Awards Overboard

As the final round of CMA Awards voting draws near, artist team members will be working overtime to woo voters. Music Row mailboxes—virtual and physical—will be busting with promotional greetings marked “For Your Consideration.” It’s a chance for marketers to rehash their acts’ accomplishments from the past year in hopes of earning a vote, and a trophy.

As label budgets have decreased in recent years, there are less dollars to spend soliciting votes. For independent artists, who typically have smaller bank accounts, competing against the majors has always been tough.

Scenarios like this play out on both coasts, in a variety of entertainment industries as competitors vie for bragging rights.

Despite the economical downturn, in Hollywood, attempts to win awards have gotten so out of control that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is cracking down. Apparently it has been an ongoing problem for years—those promotional ads that still infiltrate Nashville mailboxes have been banned by the Academy since 1996.

Much like country artist reps send out albums and DVDs to entice awards voters, Hollywood strategists send out promotional copies of film screeners. The difference is that in Los Angeles the Academy regulates the packaging. Negative campaigning against Oscar competitors has long been forbidden, and the rules have now expanded to cover social media. The Academy views the offense as so serious, that punishment is a one-year suspension for the first violation, followed by expulsion for a subsequent mess-up. And that’s just the beginning of the lengths Oscar organizers are going to in an attempt to level the playing field for the 2012 show.

“It’s really a perception problem for us,” Academy COO Ric Robertson told The Hollywood Reporter. “The Oscars are about what our members see on screen and think is quality work. To the extent that the public dialogue about the Oscars is who threw a good party or ran a successful campaign versus the quality of the work, that’s off-point for us. We want people to be talking about the work.”

The main problem last year during voting season was the over-the-top extravaganzas. Star-studded parties for Best Picture nominees The Social Network and The King’s Speech are among the soirees that pushed the envelope too far. There was also a rising trend of Hollywood figures hosting events honoring friends who were in the running. Smaller films simply couldn’t compete with such expensive affairs, leaving them at a disadvantage when it came time to vote.

So the Academy laid down new regulations. Between Jan. 24, 2012 when the final nominations are revealed, and Feb. 21 when voting closes, a strict ban on events designed to lure voters will be enforced for the first time. There will be basically no parties, no post-screening receptions, and limits on panel discussions.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Academy members may not be invited to or attend any non-screening event that promotes or honors a nominated movie or individual. Nominees themselves are also prohibited from attending such events. However, the Academy’s own events as well as awards ceremonies held by the guilds, critics’ groups and other organizations are exempted.”

Despite the Academy’s best efforts, the Hollywood party train will keep chugging away—probably just a little earlier in the awards season. The end result will likely be that all the parties are crammed into the weeks leading up to the reveal of the final nominations.

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Category: Awards, Exclusive, Featured

About the Author

Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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