The evolution of BET
Lisa Olivia Fitch | 6/13/2012, 5 p.m.
Billed as "the biggest night in music," the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards has evolved since its start in 2001 into a major effort to celebrate the accomplishments of musicians, actors and sports stars.
All told, there are ... persons/acts nominated to receive honors in 20 categories at the July 1 event, and the music category is loaded with the majority of recipients. Actor Samuel L. Jackson, declared the highest-grossing movie actor of all time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, will be this year's BET Awards host.
The Oscar-nominated actor is currently on screen in "The Avengers," part of his nine-picture deal with marvel Studios.
"We are massively excited about having Sam Jackson, the world's biggest box office star, host the BET Awards 12," said Stephen G. Hill, president of Music Programming and Specials with BET Networks. "His wit, presence and gigantic personality are the perfect match for our show."
Kanye West leads the pack with seven nominations this year--Best Collaboration, Video Director of the Year, and five notable nominations for 'The Throne' with Jay-Z.
'The Throne' also received nominations for Best Group, Best Collaboration, Coca-Cola Viewer's Choice and two nods for Video of the Year for "N*ggas in Paris" and "Otis."
Beyonce follows West's lead with six award nominations--Best Female R&B Artist, Best Collaboration, Video Director of the Year, Coca-Cola Viewer's Choice and two nods for Video of the Year for "Countdown" and "Love on Top."
Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly, will be honored with the "Cadillac Lifetime Achievement Award" during the show. But it's the live performances that everyone will be talking about the next day.
Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj will be the first performers to grace the Shrine Auditorium stage, followed by Usher, 2 Chainz, Big Sean and others.
"We have many more acts to come," added Hill. "We're just getting started and already the show is living up to its slogan: It's too big to miss."
Fans can visit www.BET.com/BETAwards to vote for the Coca-Cola Viewer's Choice Award, get up-to-date info on this year's show and take a look back at past BET Awards.
In the coming weeks, BET.com will launch a series of interactive games to make the event's digital experience the biggest it's ever been.
"Too Big to Pick" lets fans predict who they think will win the coveted BET AWARD and compare their picks with those of their Facebook friends.
"The Line-Up" is a fantasy sports-styled game that allows viewers to make predictions on the order in which performers will appear in the show and compares this lineup with their Twitter followers, Facebook friends, and favorite celebrities.
In June, BET Mobile will also launch the official BET AWARDS app on iPhone and Android devices with exclusive photo, video and interactive content.
Join the conversation on social media by logging on to BET's multiple social media platforms: On Twitter by using hashtag: #BETAWARDS, #2BIG2MISS; and following us @BETAWARDS.
On Facebook by liking the fan page at facebook.com/TheBETAwards; on Google plus at bet.us/gplusBET.
The BET Awards digital footprint is a perfect example of how technology has changed the music business.
Breaking into the music industry used to rely on talent, good looks, connections and a bit of luck. Picture Doo-wop groups singing on the corners of Detroit, waiting for their big break back in the beginnings of the Motown era.
Today, if you visit that same corner, you might be handed a sample CD, or a full-color, glossy club card inviting you to visit a production company website, twitter account, iTune playlist, or YouTube video page.
Truth is digital formats now account for more than half of industry revenues. Music fans download DRM (digital rights management)-free from iTunes, AmazonMP3 and eMusic. They can pay a modest monthly fee for all the music they can ever listen to on Rhapsody, Music Unlimited and Zune Music Pass.
"You don't sit around and wait for a record executive anymore," singer Greg Walker said. "I have a Greg Walker YouTube channel with pieces of shows and performances. You have to get online and be in tune with what's going on."
Even though Walker might be considered "old-school" and is most well known as the former lead singer with the group Santana, which he joined in 1975, he is very much in touch with the music business of the 21st century.
"I would like to do even more in this new media," he said. "Back in the day it used to be 'bring me your bio,' but now I can tell you to go to gregwalker.com and then link from there to my YouTube channel."
