entertainment-related in that country.

For me, there are so many things that piqued my interest within their entertainment set-up and I would like to share just a few major mind-altering experiences in America in connection to our mindset as ardent Ghanaian showbiz impresarios, aficionados and followers.

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Just hours before my trip, I had banter with Chairman of the VGMA Board, Nii Ayitey Hammond on Peace FM’s ‘Entertainment Review’ on the handling of the nominations by the Board. Yes, I was livid over the discourse that transpired that day but what shocked me the most; was the submission made by Mark Okraku Mantey, another member of the Board with regards to the issue.

The revered music producer articulated that; it was inappropriate and totally unjustifiable for young people, especially showbiz journalists to question the works of the VGMA Board. He went on to blurt that, once the Board had presented its final nominations list – regardless of whether it is fraught with mishaps or otherwise, everybody ought to shut up.

In the U.S., the most-patronized and most-scrutinized media belt/time slot is the Television late night shows. The late night television shows in America is synonymous to Radio Morning Shows in Ghana where there’s much jostling and clamour for attention just for that time slot.

There’s so much competition for the respective late night shows, Cable Networks put in a lot of resources and effort into production, hosts and anything else that will top the ratings and lure advertisement – and Executives put so much premium on ratings to the extent where it influences their decision-making senses on the shows.

In the evenings, there’s ‘Colbert Report’ on Comedy Central hosted by Stephen Colbert, there’s ‘The Late Show’ with David Letterman on CBS, ‘Jimmel Kimmel Live’ with Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, Jimmy Fallon handles ‘The Tonight Show’ on NBC plus ‘Arsenio’ with Arsenio Hall.

Over the years, the late night slot was dominated by stalwarts David Letterman and Jay Leno (former host of the ‘Tonight Show’). The experience and expertise of these two combined is unassailable – simply epic. An aging Leno left and was replaced by a young and vibrant Jimmy Fallon and just last week, David Letterman who has manned the ‘Late Show’ for decades announced his retirement in 2015, to be replaced by a younger Stephen Colbert.

Well, Letterman was virtually compelled to call it quit because, the slot is being dominated by younger and enterprising men who get the attention of younger audience, a generation touted to matter most in mass media now.

Trust the Americans to always have figures and facts to work with: Given a hefty marketing spend and increased attention, Fallon’s arrival catapulted ‘The Tonight Show’ over rivals Letterman and ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ (ABC) among the key adults of ages 18-49 demographic. Since NBC’s shakeup, Letterman’s ‘Late Show’ has been averaging 2.69 million viewers – trailing behind younger, more friendly rival Fallon (5.2 million) but just topping Kimmel (2.64 million). Both NBC and ABC top him in the adults 18-49 demographic, though all are up year-over-year during the increase in competition.

Every individual who sits on the VGMA is no novice and has obviously done something or doing something positive to merit a seat on that panel. Unfortunately, some members have been on the Board for several editions of the Awards and others have been on since its inception.

Their continuous appearance on the Board eats into their heads sometimes, making them feel as though, they are the repository of all knowledge when it comes to music. Some of them hold on to the fuzzy impression that, they have been in music production for years which gives them the authority to have the final say when it comes to issues relating to music. Others are convinced that, they being radio presenters for some years and having the chance to sit on the Board makes them music gurus – and they know better than anybody else.

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For me, such mentality is not only erroneous; it is infuriating, nauseating and sickening, and oh, it is mortifying.

The reality check is that, music business has evolved; the manner music was handled and marketed 10-15 years ago is not the same as today. The listening group has changed, patronage and ways of patronage have all changed, so, if 10 years ago, you were the ‘hottest’ music producer and a think-tank of the industry and in 2014, you expect young music addicts to quiver and shudder and stay mute when you speak – because, in your dreamy head, you think that the opinion of the young generation of music writers, journalists, and music lovers doesn’t matter.

Even with all the so-called expertise and experience, the final works submitted for public participation was rebutted by the public for being fraught with mistakes.

Besides, who inculcates the repugnant idea in the heads of some VGMA Board members that, we cannot speak on the final nominations list – something that requires public participation? In fact, if such members do not want public probing and prodding on the list, then in future, I admonish that, after all the work is done in short-listing the nominees – they should vote in the Board room, call the winners via phone and present the awards to them in the Board room.

In conclusion, persons from Charterhouse do go to South Africa regularly to monitor how the South African Music Awards (SAMAs) and Channel O Awards are done, which is good thing to do, but I wonder if they also check to the see their processes of collecting and short listing names for the awards.
One particular thing SAMA does is this; the body of SAMA judges is constantly evolving to introduce new expertise and opinion.


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