"This country is being narrowcasted to death, to the point that people can choose to become unicellular people if they want," he said. "Technology has homogenized culture out of regionalism, and one of the things the Grammys does is point out the diversity of music."
But judging by the ratings, specialization seems to be working. The Grammy broadcast in February was watched in just 14.5 million homes, down from last year's nearly 19 million. But the American Music Awards' January telecast reached almost 19 million homes, up 3 million from 1988. More specialized shows such as the syndicated Soul Train awards and the International Rock Awards are not expected to get ratings to match those shows, but the very focused nature of the programs is appealing to advertisers wishing to target specific audiences.
Still, the feeling in the industry is that the shows are approaching a point of diminishing returns.
"The formula is growing tired," said Tisha Fein, who procures the performing talent for many awards shows, including the Grammys and Friday's World Music Video Awards. "For my money there's much too many. I think a lot of them will fall by the wayside. The ratings will go down and then it'll just be the Grammys and a few others."
But the lesson of the shows is this: As long as ratings stay high enough, stars will turn out, which will help the ratings stay up, which means the shows will continue.
And even the recording academy's Greene admits that there's plenty of room for quality shows that focus on music.
"Anything that helps the music industry, the academy is 100% behind," he said, singling out the American Music Awards as particularly valuable. "That show helps sell records and give exposure to the artists."