Awards Are Not Power

The Grammys have issues. It’s no secret, and it extends beyond the already difficult question of how does one pick an “album of the year” across the infinitely diverse modern genres anyway? When the nomination and voting processes are nearly impossible to understand, when the input of what’s actually popular seems to unevenly register, when leaders make comments that get aggressively checked by the artists themselves – that raises serious doubts about the merits of the institution itself


And so the question becomes, why should anyone care if they win the award? Why should anyone care if they win any award for that matter? The same goes for any title or recognition beyond a functional certification. Do we want it because the award itself is famous? Is it because it’s a true reflection of the blood, sweat, and tears we put into our work? Is it just bragging rights? Membership in some exclusive club? Why we care matters, from, “nice job on that project” all the way up to “and the Grammy for artist of the year goes to…”


Drake made the comment of the night after picking up his Grammy (not to mention refusing to perform). He said (emphasis mine),


The kids watching, those aspiring to do music, and all my peers that make music from their heart, that do things pure and tell the truth… know we play in an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport. It is not the NBA. This is a business where sometimes it is up to a bunch of people that might not understand what a mixed-race kid from Canada has to say… or a brother from Houston right there, my brother Travis. You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word, if you are a hero in your hometown. If there is people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here, I promise you, you already won.


When we know why we do the work and how it produces the results we’re after, we don’t need a gold star, a fancy title, or a trophy. Sure, recognition is nice, but the personal reward has to matter more than the institutional award. Years ago, winning a Grammy meant finding a new and broader audience. Today’s Grammy winners do more for the Grammy’s TV ratings (and therefore advertising dollars) than the Grammy itself does for them. 


Awards are not power. The same goes for our own work. If people are following your advice and guidance, if you’ve built a local reputation, if people seek you out for your input – then as Drake said, you’ve already won. Accolades, titles, participation trophies – we don’t need them to be successful. Let the work and the results speak for themselves.

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