Do book awards still set a quality standard, or are they being too driven by sales goals?
Do movie awards still set a quality standard, or are they being too driven by sales goals?
Do fashion awards still set a quality standard, or are they being too driven by sales goals?
Do any awards still set a quality standard, or are they being too driven by sales goals?
Have we lost sight of the intentions behind establishing awards that call out the best of something? Why are awards established in the first place? Presumably to enable a system whereby we can somehow recognize a level of excellence and honor something above something else that then can set a higher standard. But,why? Why are we driven to find the best of something--particularly when it comes to an expression of artistry and creativity, such as a book or a movie or a painting or fashion—and why are we so willing to allow someone else, or a group of others, to dictate what’s best to begin with? Can we not determine for ourselves what we feel is best for ourselves as readers, thinkers, viewers? Of course we can. However, when the success of a business or a corporation or an industry is at stake, then a system of best and not best kicks in with intentions and goals that are not purely quality-driven, but sales-driven. When an industry establishes awards that are meant to set standards of quality of some kind, I think it’s terribly important to study and recognize the intentions behind such awards; to evaluate how intentions behind an award may have shifted over time; and to assess whether an award still serves the purpose it was originally intended to serve.
Some people might argue that without systems in place to call out a best of something, we’re saying not only that everything’s equal but that there’s no need to strive for something better, higher, deeper, richer, more complex, and so on. Perhaps. But I see it in a different way—without calling out a best of something, perhaps we’re allowing ourselves to choose for ourselves what we feel is best—best for ourselves, for our own entertainment, for our own enrichment, for our own purposes. This presumes, however, a system whereby the level of sales of something has absolutely no place in the determination of what’s best. When a corporation or an industry that stands to gain by the designation of “best” on one of their products, that’s when the purity of the methods for how to determine what’s best can become polluted.
I have been of a mind for a long while that as a society we've become too reliant on awards to set a certain standard--particularly awards for creative artistry. When the intentions behind the awards are purely sales and not quality, awards don't set a standard. Or, I should say, they begin to set a different standard. Is it the wrong standard? Only if the intentions behind the awards are not being honestly expressed. But looking at the vast--and I mean, vast--numbers of new awards that have popped up across many different industries in the last couple of years, there's no question in my mind the establishment of most of these awards is being driven not by any desire to set new standards of excellence or quality, but is being driven primarily, if not solely, by the need for discoverability; ergo, sales. What better way to tip the scales towards more sales than to slap a gold or silver "AWARD" sticker on something?
In no way do I want to take away from the intentions and purposes of certain awards that are still clearly quality-driven, that are meant to set a standard of excellence for others (inside and outside that particular industry) to hold up as examples of best; that are evaluated and selected by a qualified panel of respected and unbiased experts; and that can't be easily marred by popularity, celebrity, financials, sales, or other factors that have nothing to do with the quality of the content itself. However, this purity of purpose, if you will, is awfully hard to maintain in our current society when every business in every industry is struggling to prove their product is best--and to sell more of it than anyone else.
This all can certainly lead us to a discussion of artistry and what "success" can, should, and does mean to the artist, as well as a discussion of achievement as a form of stimulation to push us to excel. I will leave these to future posts.