Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sarkodie, Wizkid and the BET Awards (2): The Re-education

This post follows on from:

Sarkodie and Wizkid Win at BET Awards, or do they?

I explained why I took down the petition to those that signed it but I think I should just state it here for the record.
I got a particularly important response to one of my emails. It was a very detailed response from someone who helped bring African artistes to the attention of the BET and helped start the African act category, so her blessing and her response were very important to me.
She was mostly disappointed.
She expressed her disappointment, as a Ghanaian and as a part of the BET, to my email, petition and with the reaction of most Africans. She was upset that no one took the time to research and iron out inaccuracies of what actually took place at the Awards. So she clarified the misconceptions:

First of all, "BET has never given any Awards back stage or elsewhere from the main stage. Every year there are about 20 Awards in all that are up for presentation. At least 6-8 of those Awards are not presented on air at all for a variety of reasons. We are not the only show that does not present all of our Awards on-air due to time constraints - MTV, The Grammys, Oscars etc all follow suit. The show is really focused on performances and moments which have become key to the show's successful rating history. People look forward to the memorable moments on the show and that is something that BET has done really well."

photo credit:
She explained how nicely the African artistes are treated -a weekend of celebrations and being honoured - perhaps even better than how the domestic nominees are treated. They were given a special Welcome Cocktail Party on Friday night where Wizkid and Sway from the UK performed. Saturday Morning a Breakfast Buffet in their honor, taken to the Celebrity Gift Lounge and Radio Remote interviews with 50 of the top stations in the US. Several special shows and interviews were produced about them and brief snippets of them being followed around all weekend were put on air on BET International. On show day, they rode in limos to the show, were interviewed by Big Tigger on the 106 & Park Pre-Show LIVE and live again on BET.Com and placed in camera seats. After all that, the night ended with a lavish BET Awards After-Party. The lovely South African singer Lira's experience was quoted; read about her BET experience here.
Besides,"the managers of every BET Awards nominee - all of them - Domestic and International, are told in advance which categories will air and which ones will not". So they are not surprised when they get there. 
She also explained that African artistes they were not awarded backstage but rather at a special breakfast in their honour. She was upset that so much effort and planning had gone into the show but we (complainants) had only chosen to focus on this part. She asked us to keep in mind that it was a(n) (imperfect) process and that Viacom, which owns BET, is focused on respecting their domestic schedules and ratings. 
She cleared up one thorny issue for me, saying  "before God in all honesty" that the category for both this year and last year were both tied. Voters from the African Voting Academy voted and it resulted in legitimate and honest ties. The executives chose not to alter this decision in anwyay. So 2Face and D'Banj (last year) and  Wizkid or Sarkodie (this year) are really joint winners.

After this reply I decided to take the petition down. I did not take it down because I had lost my nerve or because I think the issue is no longer relevant. Neither was I 'convinced' by the explanation. Not her explanation, the explanation from "the bosses". She explained that BET's target audience is young African Americans, not Africans. So "our beloved artists" [African artistes], as epic as they are to us Africans, would not all be recognized by the target audience. The main goal of the award by the BETis to bring some awareness to them, but until their music is playing on the airwaves and gains a massive following "it is almost impossible to put them on air on a show of that magnitude".  She pointed out that their International channel does so much with African artists but no one makes mention of that.
Honestly, I am still disappointed that African artistes are still not considered marketable enough to appear on the big stage (that's not what she said, but that's what it boils down to, isn't it?). The size of Nigeria, alone, let alone  the whole continent, as a market should give us some bargaining power, no? That's what I thought anyway. Silly, naive me.
She then pointed the finger right back at us, asking what we as Africans are doing to promote our music and artistes internationally. That's what jolted me to my 'senses'.
Now I am convinced that this isn't something the BET should be petitioned to do. If they do change things, I want it to be something they HAD to do, out of commercial necessity because African music is the hottest thing out there, and not 'pity' or social pressure. Call it my African pride *shrugs*
Let me explain: They deal with ratings, so  their actions can only be a response to demands by their viewers - mostly young African Americans. For that to happen, African artistes need more exposure, till they can command ratings similar to that of  'mainstream' artistes. As I asked her, aren't a lot of African Americans originally..well African?? I asked for some figures from her but I haven't received a reply. The Nigerians alone in that group!! lol. Many of such young people are now more conscious of their roots than ever, and I really think they would be interested in seeing home-grown artistes.

So I don't think even a petition can change their view [Viacom that is], because the ratings must translate into the ringing of cash registers. The task is waaaay bigger than getting a petition signed, it's about promoting African artistes until they cannot be ignored and must compulsorily be exhibited. 
Try that on for size. Promote them as much as you can, and then some more! No more being a couch potato and passing judgement. Get to work yourself. Buy African music, play it, request it on international shows, tweet it, blog about it, share it...get it out there anyway that you can.
All the best!!! And when you see African artistes perform on the BET stage one day soon, you can be proud that they earned the spot because they were in demand all over the US, thanks to you, and not because it was given to them as a handout. 

Good luck. we all need it x