As a music snob, I’m tempted to dismiss anything MTV does as another marketing ploy to sell bad music to pre-teens and scenesters who don’t know any better, but I stand corrected.
On Nov. 2, MTV-U, a channel exclusively for college students, will premiere this year’s MTV-U Woodie Awards. Like MTV-U itself, college students across the U.S. power the “Woodies.” They decide which bands are nominated, which groups perform and who takes home a prize.
General Manager of MTV-U Ross Martin cites Sub Pop Records for as inspiration for the event. “They wanted to find a way to honor artists whose albums … didn’t sell gazillions … but connected in a major way with passionate fans,” he said in a web chat. “So if you don’t go gold and you don’t go platinum, but college students live their lives to your music, you might win … a Woodie Award.”
This year’s show is hosted by MTV-U VJ Kim Stolz and features live performances from TV on the Radio, Imogen Heap, Gym Class Heroes and Beck. The award categories are as diverse as the music styles of the nominees: the “Good Woodie” honors artists who made a great social impact in the past year, while the “Alumni Woodie” gives kudos to bands that have made it big and stayed true to their musical roots. While the competition heats up, artists jokingly compete with one another. Hellogoodbye singer and guitarist Forrest Kline joked with Will Pugh of Cartel, “We’re up against Cartel and we’re gonna smash their faces with a Woodie, after they win it.”
Though the lure of fame and glory seems tempting, fans worried about their favorite artists selling out to MTV shouldn’t worry. “Everyone has their own meaning of artistic credibility and it’s all subjective. As long as I’m proud of the music I’m making, how people perceive the push and pull of marketing is secondary,” said singer Feist, a solo artist and member of Broken Social Scene in the interview.
Kline also pledged his support of MTV-U’s efforts, saying that without the channel, Hellogoodbye would have to rely on MySpace to reach new audiences. VJ Stolz added, “I’m fresh out of college myself … When I was at Wesleyan, I was listening to a lot of these bands, but before MTV-U came to my school, there was no media venue by which I could listen to them and learn more about them. MTV-U definitely does that.” The producers and nominees hope the awards will facilitate that goal.
Whether the Woodies will be a mainstay like the MTV Video Music Awards has yet to be seen. As Martin said, “The Woodies will live on as long as college students want it to. It’s not our show. It’s yours.”