CMT ‘Artists Of The Year’ Honored Hottest Artists At Year’s Most Exclusive Event

Pictured (L-R): Chris Stapleton, Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan. Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images/CMT

Last night (Oct. 18) CMT hosted its most exclusive honors ceremony, CMT Artists Of The Year. The special brought in more than 1.1 million viewers for the premiere telecast and the encore, up 73 percent from last year.

Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center was surrounded by tour busses and dawned in formal black as invitees proceeded to a pre-party, hosted by Variety, which dawned its Music City Industry Impact Report issue.

CMT’s Frank Tanki welcomed guests to the pre-party, reminding guests the honors would be transformed as a healing night of music for the natural and man-made devastation over the past few months. Variety’s Executive Editor Steven Gaydos then welcomed many of the guests he featured in his fifth annual industry report.

Drinks did not stop flowing after the pre-party. Hosted tables on the symphony floor were tended to by servers, with bottles of wine on each table. The likes of Lionel Richie, Nicole Kidman, Diane Warren, John Oates, Backstreet Boys, Little Big Town, Lee Ann Womack, Vince Gill and Amy Grant as the clock counted town to 7 p.m. [CT] when the show would air live.

Artists of the Year for 2017 included Luke Bryan (six-time recipient), Chris Stapleton (two-time recipient), Keith Urban (first receipt), Florida Georgia Line (five-time recipient) and Jason Aldean (six-time recipient).

Pictured (L-R): Keith Urban, Nicole Kidman, CMT/TV Land GM Frank Tanki. Photo: CMT

Pictured (L-R): Keith Urban, Lionel Richie, Nicole Kidman, Common and Andra Day. Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images/CMT

The five artists welcomed guests with a powerful speech, aimed at healing after the disasters in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, Texas, Charlottesville and California. “Everything we go through, we can get through when we stick together,” said Urban, echoed by Aldean.

Artists rallied around Aldean, who was performing when tragedy in Las Vegas struck. “It could have been any one of us standing on that stage,” said Bryan in a video tribute. The evening wrapped with Stapleton and Urban joined Aldean for a performance of the late Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” with background vocals from Little Big Town. Prior to the tribute, Amy Grant ushered in an in memoriam segment, for “those taken too soon.”

Urban performed the most unique rendition of his MusicRow and AIMP Song of the Year and 2017 CMA Single/Song of the Year nominee “Blue Ain’t Your Color.” The brilliant piano-driven and muted horn version had the audience on their feet even before it ended.

Bryan was introduced by fellow 2017 American Idol judge Lionel Richie. Bryan’s success was noted particularly due to his connection with fans before a performance of his 2015 hit “Fast.”

Stapleton was introduced by music protégé’s and labelmate Brothers Osborne, with what is sure to amount to an FCC violation when they announced Stapleton as “F****** awesome.” Stapleton performed “Broken Halos” with wife Morgane.



Backstreet Boys brought a tribute for Florida Georgia Line, who noted they have been in the studio with the duo, along with recent co-headlining dates on the road. The ’90s boy band performed “H.O.L.Y.”

Additionally, the evening featured a performance of the Ram Truck Song of the Year, Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Backroad,” which has become the longest No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Hunt was in Hawaii at the last date of his tour, so Phillip Phillips stood in.

The evening began with Lee Ann Womack and Danielle Bradbery joining Andra Day and hip-hop artist Common for Day’s 2017 title “Stand Up For Something,” in addition to Day joining for another performance with Little Big Town, “Rise Up,” a song she released in 2015.

It’s especially poignant that the special performed strongest in the Las Vegas market, where it posted a 1.77 household rating, an increase of 1867 percent. Not only ratings, but the CMT special raised more than $1 million in media value across a myriad of platforms. Three public service announcements for the special leveraged media relationships for CMT One Country’s campaign. To help, visit to find out how you can help those affected by the recent devastating hurricanes, wildfires and mass shooting in Las Vegas.

CMT’s Artists of the Year will re-telecast on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 10 p.m. CT and Saturday, Oct. 21 at 10 a.m. CT.

Pictured (L-R): Kimberly Schlapman and Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town, Danielle Bradbery, Andra Day, Lee Ann Womack, Jimi Westbrook and Philip Sweet of Little Big Town. Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images/CMT


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Eric T. Parker oversees operations and contributes editorial for MusicRow's print magazine,, the RowFax tip sheet and the MusicRow CountryBreakout chart. He also facilitates annual events for the enterprise, including MusicRow Awards, CountryBreakout Awards and the Rising Women on the Row. [email protected] | @EricTParker

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