Even leading up to the event, Jonze called it a “messy” production. Co-hosts Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts worked the show unscripted, even losing winners’ names at one point. Yep, messy. Lady Gaga had a tearful freak-out, causing her very odd and over-the-top dramatic performance of “Dope” to send online viewers clicking out of the live stream.
All told, the L.A. Times reported that viewership for the awards show averaged 180,000 people; a far cry from the 60 million individuals YouTube claims voted for the winners during the run-up to the show. For further context, consider that 10 million people watched the latest installment of MTV’s Music Video Awards. It seems viewers didn't find enough intrigue in the meager six awards offered during the 90 minute webcast to stay tuned in.
And they were right.
Maybe it was the goal of the show’s organizers to create an off-the-cuff, quasi do-it-yourself awards program in the vein of many user-submitted videos posted to the YouTube site. But save for a few special moments (see Arcade Fire’s live music video and the live performance by violinist Lindsey Stirling), the inaugural YouTube Music Awards was, in large part, a disaster; summed up by the strange choice for Schwartzman and Watts to be holding crying babies while interviewing Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Those babies echoed the sentiment of the following week’s headlines.
“ABC News” went with: “YouTube Music Awards Gets Mixed Reviews”
USA Today said: “YouTube Music Awards: Streaming of consciousness?”
“Aljazeera America” opted for: “YouTube’s live, unscripted music awards show falls short”
If there is to be another YouTube awards show, the site might do better to embrace the full breadth of what their service does, namely recognize videos from a wider spectrum of categories including user-submitted ones; not just mainstream music. And certainly moving away from the same old artists—like Eminem—who routinely are nominated by other awards shows, could improve content and intrigue. Making indie artists—who rely on the site for exposure— a bigger part of the equation could go a long way to providing relevance and meaning to the award show.
Whatever choices are made for the probable sequel, above all else, YouTube better requisition a script for the next go-round. The world can’t take any more of Schwartzman attempting riff. Though a brilliant actor, his hosting abilities are just too painful.