Having spent much of our life in Chicago, where citizens "vote early and often," we've grown accustomed to seeing some pretty unusual election numbers. But the music business is still reeling from the bizarre nomination results of the eighth Billboard Video Music Awards.
The awards winners won't be named until Saturday, the final day of the respected trade publication's annual Video Music Conference. But Billboard recently announced the five finalists in 19 different categories, including Best Overall Video, Best Performance, Most Innovative and Best Director.
Now here's the real shocker. If you break down the final ballot nominees by record label, here are the results:
CBS Records' Columbia label: 55 finalists.
PolyGram Records: 39.
Warner Bros. Records: 1.
A&M, Atlantic, Arista, Capitol, Geffen, Elektra, EMI-America, Epic, Island, MCA, Motown and RCA Records: Zip.
Here's another surprise: Of the 95 total finalists, guess who finished tied for first (with the Rolling Stones) with 10 final ballot nominations? The Moody Blues. Finishing in a tie for third, with Mick Jagger, with six nominations: Bonnie Tyler. And in fifth place, with five nominations: Bon Jovi.
If you don't think there's something odd about a nearly-forgotten group like the Moody Blues topping the nominee lists, consider this: When MTV held its music-video awards earlier this year, it gave out trophies in 15 different categories.
But how many MTV video winners made Billboard's finalists' list? None.
Are industry video execs upset? Just listen to A&M Records creative services chief Jeff Gold: "I'd say that these results just flushed any credibility these awards had right down the toilet. I was astounded. For a great clip like Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' to be left out completely while the Moody Blues get 10 nominations is mind boggling. Their videos were awful! After the way this sham was conducted, if I were an artist I'd be embarrassed to pick up any awards."
Other record label execs were equally upset. "This was so bizarre that it was hard to believe it really happened," said Warner Bros. video chief Jo Bergman. "My first reaction was--'Is this 1986?' I thought maybe they sent out ballots from the wrong year."
MCA senior v.p. Larry Solters added: "If these awards had any credibility in the past, they certainly don't now. I really think Billboard should conduct an investigation into its own awards practices. Judging from the results, it seems as if these awards were just a silly excuse for Billboard to have another video convention."
Industry insiders are also wondering whether the lopsided awards results were the result of record company bloc voting or even worse, padded ballots.
Asked if he suspected padded results, Gold replied: "If I had wanted to fix our number of ballots, I could've done it easily. Anyone with access to a Postal Instant Press could do it. I've taken enough statistics classes to know that the possibilities of these video results coming out, with virtually every nominee going to Columbia or PolyGram, are slim indeed."
Billboard Home Entertainment Editor Jim McCullaugh, who oversees the awards, said the 95 total finalists were determined by voting conducted through a record industry-only mailing that encompassed 6,500 music and home entertainment execs around the world. "We got about a 10%-12% return on the ballots," he explained. "We policed the vote very carefully and I don't think there was anything inequitable about the voting. If I got an envelope with more than one identical ballot, I threw out all the extras.
"But I really don't see how there could have been any significant ballot stuffing. Columbia and PolyGram did get most of the nominees, but then again, we had complaints last year that Warner Bros. was over-represented. If it's so easy to influence the voting, then where was Warners this year?"
But didn't McCullaugh think it was odd that the Moody Blues landed so many nominations? "Not really," he said. "Who knows? Maybe there was a groundswell of support for old pop warhorses."
And what about Columbia and PolyGram's near-sweep of the voting? "It's just the way it came out," he said. "This is the first time I've heard that anyone was upset about the voting, but it doesn't bother me. I have the documentation. We'll just have to let the results speak for themselves."