When the Academy of Country Music Awards take place next year, there will be eight artists vying for the night’s coveted Entertainer of the Year trophy. After much deliberation, the ACM has decided to add three nominees to the previous final slate of five artists in the category, starting with the upcoming show on an as-yet-unannounced date. The Academy is also reworking the New Artist categories for the Awards, and exploring a one-time location change from its typical Las Vegas home.
“There’s been a movement the last few years to redefine the Entertainer category,” explains ACM Executive Director Bob Romeo. But when committee members sat down to examine the award’s criteria, it was a daunting task. With so many important facets of a music career at work—touring, airplay, sales, media appearances—the category was nearly impossible to define. “The controversial question was, ‘Should someone win Entertainer that hasn’t had as big of a tour as someone else?’” says Romeo. “And that got to be a very in-depth discussion about how much touring should weigh.”
“After a lot of discussions we realized that [the industry] can’t define the category because the fans gather their perspective differently,” he says. Instead of trying to narrow down the criteria for the category, the Academy took the opposite approach and expanded it. Romeo believes this change will be beneficial in numerous ways. “By allowing three more people to run it’s more inclusive for the format, and it gives us three more people to help promote the viewing of the show.”
The Academy made another major change to the Entertainer category two years ago by allowing fans to vote for the final winner. ACM professional members will still narrow down the Entertainer nominees to the final eight. The final nominees will be revealed in February 2010 in Nashville, date to-be-announced.
For the new artist categories, the ACM is combining Top New Female Vocalist and Top New Male Vocalist into a single Top New Solo Vocalist category for the 2010 show. In addition, the Top New Vocal Duo or Group category will become two separate categories.
“The Academy has always been responsive to the industry and our Board felt these changes reflect what is happening in country music,” states Romeo. “The proliferation of duos and groups over the past several years is impossible to deny.” Citing past new artist award winners Zac Brown Band, Jack Ingram and Jake Owen, Romeo says it is good to have more than one newcomer category because it gives the act something to hang their hat on. Plus, many of them spend the following year touting the win, in effect creating ACM Award interest.
In addition to Entertainer of the Year, all three new artist categories—Top New Solo Vocalist, Top New Vocal Duo and Top New Vocal Group—will be open to fan voting, and those winners will also once again compete for the overall Top New Artist award.
“One thing the Academy would like to say is that we’re open to change,” Romeo reiterates. “And I think that every year we realize we have to revisit our criteria to reflect what’s happening out there. We realized that last year after the voting process started, when it came to Album of the Year and we had to tweak criteria to include digital downloads.”
The ACM is a progressive organization that strives to promote the genre through fan engagement. To that end, Romeo confirms that “the Academy board is exploring options of moving and doing a special one-off Awards show” in 2010.
The ballot timeline for professional members:
1st Ballot Opens – Mon., Jan. 4, 2010, 9 AM/CT
1st Ballot Closes – Fri., Jan. 15, 5 PM/CT
2nd Ballot Opens – Mon., Feb. 1, 9 AM/CT
2nd Ballot Closes – Fri., Feb. 12, 5 PM/CT
3rd Ballot Opens – Mon., March 22, 9 AM/CT
3rd Ballot Closes – Fri., April 2, 5 PM/CT
Details and timeline for fan voting will be announced at a later date. For more information on ACM Awards criteria, please click here.