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Grammy Trade-off

August 30, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN | Popline is a periodic Calendar feature that spotlights people who are making news in pop. and

So Los Angeles is losing the next Grammy Awards ceremony to New York City? Never fear. There is a trade-off: We're getting the fourth annual MTV Video Music Awards.

That may not seem like much consolation in terms of prestige, but MTV execs are confident that what their awards lack in longevity and esteem will be made up for with mass audience excitement, thanks to a celeb-studded ceremony set to feature an inordinate number of pop's best-selling performers in live (or semi-live) performance.

Among the artists signed up so far to sing on the three-hour show, to be broadcast live from the Universal Amphitheatre on Sept. 11: Madonna, Bon Jovi, Los Lobos, Whitney Houston, Crowded House, the Cars, the Bangles, Bryan Adams, Cyndi Lauper, Whitesnake, and a teaming of Run-D.M.C. with Aerosmith.

"The show is sort of a combination awards show and concert event, and with 11-some-odd artists set to play live, we go real heavy on the performances," said Doug Herzog, MTV vice president of news and special programs, from the network's headquarters in New York. "We're trying to be somewhat untraditional about our awards show, and the number of performances is one thing that helps separate it from some of the other shows you see."

Another big difference: the amount of audience participation.

This year, fans have been invited to vote in some of the general categories through a ballot that ran recently in USA Today (though "professionals" still carry the most weight in the balloting). And seats for the event were put on sale to the general public like any other concert. "The (fans) are the people who made these videos popular," noted Herzog, "and we'd like to give them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see all these performers live."

In its first two years, the awards were broadcast from New York's Radio City Music Hall, and last year the action was evenly divided between Radio City and the Universal Amphitheatre. The event's move to Los Angeles is surprising given MTV's New York base--but not entirely surprising considering the network's continued courting of the film industry.

"We have a brand-new category which is perfect for our full-time debut in Los Angeles, and that is Best Music Video From a Film," bragged Herzog. "You can't help but see videos that come from feature films or sound tracks nowadays, and obviously films themselves have been influenced by music videos--the 'Top Gun,' 'Beverly Hills Cop II' variety."

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