April 07, 2010

Webmaster Ramblings - The Smoke And Mirrors Of The ACM AWards

The 45th Annual ACM Awards will be handed out on April 18th in Las Vegas. To me, it makes perfect sense to give out the awards there. Because the way the Academy of Country Music has twisted the rules around winning, they’ve matched the empty glitz of the city itself.

For the third year in a row, the ACM is allowing the fans to have a say in awarding the Entertainer of the Year award. All the fan has to do is go to www.VoteACM.com, then register with CBS.com. After you’re registered, you can then cast a vote for one of 8 nominees. In case you’re interested, this year’s nominees are Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, and the Zac Brown Band. All in all, it doesn’t sound like that bad a deal. I mean, why not get country fans involved? Let’s take a closer look at the entire process, and I’ll try to explain why I feel this has given the ACM a black eye.

First, let’s look at the expansion of the category itself, from 5 nominees to 8. The ACM took a page out of The Oscars playbook this year – why? The ACM, like The Oscars, would tell the public that it’s because of the quality of music that’s in country right now. The cold hard fact is that the change came from the need for money. Once any nominations are released to the public, you will see a rise in advertising dollars spent in certain publications stressing the fact that this star is up for this award, and you should vote for them. So in the past, when the ACM nominations were announced, industry publications like Billboard and the former Radio & Records would see a boost in their advertising profits because record and publicity companies wanted to get their artists noticed by the possible voters. With the increase of nominees from 5 to 8, you now have more reasons for those advertising dollars to go up. And even more insidious, now that you’ve opened the voting to the fans, those advertising dollars are going to newsstand publications like Country Weekly – and maybe even radio!

Not that there’s really anything wrong with advertising bucks. You might have heard the old adage that you have to spend money to make money? Well, the record and publicity companies are hoping that their ad dollars spent will mean a nice bump in record sales come the week after the awards show.

And remember also that there’s money to be made even if an artist didn’t win. To be able to vote online, you have to register with CBS.com. That means handing over your name, birth date, phone number, zip code and email address – all the information a marketer needs to start mining you for valuable information. And did I also mention that this info is shared with the ACM and dick clark productions?

So how much say do you, the country music fan, really have in picking the ACM Entertainer of the Year? Well, I hate to let you down, but not much. First off, you can only legally vote once. And far be it from me to mention the fact that there are several different ways you can turn your one vote into several hundred by bending the rules slightly. When I lived in Chicago, we had a saying – “Vote early, Vote often.”

And after the votes are all tabulated, there’s one more thing you have to understand. The fans are NOT picking the Entertainer of the Year, as the ACM would have you believe. Only a percentage of them are. According to the ACM Awards’ Terms and Conditions, “A combination of votes from the Academy of Country Music members and the public will decide the winner of the 2010 Entertainer of the Year award.” The question is what is the percentage between the member votes and the fan votes? I can’t tell you, and the ACM won’t tell you according to their official voting criteria.

One last item to consider is where this puts the nominees themselves. The Entertainer of the Year award is the highest honor to bestow on a Country artist. What position does this put artists like George, Carrie, or Kenny to consider begging to their fans to give them a boost? Recently, Brad Paisley said that he didn’t feel too comfortable in that position. “I’m uncomfortable campaigning,” he said at his Number 1 party for “American Saturday Night.” “I understand that people love to get involved, and it’s cool that they can, but vote for whoever you want ... If it’s me, that’s great. If it’s not I’ll stand up and clap for whoever wins.” Kenny Chesney won the first fan-voted ACM Entertainer of the Year award, and after winning, he said he wasn’t in favor of it. “I do think the fans should be a part of this awards show,” he said, “but I’m one of the guys in the audience that didn’t think it should be for Entertainer of the Year.” So far, only two nominees have not outwardly campaigned for the award to their fan clubs – George Strait and Kenny Chesney.

The Academy of Country Music got its start in 1964, because at the time country artists from the West didn’t believe they were taken seriously enough by the Country Music Association. They thought it was time the artists West of Nashville got their due – and they were right. But unfortunately, the ACM has perhaps associated itself too closely to the town in which it holds the annual awards show. Las Vegas is known for its glitz and glamour, made possible by a lot of smoke and mirrors. The supposed “fan-voted” Entertainer of the Year award has added a lot of smoke to the ACM Awards.

posted by Webmaster on 4/7/2010 1:16:40 PM

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