When MTV announced it was taking over the American Airlines Arena in Miami for its next Video Music Awards, the excitement filled the air.
As part of MTV’s plan to make the VMAs the hottest show of 2004, they tossed out all conventions, forgoing a host and the usual 200-300 casted audience members. They instead casted over 1,100 fans as the floor audience. It was to be expected. After all, as P. Diddy put it, “There’s nothing hotter than a Miami fiesta.”
While TV viewers worldwide only caught MTV’s glimpses of the transformed Arena, the enormous casted audience was right in the center of all the action, under the cameras, and partying just feet from their favorite stars.
“It was [a] fun and completely new experience. I didn’t recognize [the Arena],” said freshman Adriana Jaramillo. “I felt like I was part of the show.”
It was the first time MTV had ever used an arena for the VMAs, which allowed them to experiment with and contain the life-size crowd. “MTV wanted to have the audience serve as a kind of host to the show,” said casted audience member Natalie Albright, a student at the Miami International University of Art & Design.
“They wanted to try something new,” Natalie said. “Instead of topping [past VMAs with another] Britney/Madonna kiss, they wanted to top it another way.”
Natalie served as a leader of one of the many groups that signed up to be part of the VMA experience.
Since the audience was an integral part of the show, MTV requested organizations rather than random fans, according to Natalie.
“[They figured] since we’re from an organized group that we have some sense of control,” she said.
Despite the intense commitment needed for the show, the selected crowd got a huge payoff: the responsibility of keeping the show’s energy up while experiencing all the glitz and glamour MTV could offer.
The casted audience was responsible for many of the show’s visual embellishments, such as the flurry of political signs that shot up during Outkast’s performance and the candlelights that lit up Kanye West’s pathway during “Jesus Walks.”
But more than that, it was the casted audience members who truly felt the fiery intensity of the “Miami fiesta” at the VMAs. Despite the less than eager response to the televised version, as Natalie states, “It was totally different live. You can’t get that feeling by watching it on TV.”
Rafael Sangiovanni can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.