Few people know their way around the IHeart Radio Much Music Video Awards set like John Kampilis does. Serving as a graphic designer on the very first MMVA’s as they were known in 1990, Kampilis has progressed through roles as assistant producer, producer and now executive producer of an awards concept that has earned world wide recognition while attracting some of the biggest names in the music industry.
Set to go this Sunday with an all-star cast featuring Fifth Harmony, Macklemore & Lewis, Nick Jonas, Desiigner, James Bay, Hedley, Tegan & Sarah, Alessia Cara, Shawn Mendes, July Talk and Hailee Seinfeld with Shawn Hook, this year’s edition benefits from the additional involvement of IHeart Radio, a major U..S based radio syndication network, expanding into Canada via the Bell Media network.
Hosted by super model Gigi Hadid and Much Music vee-jays Liz Trinnear and Tyrone Edwards along with a host of guest celebrities, the 25th edition of the now-titled IHeart Radio Much Music Video Awards continues the show’s theme of being a totally fan-friendly event.
“It’s a big, huge party,” enthused Kampilis, taking time off from overseeing the construction of the elaborate Queen St West staging. “Every year, we strive to get the biggest and best stars to be on the show,”. “This show has grown and become such an iconic event around the world, no one else does an awards show like we do”.
“Every year we push ourselves to do bigger and better looks for the performers. to make the stages bigger, to get the audience more involved,” Kampilis continued. “There is only so much room we have on Queen Street West but we are always trying to find ways to bring the fans onto the actual stage. This year we will have a 360 degree stage with a select number of fans positioned all around the performers, we are aiming to create excitement everywhere.”
Creating a total fan experience is what sets the IHeart MMVA’s apart from the usual awards format. Instead of being industry-oriented with celebrities given prime seating and the awards themselves executed within a stringent format, the MMVA’s are all about the fans who pack into the building’s outdoors parking lot and line the streets around the facility.
Calling the awards “a collaboration of music and awards, celebrated by the fans”, Kampilis noted “these are the people who listen to the music, who buy the music and they are here to show their appreciation. For them to actually be within arm’s reach of their favourite stars is a unique situation and the artists themselves love the idea that they are performing directly to their fans.”
Another unique aspect of the MMVA’s is that a concerted effort is made by the show’s producers to actually work with the artists to plan individual performances. “We work with the artists to bring their vision to fruition, make it exciting for television,” Kampilis explains.
One of Kampilis’s most vivid memories was his phone conversation with Lady Gaga, in which she detailed how she wanted to present herself during her 2011 appearance. “Lady Gaga loves Canada ,she performed at our 2009 show and she credits Canada with helping to establish her career breakthrough and she wanted her performance to be special. So she called me from Japan and walked me through exactly what she planned to do, step by step. She had such a brilliant vision of how she wanted to perform“.
[styled_box title=”Lady Gaga – 2011 MMVA’s Born This Way” color=”black”][/styled_box]
Initially established in 1990 to honour music video winners, the Much Music Video Awards debuted a performance list of domestic performers which included the likes of Lee Aaron, Blue Rodeo, Bruce Cockburn, 54:40, The Northern Pikes and Jeff Healey.
The awards stayed basically domestic until 1997 when British rock bands Blur and Bush were added to the performance list. Even at this time, the show was building credibility with it`s fan-first focus and it`s unique staging with bands performing in (what was then called) The Much Music Building, out in the parking lot and even on the roof!
By 1998, Smashing Pumpkins and The Goo Goo Dolls appeared on the telecast but the big breakthrough occurred the following year when David Bowie, Britney Spears and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers all starred at the awards. “To be at the rehearsals and to look up on stage and watch David Bowie performing was a surreal experience,” noted Kampilis.
With Lenny Kravitz duetting with The Guess Who on “American Woman” in 2000 and Beyoncé also in the lineup with her Destiny’s Child band (along with Blink 182 and Moby), the MMVA’s were truly gaining international credibility and although 2001 was cancelled due to the New York
World Trade Centre Building attacks, the MMVA’s have flourished ever since.
International stars like Rhianna, Kate Perry, Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, The Beastie Boys, The Killers, Maroon 5, Ed Sheeran and The Black Eyed Peas have rubbed shoulders with breaking domestic talent like Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, Avril Lavigne and Nelly Furtado and the show has been responsible for breaking new talent like Hedley, Billy Talent, Simple Plan, Down With Webster and Arcade Fire. A tradition Kamplis hopes to continue this year with Alessia Cara, Shawn Mendes and July Talk.
“We are always trying to attract the biggest names and I am excited about this year’s lineup,” acknowledged,” Kampilis. “Fifth Harmony are killing it everywhere and Alessia Cara is one the hottest new artists to come out of Canada, she is everywhere right now. And with Hedley and Shawn Mendes also added, we are excited about this year’s lineup.”
An added quirk to the show has been the red carpet arrival where the stars freely mingle with their fans. Instead of the usual boring arrival of a string of limousines, Billy Talent broke the mould in 2005 when they arrived in a 1942 Sherman Tank. That laid down a challenge for other artists to conjure up their own innovative arrivals which have included Kate Perry arriving in an ice cream truck, Ed Sheeran
marking his arrival in a fish and chip truck, Mariana’s Trench in a hot tub and Janoskian’s arrival last year in a school bus.
The I Heart MuchMusic Video Awards air live Sunday at 9 p.m EST on Much, CTV, Much com and VRAK.
For more information on this year’s I Heart MuchMusic Video Awards please link to mmva.muchmusic.com