Hitfix Goes to the Grammys: Sunday’s balance between ratings and art

02.06.09 9 years ago

So far, I’ve concentrated primarily on the artistic side of the Grammys, but when it comes down to it, Sunday’s show, no matter how brilliant any performance may be or which artist wins, will be judged by its ratings.

Last year’s ratings were the third lowest in the Grammys’ history, so it should come as no surprise that the powers that be at the Recording Academy have padded the show with potential big draws, even though they have nothing to do with this year’s awards. U2 will appear–and is rumored to open the show. Now, Taylor Swift has been added. The budding country superstar will perform “Fifteen,” the next single off her charttopping “Fearless” CD. Not only that, in a clear bid to draw younger viewers,  Swift and Miley Cyrus will duet on the song.

It’s always a delicate dance between balancing the Grammy mission of awarding artistic excellence with the reality of trying to earn the best possible ratings, as NARAS CEO/president Neil Portnow and the show’s co-executive producer Ken Ehrlich discuss with me in a story in today’s Variety.

“You can’t put your head in the sand and pretend you don’t care about [ratings],” Portnow says.  “It clearly does matter, and it’s important and it’s part of the way we run our business.”

In an effort to boost awareness, the Grammys announced the nominations in a December primetime special instead of through the usual early morning press conference. The Dec. 2 show came in fourth place for the night, but still drew seven million viewers.

“That’s 7 million more people than might have known about (the noms) otherwise,” Ehrlich says.

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