The 2009 Much Video Music Awards have gone down in history for one reason and one reason only: Kanye West's in-character outburst during Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for best music video. Forget Lady Gaga's covered-in-blood onstage performance. Forget who else won what other awards. Kanye generated attention for himself, Swift, Beyonce, and the VMAs. All in two minutes.
Discussion of Kanye's tirade hit critical mass instantly. I'm certain that after checking their Twitter, Facebook and even their cellphones, hundreds if not thousands of people who weren't watching the VMAs tuned in to see what all the fuss was about, and to find out how the situation would be resolved. Anyone who wasn't familiar with Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Beyonce or their respective music videos would have hit Google in a minute, to find out more about Kanye or to compare Swift's video to Beyonce's and decide for themselves. If they liked what they heard, albums would have been downloaded or purchased online, creating new fans for the artists involved. And don't forget about Much - they got the ratings they needed on an otherwise lackluster TV evening.
Beyonce got to clear her own name by bringing Swift up onstage again to share the limelight and have her moment. Swift got to be the innocent artists wronged by a bad character, which certainly didn't do anything to tarnish her image. And Kanye? He's already famous for a lot of other outbursts. Fans who stuck with him through rants about how much HE deserved others' awards might actually see this as an improvement, since his outburst was on behalf of someone else this time. In the long run, this move was completely effective because everyone involved was helped, and no one was seriously harmed.