WHAT NEXT? Public Votes or Technical? Way Forward for Music Awards

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

The aftermath of the 22nd edition of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) has once again been fraught with the discussion on whether the public should continue having a major say in how winners are determined or not.

Incidentally, the conversation rubs off other music awards schemes such as the 3Music Awards, which also offers the public a big stake in how winners are determined.

It’s yet another year and in the midst of such rhubarb, stakeholders of these music awards seem confounded on where to go with the voting strategy; strictly technical or public votes?

Public Voting

The leading music awards suggest that the awards are public-oriented or popularity-based awards, meaning that the bigger stake lies with that section, and so, more powers are accorded them to select various winners for what is termed – the popular awards.

The idea for offering the general public a massive say in the voting pattern of awards is stemmed from the fact that popularity of any product is determined by the public and also from the fact that; once the music is made for and consumed by the public, it deserves the right to choose its winners.

Technical Voting

Music is primarily based on technicalities and it takes experts who have a better grasp on the rudiments of music to tell of their quality or otherwise. In many regards, it takes experts to determine what a quality song is, what a good song is and what a good musical performance is – therefore, organizers of music awards have a conviction that the determination of what makes a good song that deserves any form of reward is a decision of a class of experts.

Award schemes that give the bigger stake of determination of music award winners believe the general public is bereft of any technical know-how on music, so, it makes little sense to offer it any form of say. It would rather put its hope in what is called, a Board, an Academy or Committee – made up of music experts to determine winners for various awards.

Public or Technical?

The biggest and most prestigious awards scheme in the world, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, also known as the Grammy, gives the public no say whatsoever in the determination of its winners.  Winners for the Grammy are solely determined by an Academy of music experts who are believed to be knowledgeable in the rudiments of music and are better positioned to choose winners.

A scheme like the MTV VMAs, another popular awards hinged on the music videos of artistes, give the public the ultimate power in choosing the winners.

The VGMAs is the first of many international awards to have an amalgamation of public participation and technical expertise in what looks like a complicated voting pattern – a system replicated by the 3Music Awards.

While other reputable schemes make life easy for everybody with either going public or technical, VGMA and 3Music Award make it all look cumbersome with a pattern that combines public voting and technical voting.

Will Controversies Ever Stop?

There’s a school of thought that suggests that a voting mechanism that offers a big stake to the public has always been a recipe for disaster – a causative agent for all the controversies that greet declaration of winners over the years.

The claim is that – voting for songs, musicians and artistry to annex awards should solely be the responsibility of a group of persons who have such expertise in music technicalities as seen at the Grammy.

The conviction is that, a technical-based voting technique would reduce the level of agitation, dissatisfaction and disapproval of some winners of award schemes; but that is not true.

Placing all powers in the hands of a technical set-up would obviously minimize the extent of ‘errors’ in the determination of winners but there’s no guarantee that such a system is devoid of controversies.

Controversies that has shrouded some winners at the Grammy over the years are enough proof that, a technical-based award is never immune to agitations and disaffection over selection of winners.

Pressure from Sponsors?

The VGMA, used to be the Ghana Music Awards until Telecommunication Company, Vodafone, took over the sponsorship of the event. Since its inception till the Vodafone takeover, it was sponsored by another Telecommunication Company, MTN.

The longstanding assertion has been that, the succour given by these sponsors is what instigates the organizers in applying the public participation in the voting pattern to win some revenue for the sponsors but the emergence of 3Music Awards kind of made nonsense of that ideology.

In its 4th successive year, the 3Music Awards has had no support from any telecommunication unit, yet, it applies a voting pattern that involves both technical and public.


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