iHeartRadio 'Isn't Just Another Music Awards Show' Says Producer

iHeartRadio Behind The Scenes - H 2014

iHeartRadio Behind The Scenes - H 2014

"We're celebrating L.A. and embracing it as a music city," Done+Dusted's Ian Stewart tells THR of the show that will air live on NBC and 150 radio stations across the U.S. on Thursday night.

Marking NBC's first major music awards show, the iHeartRadio Awards will veer away from the mainstream to "explore the genre and move the needle," revealed the producers when The Hollywood Reporter went behind the scenes before the show.

The star-filled event at the historic Shrine Auditorium, which airs on NBC and broadcast live on 150 of the 850 iHeartRadio stations at 5.30 p.m. PT tonight, also marks the first broadcasting partnership between NBC and Clear Channel.

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"We tried to explore the city we are in, from the Sunset Strip and the Viper Room to Compton and country music," Ian Stewart, president of Done+Dusted and executive producer of the iHeartRadio Music Awards tells THR. "You have every genre in this melting pot."

Included in that diverse mix of artists are Pharrell Williams, Arcade Fire, Blake Shelton, Shakira, and Thirty Seconds to Mars.

Among the stars who are also telling their "L.A. story" is Kendrick Lamar, who went back to Compton to the street where he and his dad first spotted Dr. Dre and Tupac filming "California Love" when Lamar was just eight years old. "That was his epiphany," says Stewart, who created the show along with director Hamish Hamilton

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Being the first iHeartRadio Awards allowed the Done+Dusted team a lot more creative liberty than usual, he went on to explain. "You normally inherit awards shows, but there was no blueprint for this. It was like, 'If you can start again, what would you do?' Why do a 'Grammys Light?"

Instead they took advantage of the distinctive location and that included the Shrine Auditorium, which has dominated the downtown area near USC since 1926. "These old buildings have character; there is a sense of soul and history," reveals John Sykes, president of entertainment enterprises for Clear Channel.

"The artists pick it up, the sound works better, the lighting looks beautiful for the people at home. You get a warmer feel despite the holes in the walls or furry things running around in the basement."

"There has never been this much put into the Shrine, which is challenging," added Stewart. "It is a strange dichotomy. We want to do it 'big' because no one has done that before, but we don't want to turn it into an aircraft hangar, so we're aiming for big performances but in an intimate setting."

Another key point for iHeartRadio is that the winners were voted for by 60 million fans across the 850 partner stations, with thousands of them winning tickets to attend to see a line-up that was inspired by the iHeartRadio app, says Sykes. 

"This is this is not decided by men in suits," added Stewart, nor will those "suits" get the front row seats making deals on their iPhones instead of enjoying the show. "We gave the best seats to the fans."

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Paul Telegdy, NBC president of alternative and late-night programming, says the partnership between NBC and Clear Channel is the key to the show coming together. "Clearly, they [Clear Channel] are people who are intensely connected to music trends and consumption, so it is a blend of their brand and our brand, and we hope to put on a great show that will be extremely entertainment-heavy," he tells THR.

"We are the music network with The Voice, obviously, but also from Saturday Night Live with how it breaks new artists to Jimmy Fallon's show, which is very music heavy. But NBC has not had a major music awards franchise before, so we created one," he says simply.

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"We have been pouring enormous resources into it, and as always, we hope that with great risk comes great reward, and that this will be the first of many." 

With a production that includes Pitbull performing on a life-size boat, "You can tell you are working with very creative people who are artists themselves," Telegdy says of Done+Dusted. "Hamish is the guy at the moment on planet Earth for this show. He is a brilliant director. His job is the very vision behind these extraordinary performances that you will see."

The iHeartRadio Awards air live on NBC tonight at 5 p.m. PT. Click here for the full list of performers and nominated artists.