Behind-the-Scenes With Viacom Employee MTV VMA Ticket Winner

Nicole Buccheri works as a legal operations coordinator for Viacom’s corporate legal department, specializing in billing and finance. Buccheri says she likes working with numbers, and has found a niche in the company analyzing legal vendor rates and drafting cost reports for management.

In August, Buccheri switched gears and witnessed life at Viacom through a different lens, as the latest winner of Viacom’s sweepstakes that sends employees to tentpole award shows. She won two tickets to attend the pinnacle of pop culture: the MTV VMAs, held this year at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

The 2018 MTV VMAs, captured by Viacom employee Nicole Buccheri. Photos courtesy of Nicole Buccheri.

Below, Buccheri details her exclusive experience:

Lisa Di Venuta: Congratulations on winning this contest! Can you tell me a bit about your role at Viacom?

Nicole Buccheri: I do finance and legal work. It’s funny, because my role isn’t traditionally associated with the widely known Viacom shows, like the VMAs. But everybody at this company – even if you don’t work directly for MTV – we all have some kind of contribution to this event.

So, you won two tickets – who did you bring as your guest?

I brought my older sister, Jenelle. We both love live music. She’s my concert buddy, and we grew up together watching the VMAs, so we really appreciated this opportunity.

I’m sure it was surreal! So, tell me about the VMAs. Were they incredible?

Yes! They surpassed my expectations. You don’t realize how much goes into the production of it. I’ve never attended a live, televised event, at Viacom or elsewhere. It was eye-opening to see what goes on behind the scenes.

Viacom employee Nicole Buccheri and her sister Jenelle attended the 2018 MTV VMAs and enjoy some star-quality treatment. Photo courtesy of Jenelle Buccheri (@jenelly13 on Instagram).

That’s so true, it’s an entirely different experience being part of an audience at a live event versus watching from home. What stood out the most?

I was watching how hard the staff was working, running around and getting talent in order. You don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes when you watch an event, but seeing the production happen in real time, I was thinking, “Oh, that’s how they do it.”

I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the Viacom employees that make it possible. They worked their tails off that day.

Absolutely. Can you describe a bit of this behind-the-scenes access in terms of the energy and antics onstage?

It was cool to see how the audience reacted whenever they caught a glimpse of a celebrity. I had really good seats; nearly a panoramic view of the stage, so I saw a ton of stars walking by. I didn’t recognize some of them, but it was clear when someone had a following, because the audience would get so excited. It was a younger crowd, but obviously they were having a great time.

It’s so interesting to hear you say this, because I’ve been thinking a lot about how the show had changed since I first began watching it as a teenager. It’s weird not knowing some of the nominees, when you’re used to seeing Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, or any other wildly popular and controversial star running the show. But MTV has always followed the pulse of the youth culture, which used to be millennials. Now, millennials are a major part of the workforce, and our generation is heavily involved in putting together the VMAs. We’re used to being the consumer, but now we have to target the consumer, and an audience that hasn’t had the same collective experience as us.

And attending the show was an interesting experience because of this, since I’m not part of that generation watching those shows anymore and didn’t recognize some of the stars, I kind of watched vicariously through the younger fans who were so passionate about these people I had never heard of.

It’s also a matter of the digital aspect – we’re accustomed to seeing celebrities who have record labels or are on TV, but some of the talent you saw walk onstage could have been YouTube stars, or something like that.

I think there was a group of Instagram stars sitting in front of me. I’m not sure, but it seemed like they were part of the show since I noticed on Instagram that they walked the red carpet. However, they did not perform or present that evening.

Viacom employee sweepstakes winner Nicole Buccheri rocked out at Radio City Music Hall for the 2018 MTV VMAs, thanks to an employee giveaway by Viacom Employee Events and Programs. Photo courtesy of Nicole Buccheri.

I feel like this is indicative of how MTV is evolving along with this next generation of viewers, who aren’t just viewers, but collaborators. Everyone wants to contribute something to the show, even if a selfie or Instagram story.

You were there – is this an accurate interpretation? If you had to sum up the vibe of the crowd in three words, what would they be?

I would say energetic and youthful, yet subdued (compared to past shows). This could be because there was a source of entertainment being provided simultaneously from various stars in attendance on social media that the crowd was also paying attention to.

The 2018 MTV VMAs, captured by Viacom employee Nicole Buccheri. Photos courtesy of Nicole Buccheri.

That makes a lot of sense. It’s a mix of old and new music, cutting-edge performances and curated moments.

MTV is still edgy. MTV has always pushed the envelope. And at the VMAs, it was kind of a mash-up of stars from every generation in recent history. Jennifer Lopez…her performance was so nostalgic, it brought me back to my childhood.

And she performed with Ja-Rule. It’s like going back to 2003.

Yes! Her performance was the best of the night. And speaking of throwbacks, I used to watch the Jersey Shore a lot – and the cast of [Jersey Shore] Family Reunion attended the VMAs. I even got invited to go to the after party, where DJ Pauly D was spinning.

Oh, that’s so cool. Was that event part of the employee sweepstakes package?

It was.

That’s hilarious and amazing. Did you like his music? How were his beats?

Yes! He was great. I’m sure other people have seen him live, but I never did, so that was an amazing moment.

As part of her VMA experience, Viacom employee winner Nicole Buccheri was invited to MTV’s after party, where she danced to DJ Pauly D from MTV’s Jersey Shore franchise. Photo courtesy of Buccheri.

I imagine you were full of adrenaline the night of the show. After you had the chance to digest your experience – from winning the tickets to attending the awards, all the way to partying with the cast of Jersey Shore, what went through your mind?

I’m grateful to work for a company that randomly selects employees to not just attend, but to participate in one of the most iconic live events in the world. Not many companies do that.

How did your friends react when you told them about winning the contest?

They were shocked…they were in disbelief. They were surprised, too, because they associate MTV as a singular brand, just like most people do with Nickelodeon or Comedy Central. When they see Viacom as the company behind the VMAs, I think they realize how special it is to work here. Even if you don’t watch the VMAs every year, most people had to have watched them at least once. Or heard the talk after the show…it’s part of our culture. And I got to go, thanks to my job. Not because I work in production, but because the company offers this contest, and anyone can win.

Buccheri joins a parade of employees who have been able to attend brand tentpoles, including the Nickelodeon Kids Choice AwardsVH1’s Hip-Hop HonorsThe BET AwardsNickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Sports, the CMT Music AwardsLogo’s Trailblazing Honors and even Ink Master, Live (the popular Spike show, which is now on the Paramount Network).

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