Grammy Awards: Will the Show Shake Off Its Ratings Slump?

grammy awards

A red carpet, celebrities dressed to the nines, and some of music’s biggest names taking center stage to perform live; all elements of ratings gold. But that gold doesn’t always translate. The Grammys have been faced with this problem, and with the 56th iteration of the awards show being broadcast live Sunday, from 8 to 11:30 p.m. on CBS, executives are undoubtably hoping the show’s star studded line-up of singers and presenters will entice viewers.

Last year, the Grammys failed to pull off a viewership victory repeat. In 2012, television sets tuned in to the Grammys — which featured a tribute to Whitney Houston — and the award show had its second highest rating of all time with 39 million viewers. It cracked the Nielsen Top Ten of Single Telecast programs for the year, the only non-sporting event to do so. But it was business as usual in 2013. The Oscars was the award show to break the sport’s death grip on single telecasts, and viewership dropped to 28 million. The Oscars have not had less than 30 million viewers in the last decade.

Comparatively low viewership and a perception problem even has Grammy executives feeling like the ugly stepsister of the awards show family. Ken Ehrlich, the executive producer for the show, explained the mood surrounding the Grammys in a phone interview to the New Yorker. “For whatever reason, we all feel we don’t get the respect we deserve for this show,” Ehrlich said. “Movie stars just seem to be inherently more interesting to people than rock stars. I think music is simply deemed less important in terms of pop culture, even though I think more people sit around and talk about music than sit around and talk about movies.”

The path to a Grammy starts with a nomination entry by a member of the Recording Academy, or record company. Over 150 experts review the entries for quality as well as to determine the proper category. Ballots are then sent to voting members, who can vote for up to 20 categories in the genre fields, and up to 4 in the General Field (i.e. Song of the Year). The same process takes place again for final round voting, and Deloitte tallies up the results.

This year, James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Kacey Musgraves, and Ed Sheeran are all up for Best New Artist. In the category of Album of the Year: Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest; Daft Punk, Random Access Memories; Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist; and Taylor Swift, Red are nominees.

Song of the Year nominations went to: Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Pink featuring Nate Ruess) “Just Give Me A Reason”; Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine & Bruno Mars, songwriters (Bruno Mars), “Locked Out of Heaven”; Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Katy Perry & Henry Walter, songwriters (Katy Perry), “Roar”; Joel Little & Ella Yelich O’Connor, songwriters (Lorde) “Royals”; Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert & Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert), “Same Love.”

In all, there are over 80 Grammy awards, but only a handful are handed out live. Instead of seeing each award given, live performances are shown, because musical acts are an important part of the show and a key component of ratings. On Tuesday, the Recording Academy said nominees Gary Clark Jr. and Hunter Hayes had been added to the line-up. Previously announced acts include: Sara Bareilles with Carole King; Daft Punk with Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams, Stevie Wonder; Lorde; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis; Metallica together with Grammy Cultural Ambassador to China Lang Lang performing; Paul McCartney; Katy Perry; Taylor Swift; and a special performance featuring Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Blake Shelton.

This year, the Lifetime Achievement Award is being given to the Beatles, Clifton Chenier, the Isley Brothers, Kraftwerk, Kris Kristofferson, Armando Manzanero, and Maud Powell. The Beatles’ Lifetime Achievement Award is being awarded 50 years after the group took home the Best New Artist award in 1964. That year, they also won Best Performance By A Vocal Group for “A Hard Day’s Night.”

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