Another year's Asbury Music Awards have come and gone and we've heard another round of artists and fans complaining - sometimes with good reason, sometimes as sore losers. But the fact remains... things can be done to improve the awards and to give them a little more credibility.
First off, credit goes to Scott Stamper and everyone involved in putting the AMAs together. It's a much bigger task than people give them credit for. No matter who is chosen as the nominees there are bound to be people who should have been on the list and wern't and there are bound to be people winning awards who really didn't deserve to. Politics does play a role in some cases and not in others. After being at the awards show for the last several years, here are some suggestions that I think would boost the credibility of the awards. A) Rules for nominations
1) artists need to have played in the Asbury Park region X amount of times during the past year
(this way people who haven't shown up anywhere do not get nominated)
2) record releases are determined between say June 2004 to June 2005 or something
(each year there are records that were either JUST released or released over a year ago - it should be more consistent)
B) Category adjustments
1) Add a category for national acts. If you want the awards to get more press than you need to point out the sucess stories as well. Keep reminding people that bands like deSol are from the Asbury Park music scene.
2) Either stick with a 5 year rule or get rid of it. Don't kick some artists off of the list because they've been nominated several years in a row and let others stay. Be consistent.
3) Limit bands to 1 category per type of music. It doesn't make sense for bands to be nominated for 2-3 different genres.
4) As Jon Leidersdorff very wisely pointed out... nominees for the Best Thing To Happen In Asbury Park really should be things that happened in Asbury Park - not Seaside Heights, not Toms River, etc.
5) Have an equal amount of nominees per category across the board.
1) Offer people a chance to become a registered voter. Maybe $20 gets them a voting card and free access to every showcase show. Voters are REQUIRED to attend shows in at least 3 different venues and see at least 1/3 of the shows. Once their card is stamped enough times, they are allowed to vote.
(this will make the voting a LOT fairer as people will be making choices based on actually seeing the artists)
1) Showcases should be set up far in advance (2-3 weeks minimum) and include at least 1/2 of the artists in each category.
2) Get sponsors on board to make the AMA showcases our version of CMJ. Forget the Asbury Music Expo, we already have beginning of a great music series. Promote the hell out of it.
1) Get News 12 or NJN to broadcast the event live
2) Go after a much bigger fish than the Aquarian to be the main media sponsor (hell, they don't even show up at the awards) - get somebody like the Asbury Park Press or the Star-Ledger on board.
3) Invite press from throughout the state (radio, tv, newspapers, magazines)
4) Invite record executives from NYC area labels
Asbury Park is known throughout the world for its music history. Take advantage of it. This not only is one of the few awards shows for music in the state but it should be the biggest and most important. The more the show gets improved, the more credibility it will have and the more interest people will have in it.
It's got potential to be really big. Why not shoot for that?
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.