Everything You Need to Know About the ACM Awards Voting Process
The 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards are coming up on Sunday (April 18), and if you're wondering how the voting process for the ACM Awards works, The Boot has got you covered. From eligibility dates to membership guidelines, to who decides the winners (and losers) of the ACM Awards, it's all right here.
In 2018, the ACM switched up both the eligibility period and voting timeline for the ACM Awards, to aid in implementing changes that took effect for the 2019 ACM Awards. For the 2018 ACM Awards only, submission eligibility dates were Nov. 24, 2016-Dec. 31, 2017 -- a longer period of time than usual so that, in 2019, the new eligibility period of Jan. 1-Dec. 31 could be put in place.
Read on to learn all of the important details about ACM Awards voting.
Who Makes Up the Academy of Country Music?
Academy of Country Music members make their living in the country music industry. To be eligible for membership with the ACM, according to the ACM website, applicants must be "individuals and industry business organizations whose primary professional engagement is in the creation, production, promotion and distribution of country music," with the ACM Board of Directors making final approvals. The all-star membership roster includes artists, songwriters, producers, radio personalities and many more.
Who Can Vote for the ACM Awards?
The ACM Awards are voted on by members of the Academy of Country Music. All professional members of the ACM are allowed to vote once for each category, except for Songwriter of the Year and Song of the Year, during each ballot round. Votes are non-retractable and unchangeable once submitted.
The Songwriter of the Year category, however, features nominees selected by a panel of judges: other songwriters, publishers, producers and representatives of performing rights organizations (PRO). They submit five nominees to be approved by the Board of Directors, and the winner is voted on by ACM members in the artist/musician/producer/engineer, songwriter, music publisher/PRO and record company categories.
Song of the Year nominees, meanwhile, are determined by a panel of 12-20 ACM members in the artist/musician/producer/engineer, songwriter and music publisher/PRO categories, which conducts a confidential, weight ballot to select the Top 20 nominees, then the Top 10 nominees. Those final 10 go to all artist/musician/producer/engineer, songwriter and music publisher/PRO ACM members, who vote for the final five nominees; once approved by the ACM Board of Directors, the full ACM membership votes for the category winner.
Who Is Eligible to Win at the ACM Awards?
Eligibility varies slightly from one ACM Awards category to another based on airplay, chart placement, number of albums sold and more criteria. Songs and / or artists must have met these criteria during the eligibility period noted above.
Previously, the ACM used the Billboard Country Airplay chart to determine eligibility for certain awards, but they now use Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, as this chart takes into consideration not only airplay, but also streaming and sales. The ACM will continue to use airplay metrics from Country Aircheck’s Mediabase chart as well.
The ACM decided to shift its eligibility calendar to the regular calendar year for two reasons, according to ACM Vice President of Awards & Membership, Nick Di Fruscia: firstly, because voting systems (i.e., old-school mailed-in votes) are no longer as time-consuming as in the past, and secondly, because the shift will align better with artists' release cycles.
How Does the ACM Awards Voting Process Work?
ACM Awards voting involves three ballot rounds.
During the first round of ACM Awards voting, the ACM's professional members submit one nomination in each of the awards show's categories, except for Songwriter of the Year and Song of the Year, which are determined by the process outlined above. The top 20 vote-getters go before a review committee to ensure they meet all eligibility criteria, which are detailed on the ACM website; additionally, to advance to the next round, those top 20 vote-getters must also have achieved a minimum of 2 percent of the vote within their respective category.
In the second round, each voting ACM member can cast up to two votes in each category. The five nominees receiving the most votes in each category will be placed on the third ballot for the final round. If there are fewer than five eligible nominees in any given category, the ACM's board may elect to allow the category to proceed to the final round with fewer than five, but no fewer than three, nominees; additionally, a tie may increase the number of nominees.
In the final round, each voting ACM member may cast only one vote in each category. The nominee receiving the most votes in each category will be deemed the winner. In the case of a tie, all winners will receive an award.
How Can I Find Out the Winners of the ACM Awards?
After relocating from Las Vegas to Nashville in 2020 out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACM Awards are back in Music City in 2021. As showrunners did last year, they're spreading this year's event out across iconic venues (the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium and the Bluebird Cafe), though a few performances will take place elsewhere. They'll be following national, state and local guidelines related to the pandemic, as well as additional, self-imposed safety measures.
The 2021 ACM Awards will begin at 8PM ET and will air live on CBS and be available to stream on Paramount+. Sign up for the streaming service here.
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