A platinum artist, Walker has toured the world and his vocal talents have led to performances with Herbie Hancock, Kenny G, Jeff Lorber and Keiko Matsui, among others. Today, he travels to "corporate gigs," around the country with World Classic Rockers, a group whose members come from other bands: Steppenwolf, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Journey, etc. They perform at large company conference events.
"I've had a website since the '80s which supplies a lot of info about me and my career," Walker said. "I also have a Facebook page and CDbaby.com sells my releases . . . it seems like I'm doing everything, but every time I turn around, there's something new."
"It's like back in the day when you got your hi-fi and stereo," Walker explained. "By the time you get the turntable and speakers and make that last payment, they've got new stuff on the market. It's just like the phones today. Always something new."
YouTube, which bills itself as the largest worldwide video community, started in 2005 and enables users to upload and share their videos. Viewers can comment on, rate, build playlists of favorites and make video responses to other users.
"I think I need more PR and marketing," Walker said. "I'm meeting with some younger artists, and although I'm there to mentor and motivate them, I'm also there to get more hooked into the system. I want to be a part of that high-tech marketing."
Newly emerging artists are well-versed in the online technology which can turn newcomers into overnight sensations--with the right press of a button.
"We do most of our stuff in-house and go to other studios to mix," said SB Hannibal, one of the founders of Shark Boy Entertainment.
"We have five different artists under the label now," Hannibal said. "We'll release our fist mixtape this summer to let you get a feel for each of the artists and after that, we'll release their solo projects in the fall."
Spoken like a true record executive. But there's no big, corner office overlooking Hollywood Boulevard. Hannibal and his partners, SB Maker and Lava Girl, all under the age of 25, started mixing beats in his parent's living room a year ago, coordinating computers, microphones and keyboards to create hot, Hip Hop sounds. Today, they're based in a Crenshaw-district storefront.
The mixtape release will include the single "JAWS, Just Another Wild Shark," and will be a "sound cloud" online, mainly, on Reverbnation, a website that says it's home to more than 2 million musicians, venues, labels and industry professionals.
"We'll build up the buzz in the streets and pass out CDs, too," Maker noted.
SoundCloud is an audio platform that enables anyone to upload, record, promote and share their originally created sounds across the Internet, in a simple, accessible and feature-rich way.
Not unlike the "Doo-wop" days, the company does pitch their music to clubs, but they mostly hand over CDs instead of singing live on stage.
"They're party songs, so we test them out at the club," Maker said. "If the momentum in the club shifts, we can tell then if it's fast enough or loud enough. We can ask folks for feedback right there."
The company also works with a number of local artists, creating raw, industry-quality soft mixes for their use, all the while "building buzz."
"It's all about promotion and marketing and getting our product out there," Hannibal said. "We'll be out passing cards around the Shrine at the BET [awards] in July; we're out there on King Day; and we plan to get on the trains and pass out our fliers."
Artist Trey Songz is up for best male R&B artist at the BET Awards. He released two mixtapes and an EP (a musical recording containing more than a single, but less than an album) "Inevitable." The success of theses efforts is proof that CDs are no longer the primary format for the music business or the primary way the industry generates revenues.
BlocBoi Fame is a solo artist and songwriter who uses most of the Internet social networks to promote his work.
"Like Facebook, Twitter, StarforceHipHop.com and just you know, thosefolks.com to post videos, pictures and blogging little interviews to keep fans updated on what's going on and all that good stuff," Fame said. "I check the (number of) views once a week."
Fame, 25, has been posting on YouTube since January 2011, but has been seriously writing music and rapping for four years.
"I've been going to studios and actually recording, doing songwriting and photo shoots," he said. "I'm getting ready to pass out my music. Starting to show people instead of just saying I rap or do music."
"You have to have something they can look up or give them a CD; don't just say it, but prove that you're in the business."
Fame is passionate about music and is the president of a label he is "building off the ground" called Cash Out City Music Group (COCMG).
Although the competition in the music industry has never been greater, taking into account the new technology being utilized, artists find the trend toward self-promotion is very liberating.
"We don't owe nobody nothing," Fame said. "We don't borrow from anybody. Everything is coming straight from us."