Zayn Malik accepts New Artist of the Year

Sometimes, even the biggest and most beloved names in music aren’t powerful enough to bring people out and grab the attention of the masses. At this point, both Hillary Clinton and now the American Music Awards can acknowledge that fact from experience.

Last night’s American Music Awards were, unfortunately, not as popular as ABC and Dick Clark Productions hoped the party would be. Just 8.2 million people tuned in to watch celebs perform and accept their see-through trophies, which is the lowest figure the award ceremony has experienced in its four dozen years on the air. Apparently, that number was still enough to put the network above the competition, but it is not a good sign for the show, which was originally created as a ratings draw and has remained one in many of the years since.

The American Music Awards have never been nearly as prestigious as the Grammys, nor as controversial and exciting as a program like the MTV Video Music Awards, but there has always been room for more than just a few award ceremonies in the music world. In the past few years, many shows like the AMAs that have historically been able to collect millions upon millions of viewers have been faltering, as many decide to tune out and catch up on what they’re missing either the next day, or on social media. Many of the performances are available to watch at any point almost immediately after their air—either legally or otherwise—and any shocking, surprisingly or especially noteworthy moments immediately become trending topics on websites like Twitter and Facebook, where everybody can be in the know without having to actually watch.

Some award shows have accepted that this is the way younger crowds primarily consume and engage with programs like the VMAs, while others have tried to bring the numbers back to where they used to be by upping the star power. Sadly, while there were plenty of big-name artists at the American Music Awards this year—people like The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Shawn Mendes and Ariana Grande with Nicki Minaj all took to the stage to promote new singles—the three-hour long program seemed to be somewhat lacking when it came to other stars. The A-listers didn’t seem to be there to present, and those that did fell flat when it came time to project the stale dialog onto a tired audience.

If the American Music Awards, as well as plenty of other musical award shows, are going to survive and continue to remain important moments every year, those behind the scenes are going to need to find ways to keep the masses interested and to get them to tune in, as opposed to holding back and only catching the highlights.